Life Span: 12-20 years
Temperament: Excellent. Highly intelligent and playful. Potbellied pigs as pets are fun, and can be a joy to have around with curious personalities. However, they may not be an ideal family pet. Pigs live in herds (who knew?), and they have a very clear hierarchy within those herds. When pigs are brought in to a family with children, they may try to dominate the children.
Cats and pigs get along fine, although generally pigs are indifferent to the cats. Pigs and dogs can get along, but the pig should never be left alone with a dog. Dogs are carnivores, and pigs are prey animals. No matter how loving a dog is or if the pig and dog have lived together for years, the pig should not be left alone with the dog. Pigs may instigate problems but will almost always end up the injured party.
Size: This is a matter of considerable debate. Some people claim to have tiny piglets as small as six inches tall and weighing around 20 lbs. However, the North American Pot Bellied Pig Association (NAPPA) says that potbellied pigs owners “should expect that a mature, purebred, potbellied pig will weigh between 60 and 175 pounds” and “measure between 16 and 23 inches.” This might seem like a lot, but in reality a farm pig can weigh upwards of 700 pounds — making 60 pounds quite small by comparison.
Potbellied pigs are very sturdy animals and often will outweigh a dog but still be smaller in actual dimensions.
Nancy Shepard of the NAPPA says:
“Personally, I have yet to see a micro-mini or tea cup pig. The claim that a full-grown pig is only six inches tall is inconceivable to me. You must remember that I’m from Missouri, the Show Me State; and, to date I have not seen a pig this size. The unusually small pigs I have seen appeared unhealthy and stunted, lacking good bone structure, proper conformation, and good general body condition.”
Despite multiple websites claiming to sell mini pigs that are “purse” pigs, there is no evidence that there are actual mini pigs. Often these pigs are the result of poor nutrition that stunts the pig’s growth. Please buy only from a reputable breeder and do not believe claims about being able to “guarantee” a pig’s size.
Here’s an interesting video from Wild About Animals, explaining more:
What to Feed a Potbellied Pig
Provide fresh fruits, vegetables and grains. Contrary to popular opinion, pigs can’t eat just anything. The stereotype of slop being carelessly thrown from a bucket into a trough is from the days before processed foods. Pigs should not eat sugar, chocolate or preserved foods of any kind. Anything not fresh should be avoided. Treats should be extremely limited and used only for training purposes.
Portion control is extremely important. Pigs will always eat, even when they are not hungry. A veterinarian can help you determine the correct portion for the animal based on age, metabolism and level of activity. To help with appetite control, give fresh water to the pig before it eats.
Potbellied pigs are generally healthy animals. The most common diseases they get are atrophic rhinitis and dippity pig syndrome. Atrophic rhinitis affects the nasal passages. It is caused by bacteria, although the origin of the bacteria is unknown. Pigs can develop an immunity to it, often passed through the mother’s colostrum. It is serious but can be treated.
Dippity pig syndrome, sometimes called by the medical name erythema multiforme, is far more serious. It causes bleeding lesions and temporary paralysis of the hind legs. The onset is quite sudden, and it often lasts for several days. The lesions will run from the hind legs halfway up the back.
There is no treatment other than time. Put your pig in a quiet, temperature-appropriate room with low lighting. Pigs find this soothing, so they will keep still.
No one knows what causes dippity pig syndrome, but the best guess is stress – unfamiliar events, people or surroundings, or internal stress such as a change in diet.
Pigs are not good with stairs. It is hard for them to get up and down stairs; many pig owners have ramps in and out of their homes as well as portable ramps for their cars. If you live in a five-floor walk-up, you might want to think carefully before getting a pig.
Traveling with a Potbellied Pig
Pigs can be trained and are very happy to be taken places. They make good travel companions for short distances and are happy to be included in family outings. Be careful to train your pet early for this experience. Let it get used to the car, and always transport it in a crate. This is the safest way for a pig to travel, and it will feel at home in a familiar environment.
If you have to travel across multiple states, look at the laws governing each state. Potbellied pigs may be subject to different health codes, thus requiring a blood test to check for infection. These blood tests are generally good for 30 days.
Potbellied pigs are still classified as swine. They are subject to zoning regulations, and every community is different. Check your zoning laws before getting a pig of any kind. It is traumatic for a human to lose a pet, but it is even more traumatic for a pets to lose their human companions. They lose their home, everything that is familiar to them and the companions they love. Don’t think that you can sidestep the issue. All it takes is one nosy neighbor.
Pigs make wonderful pets but only for the right owner. Think carefully about the time commitment you can make and your needs as a single person or a family. If you decide that a pig is right for you, check your local rescue organizations for a pig in need of a good home.
- Nancy Shepherd: Pig care and training
- NAPPA: Facts and myths about pig size
- PIGS Animal Sanctuary: Pros and cons of potbellied pigs
- Jennifer Jo: Basic information
Photos: FHgitarre (top) and Marianne Perdomo/Flickr