Fifteen-year-old Imogen Murray says her pot-bellied pig Milly “was the best pet I’ve ever had. She was always playful, and if you were upset, she’d snuggle with you.”
Pot-bellied pigs, which are much smaller than ordinary farm pigs, originated in Vietnam. Introduced to North America in the 1980s, they have also been marketed as “mini-pigs,” “micro-pigs” and even “teacup pigs.” Whatever you call them, they are smart, empathetic and, if you’re persistent, trainable.
“You can teach them to go potty outside within the first 24 hours of owning one,” says Janice Gillett, who has 40 of these pigs at her pig-rescue shelter in Mission, B.C.
But pigs are not ideal for everyone. They are very motivated by food, and that can cause trouble. “We had to put child locks on everything, because Milly could get into the fridge and cupboards,” says Imogen.
Some pigs live in the house, with the family. Others have heated shelters and pens. Either way, says Gillett, you should consider a pot-bellied pig only if you have easy access to the outdoors. “An apartment is not a good place for a pig,” she says. If you’re going outside, they may not always want to come with you. “You’re not going to be able to pick up a 70-kilogram pig and take him down the hallway or get him into an elevator.”
If you think you can avoid this problem by getting a small pig, think again. Pictures of pigs beside teacups may be cute, but those pot-bellied pigs are still just babies. “There is no such thing as a teacup pig,” Gillett says. “They may be small compared with hogs raised on farms, but they will grow to be quite large.”
If you’re considering getting a pot-bellied pig, make sure good vet care is available. And check local zoning rules and bylaws before you adopt.