Piggie Problems: The Mini-Pig Myth

Mar 06, 2018

Teacup pigs. Micro pigs. Mini pigs. We’ve all seen the adorable videos and pictures blazing across social media like wildfire from sources like Buzzfeed and other popular sites. When you search for “teacup pigs” on Google or Facebook, the first results are usually about breeders and a million pictures pop up of teeny-tiny pink pigs in costumes.

The bad news is: teacup pigs don’t exist. And the “trend” of buying them is a big problem.

Pot bellied pigs are growing increasingly popular in the United States. They originated in Vietnam and arrived here in the 1980’s. Since then, breeders have jumped on the opportunity to “design” them to be as small as possible and use deceiving marketing tactics to get the public to buy them as pets.

The Vanderburgh Humane Society has seen an alarming uptick in the number of homeless pigs as this trend continues. In 2014, we only sheltered one pig named Sissy Moo Moo. She weighed around 40 lbs. We received none in 2015…. But in 2016, the number jumped up to 4 pigs. And in 2017, we sheltered 8 potbellied pigs. We still have 2 of those, plus another, up for adoption as we speak. The vast majority of these pigs all weighed at least 50 lbs. Our largest, Ralphy, weighs 170 lbs. The problem is growing exponentially as people jump on the micro pig bandwagon without having any knowledge of the consequences.

Myth #1: Mini pigs are naturally bred to be small.

The truth: In addition to being very young, breeders will often under-feed pigs to make them as small and “appealing” as possible. They will even pass along instructions to new pig parents about underfeeding to maintain the pig’s tiny weight. This can lead to dietary disaster for a pig.

The average weight for a Vietnamese Potbellied Pig is 60-175 lbs. according to the North American Pet Pig Association. (https://petpigs.com/education/micro-micro-mini-teacup-pocket-pig-designer-apartment-pig-myth/potbellied-pig-size/what-is-a-mirco-mini-pig/) Some breeds of commercial pigs can become as large as 1,200 lbs. or more!

Myth #2: Pigs will be fully-grown in a year like a dog or cat.

The truth: pigs will not reach maturity until 3-5 years of age. If a 1-year-old pig weighs 40 lbs., you can rest assured that he or she will continue to grow!

Myth #3: This problem is primarily to do with potbellied pigs.

The truth: Sometimes, buyers don’t even know the breed of the pig they are purchasing. The perfect example is Esther the Wonder Pig (http://www.estherthewonderpig.com/). A Canadian couple purchased her in 2012 as a micro piglet. Today she weighs over 600 lbs. She turned out to be a commercial farm pig, most likely a Yorkshire. Her parents went on to found the Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary https://www.happilyeveresther.ca/ to help pigs just like Esther and other farm animals who end up homeless.

Myth #4: But pigs are highly adoptable!

The truth: Tiny pigs would be adoptable, yes. But many pigs who end up in shelters are already 50, 100, 150+ lbs. and have been surrendered because their owners were ill-prepared to take them on.

The plight of homeless piggies has been getting so out of hand that shelters are seeing more and more of them nationwide, not just here locally. Several pig sanctuaries and rescues have popped up in the last 20 years or so to help give them a place to go, such as Lil’ Orphan Hammies in California (http://www.lilorphanhammies.org/), Sunny Boy Sanctuary in Wisconsin (https://www.facebook.com/sonnyboysanctuary/) and Ironwood Pig Sanctuary. And of course, Best Friends Animal Society has been sheltering pigs for many years. They also have a great blog post on the teacup pig myth, as well as resources on how to care for pet pigs, here: https://bestfriends.org/resources/teacup-pigs.

We certainly don’t want to discourage pig adoption for those who have done extensive research, have the proper housing and finances available to care for a full-grown pig, and are willing to commit to a new pet that may live for many years. But those steps are absolutely necessary before even considering taking a new pig into your home. In many places including Evansville, additional licensing or zoning is required to own a pig as a pet. (Contact Evansville Animal Care & Control for information on the appropriate licensing to own a pig: https://www.evansvillegov.org/city/department/index.php?structureid=221) And of course, there are always homeless pigs in need of an adoptive family. So rather than buying from a breeder, always check sites like petfinder.com and adoptapet.com to browse available pigs near you.

Click here https://www.vhslifesaver.org/adopt/adoptable-other to see any pigs that are currently adoptable right here at the Vanderburgh Humane Society!