Myths about pigs
We have all heard people say “Gross!! You let a pig live in your house??” Pig parents usually chuckle to themselves and think, boy, there are a lot of stereotypes out there about pigs. So we are trying to set the record straight now!
1. Pigs are dirty, stinky and disgusting
Ok, no they're not. Pigs are actually very clean animals to be honest. They don’t like to potty where they eat or sleep and they do not have an odor like some other species of animals. Pigs WILL get muddy or wallow around in mud and muck to cool themselves off in the summertime though. They will also get in a kiddie pool to achieve the same result, if given the opportunity.
2. Pigs are just like dogs
Wrong. Pigs are much smarter than dogs actually. Because of the intelligence level, pigs need constant stimulation and activities that entertain them. A bored pig can be a destructive pig. I live by that rule. Giving your pig something to do or some form of enrichment can help alleviate some of the trouble they get into.
3. Pigs stay small
Nope. 99% of pigs grow much bigger than “promised” or “guaranteed”. There are a handful of pigs that have stayed small. Did those owners win the genetic lottery? I don’t think so….others may disagree, but, big pigs are just as much fun as smaller pigs. In general, pigs usually grow the most in the first 3 years although technically, they're not mature until around the age of 3-5 years old. Maturity is defined as the time when the epiphyseal plate in the long bones close and that typically happens around age 5. If you are new to pigs, be prepared for a pig that weighs somewhere between 75-200lbs. They will continue to grow fatter/heavier as long as their caloric intake exceeds the amount of calories they exert. But the overall height/length? It is genetically pre-determined. What's even funnier is when people ask "why didn't you get one of those teacup pigs?". The same reason I didn't run out and get a unicorn. THERE IS NO SUCH A THING AS A TEACUP PIG! (This is just a marketing term and there are no breeds such as teacup, micro, micro mini, pocket pig, apartment pig, designer pig, royal dandy, dandy pig, etc.) If you truly want to research breeds of pigs, please check out our breed section where there are references that will show you ALL the actual breeds of pigs. Click here to read about the teacup myth. "Mini" pig is NOT a breed either, it is a classification of pigs and the word has become the standard to describe a pig small than a farm pig, or to distinguish the difference between the smaller breeds and the farm pigs.
4. Pigs are dumb
Quite the contrary, pigs are super intelligent and their way of troubleshooting and thinking has been compared to the intelligence of a 3 year old child. Pigs are far from dumb and once you add a pig to your home, you will find that out. They actually get bored easily and need "enrichment" activities to keep them occupied.
5. Pigs are mean and aggressive
Wrong again. Your pig will be as good as you train your pig to be. Pigs DO require training. Saying that all pigs are mean and aggressive is not at all accurate. Intact pigs tend to have aggressive tendencies as they sexually mature as do untrained pigs. However, that is not the nature of the pig, that is directly YOUR fault for not spaying/neutering or training. AND, this can be fixed with a procedure to remove the reproductive organs and behavioral modification plan. BUT, not ALL pigs are mean and aggressive, most are lovable pets. If you are having issues with aggression and your pig, click here to read more about correcting that behavior.
6. Pigs are gluttons; thus the phrase “Quit being a pig” or “You’re hogging it all”. I will have to admit; this is partially true. Most pigs, if unattended, would eat until they vomited and then they would eat that. (At least in my experience) But, that is probably because we do restrict their diets to avoid obesity. So when given the opportunity to eat as much as they want, they take it and run with it.
7. Pigs are fat, they can’t run fast
Haha, oh yes they can! It has been said pigs can run as fast as 11 mph. A wild pig is said to be much faster, 30-35 mph. How is that possible? Instincts! Pigs are prey animals, so if they need to run, they can.
8. Pigs can’t swim
Sure they can! Have you ever heard of Pig Island in the Bahama’s? This is an island that is the home of many pigs and no people. Cruise ships are known to throw scraps out around the island, the pigs eventually caught on to that and can now be seen swimming out to boats for a treat. Even domestic pigs love to swim. An obese pig may have a more difficult time keeping themselves above water, so if you plan to test this theory or want to see how your pig does in the water, make sure its non-chlorinated water such as a fresh body of water or lake, and have a plan should your pig not catch on quickly. Do NOT throw your pig in any body of water and expect them to know how to swim….they may, but they also may not, especially an older pig who has never been swimming.
9. Pigs do not shed
Yes they do. Not in the traditional sense, but pigs do blow their coats (lose all their hair) once, sometimes twice a year. Most pigs do NOT blow their coat the first year, but each pig is different. Pigs are also prone to dry skin. So, flaky skin is a common problem that people aren't prepared for when they hear pigs are hypoallergenic. There are ALOT of people whose skin breaks out or becomes itchy when the hard hair bristles touch their skin. Pigs can lose their hair due to nutritional deficiencies, parasites or because of the seasonal blowing of the coat.
10. Pigs don’t “play”
Pigs, especially younger pigs, LOVE to play. Your pig will be as active as you allow. If you have a fenced in yard free from predator type animals, your pig would love to be outside playing. “Zoomies” is a word pig parents adopted to describe the little bursts of energy that would send a pig running like he late for dinner. They “zoom” around extremely fast and are usually having a lot of fun. You may also hear your pig "bark" as he/she is outside running around, so don't be surprised if you hear the fun as well.
11. Pigs can’t communicate
This is absolutely NOT true. Pigs DO communicate with their surrogate parents as well as other pigs. You have to determine what their sounds mean. For example, if your pig hasn't seen you for a few hours and has a panting type noise when they see you, that is a happy sound and I interpret the sound as an I love you. When a pig is running, possibly even with a case of zoomies, and you hear what sounds like a series of barks; this is usually also a happy sound. They're having a good time and thats the sound they make when they're having fun. One single bark is usually because a pig is started or scared like something unexpected happened. I have even heard a pig say “mama” at dinner time. (Likely not intentional, but very clear) Pigs can also communicate with each other through scent. Click here to listen to common pig sounds and what we think they mean.
12. Pigs do fine alone
Some pigs do fine without another pig or other animals, but pigs are social animals and have a herd mindset, so while they may be ok without another animal friend, they still need interaction. Humans are part of their herd and they need love and attention from their mama and daddy. Having a second pig provides someone who speaks the same language and that alone, has its’ own set of benefits.
13. Pigs are boring
This is incorrect as well. I have had the best of times when my pig has been involved. Memorable experiences that not everyone can say they've had. My pig loves to run with me in the yard, my pig has done community events, like kiss the pig events, my pig LOVES playing with balls, she helps me with the garden, she helps me clean around the edges in the kitchen, she will snuggle with me during a scary movie, but most of all, she has unconditional love for me and everyone else in my home. Strangers? Not so much, but she is a big ball of fun.
14. Pigs do not like to try new things
This is also incorrect. While pigs are creatures of habit, when allowed, pigs are the first on the scene to investigate something new. Something new can be something new to their area like a new toy or a fresh bale of straw, new can be cleaning out their house, a new food or even a new animal to the herd. They LOVE to explore and try new things.
15. Pigs can’t get fleas
Yes they can. Typically, pigs have much softer skin when they're piglets and piglets can definitely get flea infestations. Older pigs usually are only affected on the softer skin areas like the belly and inside of the legs and don’t usually “carry” fleas like the piglets, but they can still get flea bites. What is just as bad as a flea infestation and something pigs can and often do get? Mange.
16. Pigs are immune to snake bites
This is so insanely untrue it’s not even funny. Pigs have died from snake bites. No animal is immune to snake bites, but pigs have a thicker layer of skin than most animals. The reason pigs aren't affected to the same degree as humans is due to the thick layer of adipose tissue that makes it harder for venom to seep into the bloodstream. Science Daily notes that adipose tissue is normally found beneath the skin and around internal organs in mammals, so this adipose tissue does act as guard to the blood vessels, but certainly doesn't eliminate the possibility of the venom getting into the bloodstream. Pigs kill snakes out of natural instinct. Pigs also readily devour snakes around them. Luckily, they're not like cats and don't bring half eaten snakes to the door as a gift or a way to say thank you. Click here to read more about snakes and spiders and pigs.
17. Pigs will eat anything
HAHA. I wish. I have found domesticated pigs are quite picky about what they will eat. They develop food preferences just like people and will simply refuse to eat certain things. Part of that is our pigs “training us” versus the other way around. Their taste changes just like ours, so something they didn't like a year ago can be introduced again and your pig may love it. One of our piggy friends shared a video with us on our FB page to prove that pigs do NOT eat everything. https://www.facebook.com/renee.lincoln/videos/Melvin won't eat celery.
18. Pet pigs do not need vaccinations or deworming, especially if my pig is an indoor pig
This is very region specific. But, most pigs will spend some time outside and dig around in the soil where some of these diseases and parasites are present. Some vets will recommend vaccinations for diseases that are commonly found in your area. Rabies is not common amongst our porcine friends, but there have been + rabies in pigs. There is NOT a pig approved rabies vaccination, but most vets will use it off label for preventative purposes. Some city ordinances require your pig to be vaccinated, so make sure you know the laws in your area. Some diseases/illnesses can be prevented by vaccinating. Some of these diseases can be deadly if not treated promptly/timely and can be prevented altogether or at least lessen the chances of your pig contracting it with vaccinations. Parasite treatment should be given per your vets instruction, but most pig parents treat proactively with anti-parasite medications every 4-6 months so they can avoid an infestation. Some common illnesses/diseases have vaccinations that can lessen your pigs chances of contracting some of these potentially deadly diseases. Click here to read more about vaccinations and talk to your vet to see what they recommend for your pig based on what on what diseases are common in your region. Click here to read more about parasite control.
19. Pigs have a mohawk that raises when they're happy
This is true, however, the mohawk can stand upright for other reasons as well and it isn't always because they're happy. The mohawk signifies happiness, but also fright and anger. The mohawk raises when a pig is being aggressive or when challenging another animal for the “top hog” spot to make it appear like he/she is a more vicious and larger animal. Typically, in addition to the mohawk standing upright, there is chomping, frothing, charging and an aggressive or challenging posture that accompanies it.
20. Pigs are hard and time consuming to care for
Yes and No. Pigs aren't pets that everyone should have. Pigs are time consuming in the fact they require a lot of attention and social interaction, the fact that there aren't many that can “pig-sit” while you go on vacation or the fact that not all vets will accept a pig as a client are just a few of the “hard to care for” points. These things do make it more difficult than other traditional animals. Actually caring for them? That isn't too hard. They do require a special diet, if given the choice, pigs likely wouldn't pick the most nutritious food between candy and veggies. They are not a garbage disposal and shouldn't be given foods rich in sodium, human table scraps (or human food in general with the exception of fresh veggies and fruit) or other fattening foods. They don’t maintain or lose weight by exercise, they lose weight by getting fed less and maintain their weight by the caretaker balancing food intake and activity levels. They need outside time to be a pig, they need regular hoof trims if their hooves don’t wear down naturally, regular vet check-ups. Pigs need training, and they need a safe place to go free from predators. So, while caring for a pig might not take a rocket scientist, you do have to be creative when you are trying to figure out ways to entertain them, ways to transport a large/mature pig, keep them contained or keep their minds occupied amongst other things. Pigs are NOT for everyone, so if you don't like hard work, a pig is likely not the best pet for you.
Our names are Brittany Sawyer and Nicole Cox and we are pig parents, pig advocates and also the authors of the "Dear Pig Whisperer" blog. Follow our blog that will feature topics to help you become the best pig parent you can be...along with some other fun things. We will also feature guest bloggers from time to time who want to share their life experience or knowledge with anyone who is interested in learning.