Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pot-bellied pigs - An Unfortunate Trend

Potbellied Pigs - An Unfortunate Trend

by R.A.S.T.A. Rescued Animal Sanctuary on Tuesday, October 19, 2010 at 9:06pm
Over the past ten years, R.A.S.T.A. has always had around three potbellied pigs at the sanctuary with a new surrender coming in every year or two.  However, in the last several months, we have taken in over twenty new pigs with more coming in the next couple weeks and an endless stream of calls and emails from people begging us to take their potbelly pigs.  The excuses are always the same; “we had no idea they would get so big”, “the breeder guaranteed  us she would stay small”, “we didn’t think he would be more than 50lbs.”, “we didn’t realize they were so much work”, “we had no idea how destructive they are”……etc.
R.A.S.T.A. can not serve as an endless-dumping ground for potbelly pigs and other novelty pets after people have had their fun with them (there simply isn’t enough money or land in the world). We do our best to educate the public about what is involved with caring for these animals, but unfortunately, there are many breeders out there that could care less about the well being of the animals they are selling and will use whatever unethical tactics they feel is necessary to sell and make as much money as possible.  Using such headings as “Micro Mini” & “Tea Cup Potbelly Pigs” – “Guaranteed to Stay Tiny” – “Max 40lbs.”  to attract people and fool them into what they are getting themselves into.

Contrary To What Most Potbelly Pig Breeders Would Like You To Believe:
  • There is no such thing as “Micro Mini” or “Tea Cup Potbelly Pigs” – this is simply a marketing tactic used by unethical breeders to sell more pigs
  • Miniature Pigs or Potbelly Pigs grow to an average size of 150lbs. to 250lbs. NOT 40lbs.!!
  • Potbelly pigs are called miniature pigs because when compared to their cousins, farm pigs who can grow in excess of 1,000lbs. they are obviously miniature in comparison.
  • While some breeders will declare that they have a “Special Line” or “Special Breed” of tiny pig and guarantee that it will stay small, ALL Potbelly Pigs in North America and Hawaii come from the same line.  Period!!
  • The pictures you see of tiny pigs advertised are of babies that are just a couple of weeks old.  The average Potbelly Pig weighs 50lbs. when they are six months old.
  • Some especially corrupt breeders will breed baby Potbelly Pigs as young as four months old to create the illusion to prospective buyers that the offspring will not grow larger than the parents.
  • As for the “Guarantee” that breeders give about the pigs staying small, they will not take them back when they exceed their 50lb. weight – after 15 years of rescuing Potbelly Pigs, we have yet to meet a single ethical breeder!
  • Starving or underfeeding potbelly pigs, or any animal for that matter, will not keep them small but rather cause deformities and serious health problems.
  • Potbelly Pigs are illegal in most cities and towns including Calgary!!
  • They are very expensive pets as they require an exotic animal vet.  Spaying and neutering is far more costly.  They require special anesthetic.
  • They need four hoof trims a year which most farriers (horse hoof trimmers) will not do.  A veterinary hoof trim costs an average of $300 – that’s $1,200 a year!!
  • Males grow tusks that need to be professionally maintained.
  • They require a closely monitored diet of  specialized feed (not hog grower!!) which is expensive and hard to find.
  • Potbellied pigs can be terribly destructive in the home and garden as rooting is a natural pig behavior for them.  They will rip up your lawn in no time.
  • They can become quite aggressive towards other animals and people if not socialized and trained properly.
  • They do not behave like dogs and hate being picked up and cuddled.
  • Potbelly Pigs can live for twenty five years.
  • They are not good pets for children or the average person as they require a great deal of time and expertise.
  • Potbelly pigs are pigs, which are farm animals that need to live on a farm with other pigs.
When adopting an animal, always remember to do your research and know what is involved with caring for the animal so that you can make an informed decision.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

One step back...two steps forward (or something like that!)

Made great progress today, even though it was incredibly hard to watch. I let MacGyver out free today with the other pigs. I've known all along that they were going to have to fight it out to establish the new pecking order, I was just putting it off as long as I could. When I tried putting him and Lukie together last week, it didn't go well and I separated them. I hadn't made enough progress with him yet to risk bringing more fear in, so I decided to wait. Today, he was ready to go outside free...and in order to do that, he HAS to get along with the boys.

His first meeting was with Tanner and it went great. Tanner took one look at his size and voluntarily decided that he would take the lower rung of the ladder! It was quite funny, he actually got down on his knees and crawled away! No problems there...they are good friends now and were rooting side by side.

When he met Lukie again, things didn't go so smoothly. They both laid down an obvious challenge. Within seconds they were fighting and fighting hard. It is awful to watch. Most of it is just a lot of pushing, but they also go for the ears, so we were close by to break things up if need be. They fought hard for several minutes before Lukie finally walked away. The instant he did, things were fine. I couldn't help but feel bad for the poor guy. He's been at the bottom of the pecking order for so long and figured this was his big chance to move up. It was sad to see him realize that he had bitten off more than he could chew. MacGyver is a big boy. Not a fighter by nature I don't think, but someone who will stick up for himself if need be.

Nothing so far with Tucker. They crossed paths on the driveway, but both just kept walking. Maybe MacGyver was too tired to offer any challenge...I don't know. I'm sure something will happen between the two before long. Maybe MacGyver just picked up on the fact that Tucker is king! :o)

All 4 pigs came inside shortly after the big event. I was so happy to see MacGyver come to the door of the house as his "safe place". I was sure he would now, but it's always scary letting them go loose for the first time. He knows this is home. I had some doctoring to do...Polysporin on bloody ears...but it's over. I know there will be smaller "squables" here and there, but the big fight is over. MacGyver has come SO FAR since I brough him home 2 weeks ago. He went from totally wild and untouchable to a sweet, trusting, friendly house piggy in a very short time. I wish people would open their eyes and see this potential.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

A bit of a setback today...

...but a prime example of what I've been saying. I cannot stress this is SO important to understand this before you bring a house pig home.

I had to run into town today to drop my daughter off at work, so I had to cut MacGyver's 10am walk short. I've been taking him out between 4-5 hours every day...either walking or standing as he digs for China - and even this is not enough. I cannot stress enough how much pigs NEED this outlet for their energy. Because I had to leave, I had to rush his time outside this morning and bring him back in before he was ready. I wasn't gone very long before my other daughter (who was still home) called to tell me that he was destroying our house! He had smashed his way through the gate separating him from the other pigs (thank God they were outside) and was moving the living room furniture around! There was nothing she could do. This went on for 2 hours.

When I got home, it looked like a tornado had hit my living room...I really should have taken pictures! Cassidy met me at the door with a smile (which really surprised me after the 5 or 6 frantic phone calls I had received in the hour leading up to this moment telling me to COME HOME NOW!) and informed me that MacGyver finally tuckered out and went to sleep just as I was pulling in to the drive way. You gotta love my kids! I was braced for her wrath, but instead I got a smile. :o) She offered to clean up the mess (bless her heart) while I took MacGyver out for a longer walk. An hour later, I brought him back in and he's been sleeping like a baby ever since. This is normal.

This is exactly what happens when people who don't have the space, time or patience decide to bring home a pot-bellied pig. It's not always as noticable when the pig is small, but becomes VERY obvious when it matures and has the brute force a grown pig has behind it. When a pig can't release it's energy by rooting, bad things ALWAYS happen. They become destructive and wreck things and then they are considered too difficult to handle or have in the house. Then they are sent outside to live alone, where they only get worse. They become wild and even more difficult to handle and then nobody wants them. People need to realize this. Was it a pain in the butt having him do this today? Absolutely. Does it mean he's a rotten beast? Not at all. Unfortunately, because MacGyver has already been through the senario I just mentioned, he IS wild right now and the only way for me to change that is to be with him all the time. That means he can only go outside when I am able to take him on a leash or I wouldn't be able to catch him again. I cut his time short today...not him. If you have a pig who isn't getting enough outside activity, doing what he loves to do (root, root and root some more), he WILL BE DESTRUCTIVE and it's YOUR fault not his. This is the kind of thing that makes people give up on their pigs and it's the kind of thing that leads to them being abandoned, abused and slaughtered. A wild adult pig is almost impossible to find a good home for. This isn't an exception to the rule...this IS the rule with pigs.

Once I can let him out free with the other pigs, this won't be a problem. My other pigs are able to spend as much time outdoors as they want and usually just sleep when they do come inside. It will take some time and won't always be easy to get him to that point, but I know it will be worth it. He's worth it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

He's in the house and we've had our break-through moment!!! :o)

Today is a good day! We brought MacGyver inside last night. I have my doubts about the gate we have actually holding a pig (or 4) back if they really wanted to come through...but it is doing the trick right now. Fingers crossed. The other 3 don't seem concerned at all that MacGyver is in the house. I know that is just because he's on the other side of the gate, so we will have to move slowly on that one. I'm just glad he's in before the snow hit.

I had my favorite break-through moment this morning while we were out walking. MacGyver (who still is not sure about being on a leash) lied down, out of the blue. I sat beside him and talked to him for a few minutes while he studied me. This moment is always big for me because it's the moment when they make the decision whether they are going to move past their fear of people (most of it well founded) and trust. You can tell it's not an easy thing for them to do...they are a lot like people that way I guess. I reached out and touched his back end (something I haven't been able to do yet...I've only been able to pet his front end...and only while he's eating) and he didn't move, just kept watching me. I started to pet his back and then moved to his side. It only took a few seconds before he rolled over for the much loved belly rub! Probably his first ever. I sat out there and pet him for about 30 minutes. I just LOVE that moment!!!

People give up WAY TO EASILY on these guys. I wish people would understand that they are thinking, feeling, loving animals who deserve SO MUCH BETTER than what they get. It makes me so sad to see so much intelligence being wasted in a filthy, muddy pen all alone. It's just not right and it seems like nobody cares. :o(

Curb Animal Cruelty...please read

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Making progress with MacGyver!!!

I think I have gone as far as I can go with him outside. He will come to me and take carrots out of my hand and he will let me pet him while he's eating (HUGE improvement from the day I brought him home!!!), but when he runs away there's nothing more I can do. We managed to get a harness on him yesterday... I am surprised this is not a rodeo event... and took him for a walk around the yard. He wasn't happy with it, but by the end he was coming around. I was worried that ordeal was going to erase any progress we have made, but he was happy to see me again this morning. I was hoping to bring him into the house last night, as it is starting to really cool off, but Scott is away this weekend and I need him to help build a gate in the house that will keep the pigs separated until they accept each other. We tried introducing Mac and Lukie (my most easy going pig) without a fence the other day and it didn't go well. I have to admit, the problem was more with Lukie than Mac. I know all it will take is time, but I'm anxious to get him inside before the snow comes and I know the time is very limited. Lukie crawled under the fence a few days ago and was in MacGyver's pen for several hours before I realized he was there. They were none the worse for wear...until I walked out...then we ended up with bloody ears! All for my benefit it seems.

I am hopeful and looking forward to seeing how he does in the house. He looks so sad out there in the cold. Times like this I wish you could reason with animals. :o)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Do pot-bellied pigs make good city pets?

This is a question people often ask. The truth of the matter is that, no, they do not make good city pets. My pigs have several acres in which they are able to roam free and root to their hearts content, yet the damage they do is still a big problem. Pigs were created to root...plain and simple. It's what they do. It's what they LOVE to do and you will never change that. Sure, you can limit their access to your yard in hopes to save your grass and flowers...only taking them out to potty or confining them to a pig run in the back yard. Or, better yet, you could house train them to use a litter box. All of these options are available to you, but are they fair for your pig? The honest answer is no.

These are some pictures I have taken of my yard. This is a constant daily occurance with pigs. The first picture is the damage that my newest rescue pig has done in 1 week. This area use to be grass! Please look at these pictures and ask yourself 2 questions. #1. Is it right (or even possible) to keep a pig from doing what he was created for? #2. If I don't let him do what he was created for (...see photos!), what will he do with all of that energy while confined to my home?

Pig in need of a home (sad story)

I'm sure there's a better way to post this...but I'm just not there yet! Please be patient!!! Hope this works.!/photo.php?fbid=167740376576541&set=a.154416924575553.32397.154229504594295


This is my newest pig, MacGyver. I brought him home a week ago and he is still very shy and scared of people. I found him on Kijiji. I don't have a lot of history on him except that he was purchased by the most recent owners from an auction as a breeding male to breed MORE pigs that will end up in horrible situations. I will never understand that. It wasn't until he was brought home that they discovered he was neutered. He was no longer of use and was banished to a very small, muddy pen with no shelter... all alone (I was told he preferred this.) His one leg is twisted from not having anything solid to stand on. When I emailed about him, I was told that he was not friendly and would not make a good pet. He was about to be traded to a meat rabbit breeder for some meat rabbits. I'm certain his intentions with MacGyver were not good, especially when he is being marketed as someone who would not make a good pet.

He is a sweet guy. He is eating out of my hand now and letting me pet him. I am anxious to try him in the house, but we are having a few pecking order disputes between him and the other pigs right now that need to be settled first. He seems to be ok to be the submissive one, so I hope it won't take much longer. We were told that he was a year and a half, but he's obviously older than that. I would say around 5 years. He's quite heavy as he wasn't being fed properly. I am so excited for the day when he has nothing but trust towards me.


This is Lukie, my 3rd pig, with our dog Marley. Lukie is Tanner's full brother. I didn't get Lukie as a baby though, like I did Tanner. Instead, he was sold as a city pet. He was welcomed into the house when he was young and adorable, but because no research was done into pot-bellied pigs as pets...he was not neutered. An unneutered pig does NOT make a good house pet, so he was banished to the back yard when things started to go wrong. He was also fed dog food, which is NOT what pot-bellied pigs should be fed.

I got Lukie because he escaped from the plywood box he was being kept in in the back yard and crawled under the fence. He wandered the street and rooted up several neighbor's gardens. The SPCA was called in and the owners were threatened to take better care of their pig or get rid of it. I called the owner immediately after I heard the story and offered to take him.

When I arrived to pick him up, he was back in the plywood box. It was half the size of the average bathroom with 4ft high walls that he couldn't see out of, a piece of wood covering the top at an angle that allowed the rain to drain onto the dirt floor causing mud. He was threatened and scared by the owners "cool" boyfriend to get into the kennel "or else". Or else what...I'm not sure. I was told how this rotten pig ate their cordless phone and all the other "bad" things he had done, but nothing good.

Lukie is 3 years old now and also 110 pounds. He is the most easy going and gentle of my pigs. He's a hard guy not to love.


Tanner is the pig at the top of the page. He's the only one I didn't "rescue". The breeder I got Tanner from seemed to care about his pigs and take care of them, but where they went from there was not his concern. He was selling these babies as city pets to anyone who wanted one. I don't care what you read in books...pot-bellied pigs do NOT belong in the's just not fair to them. Within a very short period of time, this breeder added close to 100 pot-bellied pigs to this area.

Tanner is a card. He is 3 years old now and 110 pounds. He comes in from a hard days rooting as round as a beach ball. He's so full that he can't even lie down without effort. Sometimes he just stands there...trying to figure out the best approach. By morning, he's back to normal. Apparently grass produces a lot of gas. I try to tell him this...but he just won't listen! He's a sweetheart. He even had his picture in the Edmonton Sun and the Grande Prairie paper recently...he's a star!


This is Tucker. He is my first pig, and although I know that favorites are bad...he's my best guy. He was only a few months old when this picture was taken, he's now 5 years old and 110 pounds.

I bought Tucker from a breeder who cared nothing about the pigs she was breeding. They were there to make her money and that's all. He was the last in his litter, as his brothers and sisters had all been packed away by a crow when they were 1 day old. He was taken from his mother when he was 4 weeks old and put into a guinea pig cage (the small wire ones you buy at pet stores) in an unventilated shed with several rabbits any many birds. When she opened the door to go in and get him, the smell was unbearable. He was forced to live...night and day... right in something that I couldn't stomach from several feet away. Even though everything in me was screaming "DON'T SUPPORT THIS!!!" I could not walk away and leave him there. When I dewormed him, he was FULL of worms. It was seriously one of the most disgusting things I have ever seen. He was also full of mange. It was very sad.

Tucker's life has been full of chronic health problems. His nose runs constantly and has for the last 4 years and he has serious, chronic acne on his face and legs. We've travelled to many vets, who all did their best, but ended up telling me there was nothing more they could do for him. His lungs are only working at half capacity. His life, I am sure, will be shorter than most.

Because he was taken from his mother too early, Tucker doesn't have the social skills most pigs have. He doesn't get along well with other pigs and is grouchy most of the time. He is difficult to live with. He is also the best friend I have ever had.

I STRONGLY urge anyone who is seriously considering adding a pot-bellied pig to their family to PLEASE consider adopting an adult pig from a rescue organization. The number of abandoned and abused pigs needing a home is staggering when you consider the number of breeders out there who are mass producing this wonderful animal for profit.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pot-bellied pigs...throw away pets?

I can't help but notice the increasing number of pot-bellied pigs becoming available in this area. I just want to stress, for those of you who may not be aware, that pig ownership is a HUGE hopes that people will be very careful when making the decision about whether to add one to their home or not.

Pot-bellied pigs are so sweet as babies, but these all grow up and they grow up fast. An adult pig will be very different from the sweet little piglet you originally bring into your home. They MUST MUST MUST be spayed or neutered or they do NOT make good house pets. This is not just something that is "recommended", it is an ABSOLUTE must. They NEED room to roam and root to their hearts content EVERYday or they become bored and destructive. A simple back yard is not enough. They will destroy your grass, flowers and any other plant (poisonous or not) you may have and root HUGE holes on a constant, never ending basis. This isn't "bad"'s what pigs were created to do and you will never change that. If you do find a way to keep them from doing this, they won't be happy and that energy will go into other destructive things. It is also very difficult in this area to find a vet who deals with pigs beyond the basic things. If your pig develops a health problem, chances are you will have to travel to find him help. I speak from experience. You will also have to travel to get the proper food for a pot-bellied pig. They should never be fed regular farm pig food. The closest place to get what you should be feeding them is Leduc and it is quite costly.

Yes, what you have heard about pigs being very clean in the house is true. They are very clean when it comes to bathroom habits (if they are fixed and trained properly), but they are still…and always will be…pigs. They will get into anything and everything that is not locked...your fridge, your cupboards, your garbage, etc. and they leave froth (male pigs are more known for this) and nose marks on every surface of your home. They are extremely messy eaters, which means mopping the floor after meals is a necessity. They will pull the cushions off your couch and shred them if they so feel like and leave bite marks on the legs of your furniture... regardless of how expensive it was. They will also chew on the corner of every wall in your house. I have seen a pig peel linoleum off a floor almost like peeling an orange, just because he could. They have amazingly strong noses and when they get something in their mind...they don't give up. If left alone they will overturn your plants, tip your coffee table, get into anything that you have left out and will shred your best shirt if left in the laundry pile to which they have access. Mine have spread 20kg bags of potting soil through my house, tipped over my hedgehog cage, freeing her and spreading the contents of her cage from bedroom to kitchen. They've gone into the bedroom, shut the door behind them and have pulled all the blankets and pillows off the bed to make their own little nest...ripping every one. They have eaten the wall in my hallway to where it needs to be replaced. Do they do this every time they are left alone? No. But it's a real treat when they choose to do it...and it does happen.

Pigs are social animals and are very loving. However, again, they are still pigs and they have their own social system. They are VERY strong willed. Making a pig do something he doesn't want to do or doesn't see the point in (and they do think things through) is almost impossible. Even miniature pigs are solid and STRONG. They get cranky when things aren't going their way and an angry pig is about as easy to handle as an angry bear. The term "pig headed" is used for a very good reason. If you have more than one, they will bicker and even fight if one decides, for whatever reason (can be as simple as the other one walking past him), that he is offended. A pig argument is a real event when you place it in the middle of a living room. Pigs also should NEVER be left unattended with other animals or small children. After 4 years of getting along without any sign of a problem, ours attacked our large dog and she required $660 worth of stitches. This attack was unprovoked.

After saying all of this, I also want to add that pigs are the best pets I have ever owned. I have 4 and love them like children and can't imagine my life without them. I just want to stress that they are NOT for everybody, and I would go so far as to say that they are not the pet for MOST people. They don’t make good city pets. 3 of my 4 pigs are rescue pigs who suddenly found themselves without a home and in horrible situations once they grew into what they are…pigs. This is happening WAY TOO MUCH in this area!!! Pot-bellied pigs are bred as pets, yet they are being sent for slaughter and are being dumped off on the side of the road when they start to mature and their owners (who did no research about them) are done with them. They are “throw away pets” and this is abuse. Please be very honest with yourself when deciding if a pig is for you and your family. If you don't have the time or patience to deal with any of the issues I have mentioned (plus others that you haven’t even begun to imagine), chances are you will not be happy with a pig. If you like a clean, tidy house all the time, then they are probably not for you. Pigs come to know their families and changing families is very stressful for them. There is a condition where stress can actually kill a pig...they don't handle it well. They can also be difficult if you travel and need to find someone to look after them. Not many people want a pig in their house, and more than likely your pig will not want to be in someone else’s house without you anyways...which would only lead to more problems. They are a lot of work and a long term commitment and I believe it is a commitment that should never be made lightly.

A note to pot-bellied pig breeders: Please consider having your piglets spayed or neutered before selling them, and PLEASE do some research into what is happening to these babies once they begin to mature, especially the ones being sold as city pets. These wonderful creatures are at the mercy of a fad and MANY of them are ending up in horrible situations and even being butchered. Someone needs to start taking responsibility for this and it has to begin with you.


Welcome to my very first blog! This is a huge thing for me because I am NOT computer friendly! I started this blog for one get my experience with pot-bellied pigs out to the general public, to HOPEFULLY help in someone's decision about whether to add one to their home or not. It is my hope that someone out there looking into a pot-bellied pig as a pet will gain knowledge from my experience as I have found a lot of the information out there is not true. They make WONDERFUL pets...but they are not for everybody. I hope to, in some way stop these special creatures from being abused and abandoned. Hope you enjoy and would love to hear from you. :o)