The Robin’s Nest “Mini Mammals” section is devoted to educating all of us about the history, characteristics, values, and misuses of miniature animals.
Three Little Pigs: A Brief Education
This section is dedicated to our first official rescues here at Robin’s Nest: Megan, Michael, and Falkor.
Michael and Falkor are thought to be Vietnamese Potbellied pigs, or sus scruff domesticus. Vietnamese Potbellies originated in Vietnam and were brought to the US through Canada in 1980, with the intention of supplying zoos. Instead, they have become very trendy as pets. Generally, they are marked by a swayed back, pronounced potbelly, erect ears, and a short turned-up nose with a straight tail. Their primary color is black, though they can be white or black/
white with spotted, collared, or even silver marks. As adults they are about 2.5 feet long and weigh between 100 and 150 pounds. Their life expectancy is about 12 to 20 years.
Meg, on the other hand is a Kunekune, a small breed of domestic pig from New Zealand — though they are thought to have originated in China from an old Polish breed. Kunekunes — which is a Polynesian word for plump — are hairy with a rotund build and often bear wattles hanging from their lower jaw. Their color ranges from black to gold, tan, brown… our Meg is black. In the early 1800s they were introduced to Europeans by whalers or traders and are now widely spread throughout New Zealand with some being exported to the US and the UK. They have a calm, friendly temperament and seem to thrive on human companionship. During summer months they can easily maintain themselves on grazing alone.
Although keeping animals as pets has gone on for a few thousand years, the practice has increased dramatically in the last 200 years. Soon after potbellies were introduced to the US, they became the foundation stock for the “new pet on the block” in the US. The majority of potbellied pigs in the US can be traced back to two lines imported from Canada and Europe — now known as the Connell (Keith Connell) and Lea (Keith Levitt) lines, referring to the two men primarily responsible for their introduction here.
Potbelly pigs — the term most generally used to refer to miniature pigs — have remained a strong trend for pets, far outlasting other exotic pet types that have come and gone. Potbellies have many traits that account for its lasting popularity: they are an unusually small size for a stock animal and are relatively easy to feed and maintain. They are highly intelligent and are extremely devoted companions. They can be trained to the same degree, or greater, than the average dog. Contrary to stereotypes, pigs are not “dirty” animals. They do, however, enjoy eating with gusto! Other positive characteristics include: they do not shed hair, they do not attract flies, and they are virtually odor free, as is their fecal matter.
“Keeping a large number of animals in ill health and unsanitary conditions is both a crime and symptomatic of an illness.” - Randall Lockwood, PhD, PETA.
Meg, Michael, and Falkor were rescued from a hoarding situation in southern California, and we were able to adopt them through their foster rescuers at Farm Animal Refuge. Perhaps because of some of the same reasons for their popularity, potbellies may be prone to hoarding. In this case, up to 300 pigs were found in a neglectful and abusive situation. As a result, many were malnourished and in poor health. Some had piglets, others were pregnant, and almost none were spayed or neutered. Clearly, the situation had gotten out of control.
Animal hoarders exist in virtually every community. Some may be thought of as well-intentioned people who became overwhelmed with the animal overpopulation crisis. However, according to PETA, animal hoarders are now recognized as “individuals whose mental illness or compulsion can cause criminal behavior with horrific consequences. . .” (PETA 2021).
As the hoarder’s behavior results into filthy, cramped, and extremely crowded conditions, the situation becomes unmanageable, and officials must intervene. Many of these cases become fatal for the animals. If they do not die at the scene, they are permanently ill or “unadoptable” because of the severity of their state. Sadly, sometimes the most humane option is euthanasia.
Thankfully, Meg, Michael, and Falkor are thriving and love visitors and an occasional carrot! We hope you can come visit sometime!
“Teacup” or “mini pigs” are really just baby potbellied pigs or mixes. Unfortunately, some pig breeders share misinformation, instructing owners to underfeed their pigs. While this practice may keep the pigs small, it leads to health issues that can be extremely harmful.
Pigs require a large amount of space to roam, snuffle, dig, and root around. In fact, these are some of their favorite pig activities! Pigs love using their snouts for rooting and foraging.
Pig skin is very sensitive to the sun and they can get sunburns just like people. Since they can’t sweat, pigs like to wallow in the mud to stay cool and protect their skin. Some even require sunscreen!
A healthy potbellied pig can grow to weigh 80 - 180 pounds. Take care that their home is large enough!
A healthy potbellied pig can live to be 12-18 years old.
Pigs are fast runners! They also can be good swimmers in shallow water.
Pigs love being with other pigs. When they sleep, pigs like to cuddle close together to keep each other warm.
Hoarding is one of the most egregious forms of animal cruelty, affecting tens of thousands — up to 250,000 — every year.
72% of hoarders are women.
Recidivism rates for hoarders are almost 100%; the only long-term solution is to prevent them from owning animals, and to require mental health treatment.
Hoarding creates highly unsanitary conditions for the entire surrounding community.
A single case can involve dozens or even hundreds of animals, easily bankrupting a local humane society or shelter.
How to spot a hoarder:
Keeps an abnormally large number of animals;
Fails to provide minimal nutrition, veterinary care, shelter or sanitation;
Fails to recognize the devastating impact of this neglect; and
Can’t stop himself/herself from repeating this behavior
Animal Legal Defense Fund recommends:
Cost Mitigation Laws
For more information, see the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
Animal Legal Defense Fund. https://aldf.org/article/animal-hoarding-facts/
California Potbellied Pit Association, Inc. https://www.cppa4pigs.org/history-of-potbelly-pigs.html
The Spruce Pets. https://www.thesprucepets.com/pot-bellied-pigs-as-pets-1237171
Wikipedia. “Kunekune.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kunekune