MYTHS ABOUT MINIATURE PIGS
There is a misunderstanding that miniature pigs will remain very small into adulthood. Synonyms include Teacup Pigs, Micro Pigs, Pocket Pigs, Pygmy Pigs, Micro Mini and Nano Pigs. All these terms may be correct when a piglet is just born, they are very small and helpless and can easily fit into a cup. But they do not stay that way for long! Originally, when a smaller sized farm pig was bred by the famous Pennywell Farm in 1980s, they called them miniature pigs. A photographer took pictures of the tiny baby piglets sitting in a cup which were posted online. Terms such as teacup and micro pigs were then developed by the public wrongly perceiving that those piglets will remain that size for ever. Micro pigs, teacup pigs and nano pigs are still common names used all over the world to describe what a miniature pig is . Miniature pigs bred by the Pennywell farm had an extensive parentage and included traditional farm breeds such as Gloucestershire Old Spot, Oxford Sandy and Black, Tamworth, Middle White, Kune Kune and even a Wild Boar! It took Chris Murray four generations of back-crossing a farm pig to his original miniature pig to come up with another miniature pig of a different linage!
Miniature Pigs can vary in heights and weights depending on the breeding lines. There are pure bred Miniature Pigs like the New Zealand originated breed Kunekune with heights varying from 60 – 75 cm and weighing between 64 -100 kg. Another pure bred mini pig is a Vietnamese Pot Bellied Pig which originated from Vietnam, with weight ranging from 57 -135 kg. There are, however, quite a few different “breed types” of the Pot Bellied Pig all differing from one another in appearance. Some types were used to produce an American Mini Pig as well as the Juliana breed.
Juliana Pig is another small breed of pig, believed to have originated from Europe with some potbellied pig lineage, and is very popular in the USA. Swedish Breed is yet another miniature pig breed sometimes seen in the UK, which was originally bred for laboratory purposes in Germany, but soon became pets. Meishan breed is an unusual breed of Chinese origin of small to medium size and is another example of a pure bred miniature pig.
Cross breeds of miniature pigs also exist, a bit like cross-breeds of dogs. These small pigs are not a recognized breed as such but have a lineage of other miniature pigs, especially the Kunekune and the Pot Bellied Pigs. These are the cross breeds that are often referred to as the Mini Pigs or Micro Pigs in the UK. In the USA, crosses with the Juliana breed are the most popular. Mini pig weight can range anything from 23 -68 kg or more with a height range from 36 -50 cm at the shoulder. So, they do not remain tiny!
As we have explored above, Miniature or Mini Pigs do actually exist! This statement often refers to a “Micro pig”, and, yes, it is true, micro pigs do not stay “micro” all their lives.
“ALL PIGS ARE PINK LIKE “BABE”
This can’t be further from the truth! Miniature pigs come in all colours, textures and lengths of their coats. From spotty ones like Sunny, to black, cream, white, ginger and ginger spot, pink spot, and everything in between! Miniature pigs can have a range of coat types from straight to curly, and hairy to short!
The famous “Babe” from the film “Babe” is actually a very young piglet, probably being of the Large White breed of pig, the most common commercially reared pig.
“PIGS ARE DIRTY AND SMELLY”
Pigs are very intelligent animals and they never soil their sleeping quarters, always preferring to go “to the toilet” well away from their ark/home. They often chose one or two spots as their toilet areas, which if not cleaned regularly, will expand as the animals do not like to get dirty and will chose another area.
Pigs prefer to stay dry and warm most of the time, disliking rain or water being splashed upon them. If they are too hot in the summer, they do like to wallow in mud to protect their skin against sunburn.
It is a natural behaviour for pigs to root in the ground, they forage for food, taking in some minerals from the soil. When the soil is soft, rooting becomes easier and any pig can, therefore, look “dirty” on the snout. In captivity, many small holder pigs are kept on fields which are often waterlogged in the winter. The animals may not have a choice to move away to drier land, becoming covered in mud and looking “dirty”. In their natural environment a pig predecessor, a wild boar, would roam long distances in search for food, being constantly on the move. The boar would not chose to stand in the mud all the time, as neither would any pig given the choice to move away to a drier environment.
Pigs themselves have little to no smell. Their dung does omit odour, but when regularly cleared away, the pig pen does not “smell”. Covering a pen with woodchip, whenever possible, is a great way to improve the standard of living for pigs and to provide a pleasant, natural scent of wood in their living quarters.
“SWEAT LIKE A PIG”
Unlike humans pigs actually have limited ability to sweat from their bodies, only minimally sweating from their snouts. This is because they have very few sweat glands. When overheated, they omit heat through the wet mud in which they wallow to cool themselves down.