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Do Potbellied Pigs make good pets?

Vietnamses Potbellied pigs were imported into the US from Canada in1985 to be companion pets. They were "darlings of the media," and promoted as the pet of the eighties - clean, smart, small, and affectionate. The first potbellies, sold for up to $25,000!

Ten years later, there are sanctuaries for unwanted potbellies that are filled to capacity. Potbellies are often advertised in the "For Free" section of newspapers, the prices have plummeted, and occasionally, the pigs are even abandoned by the roadside. What happened ?

Of course, with any new, exotic breed of animal, prices will fall as the supply meets the demand. This goes with the territory. But, in the case of the potbelly, other factors come into play.

Potbellied pigs are very "special" animals. If you understand their personalities, and quirks, owners bond to them, like the pigs were, indeed, their own children. Many owners sleep with their pigs, travel with their oinkers, dress them in costumes, and share every aspect of their lives, with their portly companions. Potbellies love to have their bellies scratched, and snuggle with their owners. Pigs are like two year old children - intelligent, curious, mischevious, and, sometimes manipulative. They are sensitive creatures that can be playful, and even almost humorous.

In the intelligence scale, they are only two species away from the intelligence of humans!

Unfortunately, that can be detrimental to having a pig as a pet. The porker will quickly learn to open refrigerator doors and cupboards in its eternal quest for food, and outsmart its trainer by taking the shortest route to gratification. Pigs learn to scream, to wake their owners for breakfast, beg for food, and raid pantries. They can be demanding, overly sensitive, or even neurotic. Piggies often pout, if challenged by humans ! Their personalities are complex. Because of this, pigs need a lot of discipline and monitoring. A bored pig will root, and knock over house hold objects, occasionally.

Pigs are not good pets if left home alone, with no mental stimulation. And, because of their intelligence, they can be aggressive with young children, in their eternal quest for treats. The good news is that pigs are very trainable. First, a pig must be taught that it can trust its owner. Firm, gentle discipline works well. Because of their love for food, positive reinforcement is effective. Negative physical reinforcement is not. Pigs have a great memory, and respond well to commands. Pigs are capable of learning to slam dunk a basketball, play a piano, or golf, play soccer, jump through hoops, dance, ride a skateboard, or skooter, and dozens of other feats. Housebreaking comes very easy to pigs.

Potbellied pigs average about #125 at three years of age. Originally, they were advertised by breeders as being around #50 at maturity. What few knew, was that the pig grows, beyond the age of one year, and often is too large to ride in a car to go to the vets. This problem can be overcome, if the owner is dedicated, by training a pig to climb a ramp into the car. All pigs must be neutered to be good pets.

Potbellies are herd animals with a strong pecking order. If they are spoiled, they often become territorial, and aggressive towards humans, especially house guests.The pigs have an instinctual urge to be "Top Hog," and defend their territory. Pigs with lots of subtle, daily discipline, and boundaries in the home, do not exhibit this phenonoma.. The potbellies must be taught the word "NO", and to respect humans.

Porkers need time outdoors ,in a fenced yard, secure from hostile dogs. This cuts down on house territorialism, and gives the pig something "to do". Pigs DO root, although this often can be somewhat curtailed. They do not get fleas, but DO get mange, which is easily treatable.

All in all, pigs have the potential to be the BEST pet, or the very WORST pet. It really depends upon the expectations and efforts of the owners. Pigs are not small, or easily transportable, and do not belong in apartments, generally. They can be convoluted, or even aggressive. They get bored easily, and knock over waste paper baskets and house hold objects... And, OF COURSE, pigs will do ANYTHING for food ! That's how pigs got the name!

But, if you do not expect a pig to be anything other than a pig, a potbelly can be a marvelous lifetime companion. They are adorable, loving, affectionate creatures with incredible intelligence. I wouldn't trade mine for anything in the world.

Priscilla Valentine

Priscilla travels all over the country, full time, with her two pigs, "Nellie" and "Tuff Hank," performing on stages, at fairs, and festivals. Her pigs, which are studio trained, have done numerous T. V. commercials, and have been featured on the Donahue and Today Shows. You may contact Priscilla (Valentines Performing Pigs) At 253- 852-8662 or

Visit Nellie, a proud PigPals member

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