Dog or cat? No, it's the new era for pet pigs
Updated 18:53, 07-Feb-2019
By Hendrik Sybrandy

There's nothing quite like being reunited with your favorite animal. Meryl Noyes experienced that feeling the other day. She gave her pet pig Princeton up for adoption because she planned to move out of state. Then those plans changed. They're together once again.

"Yeah, it's really great to see him," Noyes said, looking fondly at Princeton as he grunted. "I'm really excited to bring him home."

A smart pet pig looks at the camera. /CGTN Photo

A smart pet pig looks at the camera. /CGTN Photo

Yes, pet pigs are a thing.

"I've always been an avid pig lover," said Erin Brinkley-Burgardt. "(I) wanted one as a pet as long as I can remember."

Brinkley-Burgardt and her husband Andrew run Hog Haven Farm, a non-profit pig sanctuary in Deer Trail, Colorado. This part rescue, part adoption business has taken off in the past few years. Pigs are that popular.

"They make really good companion animals," Brinkley-Burgardt said. She currently has 98, mostly pot-bellied pigs, at her facility.

"They're very affectionate, they're very smart," she said. "You can train them to use a litter box. You can train them to use a dog door. They're wonderful pets."

Kids and pigs in the competition. /CGTN Photo

Kids and pigs in the competition. /CGTN Photo

Pigs have always been considered primarily farm animals. And most of them still are. Pigs too big to be house pets were part of the Denver Stock Show's recent Swine Showmanship competition. There was so much demand, a lottery determined which kids and their pigs got in. Several years ago, the Kelleys from California wanted their daughter Madison to experience showing livestock.

"We said you know what let's get her a pig, small animal, low investment and let's see how she does with it," Madison's mother Laura said. "And we'll figure it out from there. And it just took off."

Madison discovered pigs can be difficult.

"You have to work with them every day, wash them, to get them trained and to do what you want to make your life easier at the end of the day," she said as she prepared to show her three pigs.

People look after the pigs in the yard. /CGTN Photo

People look after the pigs in the yard. /CGTN Photo

"I would say that they have the personality pretty much like a toddler," Brinkley-Burgardt said. "They can be funny, they can get into stuff. They're very charming when they're well socialized. If you like to sit on the couch and watch Netflix, pigs are probably a good animal for you to have."

"The downside would be they're very stubborn," Brinkley-Burgardt added. "Their squeals can reach 115 decibels. Earplugs are a good thing as a pig owner."

She believes social media has fueled the pigs as pets trend.

"People see cute little videos of piglets, or pictures of piglets, and decide they want one as a pet," Brinkley-Burgardt said. But too often, she pointed out, overwhelmed owners end up giving up their animals. This day, as Noyes prepared to take Princeton home, was a far different story though.

A pig is in its dream. /CGTN Photo

A pig is in its dream. /CGTN Photo

"He's lost a little weight which is a good thing," Noyes said. "He needed to lose a few pounds."

It's a Happy New Year for Noyes, Princeton and Hog Haven's owners.

"I mean every year here is Year of the Pig," said Brinkley-Burgardt laughing. "I'm down with that."

"You know everybody has dogs, everybody has cats," Noyes said. "I just wanted to do something different so I got a pig."

(Top image: Kids and their pigs participate in a competition. /CGTN Photo)