Potbellied pigs perfect pets? Possibly
by Jim Marks
The answer to the question of “Are potbellied pigs the perfect pet pals?” depends on the answers to two other questions. One is: Who is responding? The other is: Do potbellied pigs meet all the criteria needed to become the respondent’s perfect pet pals?
For Merrie Reck, the answers are “Yes” and “Yes”. She is the proud pet parent of Annie Mae and Emmy Lou, and lovingly shares her Canton home with them. Reek will happily tell anyone who’ll listen what great pets they really are. They are completely house trained, and can go 12 or 13 hours without a trip outside to “take care of business”, but Reek is making even short waits unnecessary. She is having a modified dog door installed for them to use at their convenience, whether she is home or not.
The door will have to be custom-made, however, because Annie Mae is too big to squeeze through even the largest “standard” dog door. At something over 300 pounds, Annie is a pretty typical Vietnamese potbellied and still qualifies as a “mini” in the pig world. Reck says that Annie “really, really loves beer” and can safely consume a six pack.
“Basically,” Reck says, “Annie can have one beer for each 50 pounds,”
Emmy Lou, the newer, younger and lighter of Reck’s porcine pair, is a Juliana potbelly, a breed that’s smaller and lighter than their Vietnamese cousins. Like many animals, potbellied pigs can form very strong bonds if raised together, but can become very aggressive if introduced to each other later in life. Reck explains that she had Annie first, and then acquired Emmy Lou a few years later. She said Annie wasn’t thrilled at sharing with the newcomer, but that the two pigs “tolerate each other”. Both have been spayed because, according to Reek, pigs can get very aggressive toward humans or toward each other trying to be the boss unless they’re spayed or neutered.
Annie and Emmy Lou have many dog-like traits, but also are missing some canine characteristics. The two sleep about 80% of the day, and have mentalities roughly equal to a three or four year old human. Unlike dogs, the can’t jump fences to run away. They also are not rabies carriers, and are not susceptible to many other dog diseases. But in dog-like fashion, the pigs love and need attention from their human, and are happiest when kept on a routine schedule. Reck says her two potbellies let her know with body language and/or vocalizations they are not happy with her if she’s late coming home from work or significantly changes the normal routine. She also says they can be protective if they sense a threat, particularly from a stranger, and can even bark if they think the situation warrants.
When pigs eat like pigs they don’t eat like humans think pigs eat, according to Reck. They eat special pig food she gets from Tractor Supply, and vegetables. Even Annie, her heaviest potbelly, only gets a cup and a half of pig food twice a day – hardly a lot for a girl her size.
Reck’s love for pigs started at Erwin high school when she was a member of Future Farmers of America. She smuggled a piglet home on the school bus to her family in Leicester. Her parents let her keep it until the pig – not a mini – got to be 800 pounds. Then it had to go.
These days, Reck is clearly very, very happy with her choice of pets and clearly wouldn’t trade them for a more common variety. She probably wouldn’t claim they are perfect. But she definitely thinks they are wonderful.