PENDER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Potbellied pigs are moving up in the world and off the food chain for some families in America thanks to a new trend.
Miniature pigs—sometimes called teacup or micro pigs—started becoming the pet of choice after celebrities like George Clooney, Paris Hilton and Victoria Beckham purchased them. A mini-pig breeder living in Hampstead hopes that families take buying a hoofed animal as a bigger commitment than one with paws.
"When you adopt a pig, it's not like a puppy," said Jay Saucier, owner of Wee Pigs. "The pig is a little more skittish than a puppy. It's a herd animal and it has to accept the family as its herd."
Saucier's black, pink, red, gray and polka-dotted wee pigs are much different than the average pig. Farm swine that are sold for meat can generally reach 1,000 pounds when they're fully grown. Other miniature breeds sold around the state as pets top out around 250 pounds, he said. But Saucier's piglets will only weigh between 30 and 60 pounds.
He's been breeding miniature Vietnamese potbelly pigs, more so as a hobby than as a full-time business, for a little over four years and estimates that 40 to 50 pigs have been born on his small farm in Pender County.
"I don't run a big operation. I don't want to see pigs become like dogs, where everybody has to have a pig," he said. "Pigs are a little more exotic than dogs or cats and they need to go to the right homes."
That's why the selection process is so necessary.
"The pig needs to be nurtured and made to accept the family, the adopting family, as its herd," Saucier said. "When people don't do that and they just let the pig run amuck, or run and hide under the sofa, and they don't work with the pig, that's when there are issues. That happens and, from time to time, people have to bring their pigs to adoption agencies because they're not the right type of person to own a pig."
In order to avoid that kind of a situation, Saucier has some guidelines for folks interested in purchasing a pet piglet. He urges potential clients to visit the pigs when they're newborns and spend time with them before they go home, which is usually when they're weaned from their mother at 4-7 weeks old. He also wants to send his piglets home with families that have a small farm or a big yard, and have some stability in their lives.
"Pigs can be like a 3-year-old," he explained. "It can be like having a 3-year-old for 10 years, in some cases. All pigs are different. Some pigs are not as mischievous and some pigs will eventually learn to open cabinets and refrigerators, so some families have had to child proof for their pigs."
While Saucier said that his pigs aren't dangerous, they can be rambunctious.
"When they're becoming young adults in the family, they may try to establish dominance, but it's usually a nipping and head thrashing. It's never really a biting or any kind of full-on assault."
Once a wee pig has been matched with its family, Saucier said the breed is typically easier to train than dogs. They can be taught to use a litter box or ring a bell when they need to go outside and they respond well to treats for tricks.
"The wee pig will whine all the way home, but then they quickly become a part of the family," he said.
To purchase one of Saucier's wee pigs or to find out more information, click here.