In this guide, we’ll take a look at what breeds of pigs are suitable pet pigs.
The British Micro Pig
The origins of the British Micro Pig can be traced back to Cumbria, England. In 1995, a man named Rob Rose was the first person in the UK to create the first generation of the breed we now call ‘Micro Pigs’.
The first generation of Micro Pigs were much larger than the pigs you see today. Rob achieved these sizes through selectively breeding the smallest and fittest animals with each other. Slowly, over time, he managed to reduce the adult sizes of these pigs, eventually resulting in the Micro Pigs we see today.
Selective breeding is commonly used in the farming industry, and has been for hundreds of years. Generally the desired traits in pigs have been for a bigger animal with more meat, fat, and weight, with the Micro Pig the process was simply reversed.
The actual British Micro Pig (and other worldwide equivalents) is a hybrid; it’s the result of crossbreeding various standard breeds with miniature Potbellied pigs. The purpose of this crossbreeding was to produce a small pig, in a variety of colours, with a good temperament.
Another misconception about these pigs is that the New Zealand Kune Kune was used in the breeding of the British Micro Pig. This is not true; the Kune Kune should never be used in the breeding of these pigs. If you come across pigs that have been bred with Kune Kunes then these pigs are not true British Micro Pigs. Be wary of breeders making such claims.
There are other breeders around the world who have achieved the same result via a different path. In the US, the Royal Dandy is another breed famous for being a small pet pig. I’ve also heard of several other Micro Pig breeds in Europe and other parts of the world.
There has always been a demand for a small pig which makes a great pet. It should come as no surprise that various breeders around the globe have come up with their own solutions to fulfil this demand. Who came first? Well, no one knows. Some breeders have kept records, some haven’t. With no official global regulator, or pedigree system, no one can actually be sure. Personally, I don’t think it matters much when buying a pet pig, there are far more important things to consider. One thing we have always told people about these pigs is that the size of them doesn’t make them easier or harder to care for – it’s all about how you keep them: and that’s the basis of this site.
The Shape of Micro Pigs
One thing to bear in mind about these animals is their shape. As mentioned earlier the Micro Pig is a hybrid – it’s a mixture of pig breeds – so their shape can vary.
Some Micro Pigs can be closer to their original Potbellied ancestors; this can be evident in their shape and stature. Black Micro Pigs are the greatest example of this and bear the closest resemblance to their original Potbellied ancestors. The black piglets share a lot of features with their original Potbellied parents, including: a pug nose, a dish shaped face, and a prominent pot belly.
The black type piglets are often the smallest in height of the various different coloured varieties Micro Pigs due to their genes being more closely aligned with the common potbelly.
Other Micro Pigs, especially the coloured varieties (pinks, gingers, browns and any non-black pigs) have less of the Potbellied genes inside them and their shape will usually resemble their non-Potbellied forefathers. Various different breeds including Gloucester, Tamworth and Berkshire have been used in the breeding of micro pigs, and evidence of their genetic heritage can be seen in their shape.
The coloured Micro Pigs are usually taller than their black counterparts due to the introduction of non-Potbellied genes to their family history. The differences in height can vary greatly depending on which generation of pigs you are looking at. However the coloured pigs can have the illusion of looking smaller due to their frame and girth being smaller. There is also the lack of the pug nose, and dish shaped face, that the potbelly is famous for.
Both types of pig do share the trait of having a straight tail. Any legitimate Micro Pig should have a straight tail (non-curly), this is an important feature to keep an eye out for when buying a Micro Pig. Curly tails can be an indication that you might be buying, or looking at, a domestic hog, so please beware.
Kune Kune Pigs
Kune Kune are a very popular pig from New Zealand. During the 19th century it was imported to New Zealand, from Asia, by whalers. The origins of the pig before this time are unclear.
In the early 1900s the pig grew in popularity with New Zealand’s native Maori. In Maori the word Kune Kune means ‘fat and round’. The Maori prized the pig due to its friendly nature, its tendency not to roam, and its great grazing ability (the pig could be fattened on grass alone).
During the mid-20th century the popularity of the pig dropped; modern commercial breeds were gaining recognition and were preferred for use in pork production. More traditional breeds like the Kune Kune were slowly made redundant by their more efficient cousins.
The breed was thought to be nearly extinct by the 1980s. There was estimated to be only around fifty purebred Kune Kune left in New Zealand. But thanks to the efforts of a handful of New Zealand breeders a recovery program was put in place that helped save the breed.
In the 1990s the breed was imported into the UK for the first time. Later, around the mid-90s, they were imported into the USA however it wasn’t until after 2007 that the breed became more commercially available and widespread.
Kune Kune Appearance
The Kune Kune is famous for being a little hairy pig that comes in a wide range of colours and spots. Some pigs have straight or curly hair; others can have long or short hair. They can have various hair colours, including; cream, ginger, gold, white, tan, and black. The unique characteristic of a Kune Kune are the tassels (pire pire) which can be found hanging from their lower jaw. The shape of the Kune Kune is small and round, with short legs, and a short, up-turned snout.
The breed does vary in size, the smallest Kune Kunes are around 24 inches in height (measured from foot to shoulder), and the biggest are usually around 30 inches high. A fat Kune Kune can have the appearance of being bigger than these sizes though. A healthy Kune Kune should weigh between 60kg and 200 kg when fully grown (pigs are usually fully grown between 3-5 years).
The Kune Kune as a Pet
Today the Kune Kune is more popular than ever. Worldwide there are now more breeders than ever before. These days you don’t have to travel far before being able to see these pigs in person. Official breeder’s clubs can now be found in various countries, dedicated to promoting an established standard. This involves recording the breeding of the pig, maintaining a pedigree system, and helping to promote good practice. These clubs also publish a yearly newsletter and run discussion forums. I believe this to be one of the Kune Kune’s biggest advantages over the Micro Pig.
There are no breeding clubs for the Micro Pig in the USA, UK, or the rest of the world. There’s no established standard for the breed; no family and genetic history is ever recorded, and there are no official Micro Pig clubs or pedigree systems in place. These are just some of the reasons why the Micro Pig is criticised by other breeders.
A Kune Kune can make a great pet. They’re small, friendly and enjoy the company of humans. They’re not prone to wandering and have a tendency not to root (pigs that root will annihilate a nice looking garden or paddock). With these great traits, and established clubs helping to support the breed, the Kune Kune is a serious alternative to a Micro Pig.
To learn more about this wonderful, little, hairy pig check out the British Kune Kune Pig Society website:
The Potbellied Pig
The Potbelly pig is probably the most famous pet pig there is. This is the breed that started off the craze of pet pig keeping in the late 80s and early 90s. The British Micro Pig owes a lot of its ancestry to its Potbellied parents; they were used in the breeding of the first generations of Micro Pig, and are routinely bred with the Micro today.
The potbelly has probably the longest and most well-documented history out of all the common pet pigs. It’s an Asian swine breed (known as Sus Scrofa in Latin) and is believed to be a descendant of the Chinese pigs that were domesticated around 10,000 years ago. Chinese pigs have a similar appearance and shape – they have perky ears, straight tails and a straight back.
Potbellied pigs were routinely kept by Vietnamese families to provide a regular source of food and fat as 50% of a potbelly pig’s body is fat; whereas a modern farm pig’s body fat is usually between 5-15%, depending on the breed.
Demand for pigs with large fat reserves has reduced steadily over the last sixty years; this has resulted in modern farm swine replacing the Potbellies in their home countries.
Modern farm pigs produce more meat, less fat, and are cheaper to raise. Today they have pretty much replaced their Potbellied cousins in their native countries: it’s believed the original potbellies are practically extinct!
Black Potbelly Pig
Sometime during the last 100 years the Potbellied pig was brought to Europe. In the mid-80s the first potbellies were shipped to Canada by a man named Connell, where they were destined to be used in lab experiments. Laboratories favoured the pig because of its small size when compared with common farm hogs. [HG2] The original Potbellied pigs weighed approximately 200lbs (90 kg), most farm hogs can weigh upwards of 800lbs (362 kg). The small size of the potbelly made them far easier to keep and handle.
During the late 80s, the first of these Connell pigs made their way into a zoo in the USA. The zoo bred these pigs and sold their offspring to the pet industry. This was the start of the first Potbellied pig craze.
During this time several other groups of smaller pigs were imported into the USA. Breeders also started crossbreeding their pigs with smaller farm hogs and feral pigs. Around this time the first registries were setup and they proceeded to track the imported pigs and their descendants.
Competitions and pig shows also sprang up during this period and top prize-winning pigs were being sold for thousands of dollars. But it didn’t continue. The fad quickly faded – the registries closed, the competitions stopped, and more and more Potbellied pigs ended up in sanctuaries or were simply abandoned.
As the years moved on the different blood lines were bred with each other. Almost all the Potbellied pigs in the USA today are a mix of these original lines. The different variations of potbelly pig (such as the Swedish White and Juliana) are thought to have been completely combined with the other potbelly breeding lines. It is thought that there are no pure bred lines of the Swedish White and Juliana pigs left in the USA today. The only registry collecting data on these breeding lines closed in the mid-90s, so there is no way to accurately trace the ancestry of these pigs after that point. If you come across breeders in the US who claim to breed pure Juliana and Swedish White pigs their claims are likely to be false. Any legitimate breeder of these strains must have kept their own records since the closure of the original registry in the 90s, this would be only way to backup such claims.
The appearance of the Potbelly
The modern potbelly pig has many different variations. Most of the modern pigs are smaller than the original Connell lines. Some are quite tall, growing up to 26″ in height, whilst others are on the smaller side (90-100lbs, around 16″-22″ in height). The modern potbelly also comes in a variety of colours including: black, white with black/red spots, silver, or red. All of these coloured pigs are potbellies and are equally good as pets.
Potbellied Pigs in the UK
During the late 80s and 90s it is thought that various groups of people imported these pigs, and the other variations (Juliana and Swedish White), from Europe. However, due to the lack of a UK-based potbelly register, there is no way to trace the movement or the breeding of these pigs. Just like in the USA these pigs have been crossbred with other breeds to produce different variations.
Potbellied pigs make a great pet – it’s friendly, enjoys the company of humans and has a tendency not to root. There are plenty of websites, books, and clubs all dedicated to the breed. Also, due to it being the first ‘real’ pet pig, there’s more information about keeping them as pets than any other breed. The great thing is that this wealth of information and advice can be used to help your pet pig, regardless of its breed.
Other Types of Pet Pigs
The previous three breeds are the best pet-pig breeds and are ideal for the beginner. However, people do keep other breeds of pig as pets. I’ve heard of people in the USA, Australia, and other countries, keeping feral pigs as pets. A feral pig is a pig that’s usually not a native breed, and is one that has gone wild. I’ve also heard about people keeping traditional farm hogs as pets. Keeping feral and traditional hogs as pets requires acres of land, robust fencing and a dedicated area or paddock setup for the pig – a place where the animal can cause damage without it being a problem. Traditional farm hogs can grow very large, depending on the breed; this reduces their suitability as a pet in a domestic setting.
Certain breeds, like the Gloucester Old Spot, are widely known as being a ‘rooting’ pig. These pigs are like a four-legged plough and can turn over a large area of land in a few days. Again, this sort of behaviour could be a problem for anyone who is planning on keeping them in a back garden, allotment or house.
If you have the land and space, and you don’t mind owning a big pig, and rooting is not a problem, then there could be nothing stopping you from owning a farm hog as a pet. Pigs are pigs, they all share the same psychology, motivations, physiology, and are all food orientated individuals. They can all be kept as pets, but some breeds are far more suitable and easier to keep than others. I strongly recommend sticking to the Potbelly, Kune Kune, or a Micro Pig, when considering a pig as a pet. If you are thinking of buying a farm hog, then make sure you thoroughly researched the breed before you commit to anything. Certain farm breeds have particular quirks and unique characteristics that you should be aware of before you buy.
Which Breeds are Best: The Conclusion?
So, which pig is best? Well, it’s up to you to decide. Like buying a car it’s a matter of personal taste.
The Kune Kune and Potbellied pigs should definitely be on your viewing list when considering a pig as a pet. The existence of established registries for these breeds is a clear advantage. Breed registries usually hold a list of established breeders who adhere to the club’s rules on breeding and care. Established pig clubs also make the task of finding a good breeder far easier – the clubs’ websites are usually a fantastic source of information.
When buying Micro Pigs things are trickier. There is no established standard for the breed. There are no official clubs, or registries, or forums dedicated to the breed. This can make finding a good breeder extremely difficult. Finding breeders who can provide testimonials, and who are knowledgeable about the breed, is a good place to start.
Due to the high prices involved within the Micro Pig industry, it has its fair share of rogue traders, back-yard breeders, and con artists selling these pigs. However, by reading this site, we hope to arm you with the knowledge to help you avoid the worst scams and the bad breeders.
Potbellies and Kune Kunes are not immune to bad breeders and mis-selling. However, due to the money involved in the Micro Pig industry, and the breed being the darling of the latest pet pig craze, they seem to be the pig that suffers the worst of these problems.