There are pros and cons of each sex. And in this short article, we will take a look at them.
Males (Boars, Barrows)
Unless you are planning to breed from them, boars need to be castrated. Don’t buy an intact male as a pet, they’re controlled by their hormones and are, therefore, untrainable. Just like an un-castrated dog, an intact boar will attempt to mate with everything in sight once they reach adolescence. They’re often very badly behaved, noisy, and smelly and can be quite destructive.
Castrated males (Barrows) are far easier to keep as pets. Compared with a sow, they seem to have a more laid back attitude. Once they have passed through adolescence, a barrow will usually become lazier as they get older. They tend to sleep more than females as well, making them easier to keep.
Barrows tend to be bossed about by sows of a similar size and height – especially if the females are un-spayed. This will be more noticeable around feeding times or when the pigs are trying to get your attention.
Un-spayed (intact) sows will first come into season (hogging) at around three months old. They’ll then come into season roughly every three weeks, usually the hogging lasts around three days.
Hogging behaviour varies, depending on the individual. During this time they may appear grumpy, disobedient, noisy, and destructive. Unlike female dogs, pigs do not produce a bloody discharge.
With our own sows, we find that they all behave differently when in season. One particular sow shows no change in her behaviour at all, and the only way to tell she is in season is when the boar becomes interested in her, or when the other sows jump on her back. She makes no noise and never chews or destroys anything. Yet when our other sows come into season they become more vocal and noisy. One sow chews and bites a wooden gate leading into her pen; the other sow makes less noise but will follow you around like a sheep.
Pigs have sharp teeth and strong jaw muscles so can cause significant damage when chewing on things. You will need to make sure that their pen is robust enough to withstand such damage when they are in season.
During hogging your pig’s training will go out of the window. A sow in season is ruled by her hormones and nothing else. It’s very common for a pig in season to ignore their usual poo area and just urinate anywhere. This might be a problem if your pig is kept inside your house, but if you keep your pig outside this is less of an issue.
The experience we’ve had with our own pigs has shown us that it’s really pot luck what sort of behaviour an intact sow will show when she’s in season. Personally, we’ve found that as long as they are kept outdoors, behind good quality fencing, their seasonal temper tantrums and moods are easily dealt with.
But, make sure the potential noise and the destructiveness aren’t a problem for you, your neighbours, or your home.
If all the above sounds like too much trouble then you may want to have your sow spayed. Spaying eliminates all their sexual behaviour and turns them into a great pet.