The pot-bellied pig is a breed of domesticated pig originating in Vietnam with fourteen sub-species. Considerably smaller than standard American or European farm pigs, most adult pot-bellied pigs are about the size of a medium- or large-breed dog, though their bodies are denser at a weight of 60 to 300 lb (27 to 136 kg). Pot-bellied pigs can be easily discerned from other pig breeds by their size, upright ears and straight tail. The top photo on this page shows a pig that is not within the proper weight range. Pigs with fat rolls over their eyes or a belly that touches the ground are easy visual indicators that the pig is overweight. Although they have a pot belly and a swayed back, it is not indicative of weight. Pigs in proper weight still have the sway and belly, but the hip bones can easily be felt with minimal pressure and the eyes (whole socket) should be easily visible.
Because pot-bellied pigs are in the same species as ordinary farmyard pigs and wild boars, they are capable of interbreeding. The Swedish Agriculture Ministry has been assisting Vietnam with their pork production by introducing large breeds of pigs into Vietnam since the mid 1980s. Today, the Vietnamese and Swedish governments have realized that the indigenous Vietnamese Pig sub-species exist only in mountainous Vietnam and Thailand. The Vietnamese government has begun to subsidize local farmers that continue to raise the indigenous pot-bellied pigs because they realize they are not as prolific or large as other breeds.
Un-neutered male pigs, called boars, neutered males are "barrows" and female pigs, called "gilts" (young unbred females) or sows, become fertile at a young age, long before they are completely physically mature. Pot-bellied pigs are considered fully grown by six years of age, when the Epiphyseal plates in their spines finally close.
There also exists the Göttinger 'mini' pig and the Resident of Munich miniature pig that are bred in medical labs, but are also frequently used as pets in Germany. The New Zealand Kunekune pigs are significantly larger than the Vietnamese Pot-bellied Pigs, but smaller than commercial pigs. Kune-Kunes are reasonably popular in the UK and were brought there in the early 1990s.
Pot-bellied pigs are frequently kept as exotic pets in the United States and other Western nations. They are intelligent and easy to train to perform tricks for a food reward. Many pig owners walk their pets on leashes using a harness. Pigs can use a large modified litter box or modified mortar box just like a cat with no formal training, but if one has a yard, they are more easily trained to going outside than most dogs.
Unfortunately, pigs do not like to be held or "cuddled," as dogs, cats, ferrets, and other domesticated predators do. These animals are carried and otherwise "handled" as young in their mothers' mouths. In contrast, the wild ancestors of pot-bellied pigs were prey of much larger animals, and not mouthed by their mothers. Therefore, attempts by humans at lifting or hugging are always interpreted by the pig as hostile and result in struggling and squealing. The one time pigs, by instinct, will welcome close contact is to huddle while sleeping, an instinct which conserves body heat and provides protection. So apart from contact by snouting, human owners usually have to settle for acceptance of affectionate contact when the animals sleep. This quirk makes pot-bellied pigs less than ideal pets for children, who usually insist on showing their affection through hugging and handling.
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