Micro pigs are Britain's pets of the moment (just don't call them teacup pigs)
There's a new pet craze in Britain, and it sure isn't parakeets. The newest animal to be coveted by would-be pet owners is a very different sort, indeed -- it's the micro pig, a bred-down version of the oinkers you see on exhibit at your local county fair. (Their genetic makeup is actually a mixture of several breeds: the miniature potbellied pig, Tamworth, Kune Kune and Gloucester Old Spot.)
Micro pigs start out tiny -- a fraction of a pound -- but reach the size of a medium-sized dog in adulthood, measuring 12-16 inches tall and weighing 40-65 pounds. And they share a few other traits with dogs as well. "They make fantastic pets," breeder Jane Croft said on the "Today Show." "They’re really clean. They’re highly intelligent and just love to be loved. They give so much back to you." (Intelligent is right -- a Penn State study showed that full-sized pigs could maneuver joysticks to control a cursor on a video monitor, as long as they were being rewarded with candy.)
One notable leg up the tiny pigs have on most dogs: Since pigs have hair rather than fur, they're less troublesome to allergy sufferers than many breeds of dog. Another leg up: They can be litter-box trained. Although they don't necessarily need to be taken outside to take care of their business, Croft requires potential owners to have a backyard or garden where the little guys can frolic.
In fact, Croft's Little Pig Farm has a number of strict criteria for prospective micro-pig parents. For starters, a buyer must register the land on which the pig is to be kept with the Rural Payments Agency, a division of the government department that oversees the care of farm animals. And Croft will sell piglets only in pairs, ensuring they'll always have companionship. (Rupert Grint, the young actor who plays Ron Weasley in the "Harry Potter" series, recently bought one such pair from Croft.)
One more thing -- don't call them "teacup pigs," a phrase that's become popular in describing the little guys. "Do not be fooled -- these do not exist," a statement on Croft's website reads. "Some people have taken photos of very young (3-5 days old) piglets and put them in [teacups]. Of course they look tiny but THEY WILL GROW! No animal stays the same size as it was when it was born."
Hmmm, Jane, how do you really feel about the "teacup" term? (We won't use it; we promise.)
We hate to break it to you, American readers, but Croft doesn't sell to buyers in the U.S. -- might we recommend you adopt a needy dog or cat instead?
-- Lindsay Barnett