Pigs are intelligent, inquisitive, social animals. If you are thinking of getting a pig as a pet, there are several things you should consider first.
Many local councils in Australia will not grant permits for a pig to be kept in a backyard, even in some rural areas. The first step is therefore to check with your local council on any requirements it might have.
You also need to check with your state or territory agriculture (or primary industries) department about the laws that apply to keeping pigs. The same laws that apply to commercial piggeries also apply to pet pigs. For example, it is illegal to feed anything containing meat to pigs. Many of these regulations exist to protect the Australian livestock industry from exotic diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease.
Pigs to be kept as pets should be bought from reputable breeders of pet pigs. Ask to view the parents, as this will give a good indication of the size the pig will grow (although some pigs will outgrow their parents). The importation of recognised miniature pig breeds such as the Pot-bellied pig and the Kune Kune is prohibited. However, a national association has been established which registers Australian breeders and their miniature pigs. Although there does not appear to be a recognised Australian miniature pig breed, the height for adult pigs under the national registration scheme is up to 60cm at the shoulder. A miniature adult pig can weigh between 50-90kg. Commercial breeds of pigs can reach 250–300 kg, and it is unwise to keep one of these breeds as pets unless you have a lot of experience with them and plenty of room.
Some information about looking after your pet pig is provided below.
Pigs require little in the way of housing and can be kept indoors or out. They can be toilet trained like dogs. Indoor pigs will need their own space, preferably their own room with a pile of blankets to nest in. They will also need an outside run so that they can exercise and have an opportunity to use their natural instinct to forage for roots and fungi. Outdoor pigs will need a simple shelter; this could be a purpose-built brick or wooden house or just half a watertank with some straw inside. Because pigs love to nest, you should provide them with straw or sawdust outside or blankets inside. Pigs get sunburnt easily, so they will also require shade, and they will welcome an area where they can have a dirt bath or mud bath. Shade and a bath are essential in hot weather because pigs can’t sweat and therefore overheat easily. Make sure you have a sturdy fence.
Food and drink
Pigs will eat almost anything. A well balanced commercial pig feed from a rural feed supplier or pet shop is a good way to ensure all of your pig’s nutritional needs are met. You can provide your pig fresh fruit, vegetables and grains that haven’t been in contact with any meat or other products derived from an animal (referred to as swill feed). It is important to make sure you don’t feed your pig any table scraps that contain meat or have come into contact with meat to protect your pig from serious diseases, such as African swine fever or Foot-and-mouth disease which can be carried on imported meat and meat products. To learn more about what swill feed is and why it is illegal to feed swill to pigs in Australia, click here.
Pigs will also need some hay and roughage or access to fresh untreated grass to help increase the fiber content of their diet and support naturally motivated foraging and rooting behaviours. All pigs need fresh clean water, but they may try to tip over the container to play with the water and make mud for wallowing so make sure you use a heavy container.
Pet pigs should be desexed by a vet. Undesexed females (sows) will come into heat every 3 weeks, becoming restless, vocal and moody, and undesexed males (boars) will be aggressive, restless and smelly. You should discuss desexing and vaccinations with your vet. Pigs will also need annual worming, and hoof trimming.
Pigs require plenty of mental stimulation or they will become bored and destructive. If you have space, you may want to consider a pair of pigs so that they have company when you’re not home. Pigs love human company and enjoy attention, tummy rubs and scratching. In general, they are very friendly animals, but they can become territorial, so keep an eye on territorial behaviour and discourage this while the pigs are young.
Pigs can be easily trained in much the same way as dogs. Food rewards are particularly effective. Pigs can learn their name very quickly, can learn tricks such as sitting or twirling, can be trained to wear a leash or harness, and can be trained to use a large litter box. They appreciate routine in their daily lives.
Because pigs are so inquisitive and enjoy rooting, foraging and chewing, they can be quite destructive, so they might not be the best choice of pet if you want to keep a well-manicured garden. If you keep your pig indoors, destructive tendencies can also be a problem. You should also be aware that pigs can be quite noisy when they are excited (for example, when they are anticipating food), making loud grunts and squeals.