Is keeping wild pigs as pets justifiable?
Few animals are so similar to their wild counterparts as swine.
Introduced in the 20th Century, the wild boar was originally intended for hunting in the United States. However, the population has since exploded.
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Today, over 4 million feral pigs cause around $800,000,000 in property damage annually. As easily domesticated as the species is, they just as easily revert to their feral roots within a few short generations.
When this happens, the most notable change is in the pig’s coat. Wild swine have thick, bristly, dark coats, not unlike wire brushes. In the southern US, they also display a prominent ridge of hair along their spines, earning them the nickname razorback. The tail loses its curly appearance, becoming long and straight.
Interbreeding between the domestic and wild species is still possible, and likely a major cause of the substantial wild population.
In many states, Texas included, the line between wild and domesticated swine is thin. They are, after all, easily domesticated, and it is not unheard of for a grown wild boar to simply wander onto a farm and adopt a family. Therefore, the only real requirement to adopt a wild pig is to have it tested for brucellosis and pseudorabies. After at least 60 days of confinement, the feral swine may be identified as domesticated.
It isn’t unheard of for wild pigs to be adopted by families, particularly in Germany, and the pigs themselves take well to adoption. For example, in Lehnitz Animal Sanctuary just outside of Berlin, six striped pigs were taken in, and soon mothered by Baby, an eight-year old bulldog who immediately took to the piglets like her own puppies.
Likewise, in western Germany, a woman named Gaby Gossett adopted her wild boar, Lexa, when she was just a piglet. Not expected to live, the piglet managed to not only survive but flourish in her owner’s living room, growing to weigh 120 kg. After saying farewell to a clean house, Gossett happily raised Lexa until tragedy struck.
As is the danger of keeping wild animals as pets, Lexa was killed in the nearby woods by a hunter. This is a tragedy difficult to avoid with pets who are identical to the wild game out for hunting.
Most wild pigs who become pets are domesticated at an early age, often because they cannot survive on their own. It’s a serious commitment that can turn sour if you aren’t up to the task.
Remember, if you raise a wild pig, it may no longer fear humans and thus cannot be released. Be prepared for a filthy home, a hungry animal, and the genuine risk that it could be mistaken as prey by a hunter who does not recognize it as a pet.
Should you find an infant piglet, the ideal age to adopt any animal, make sure you care for it appropriately.
- Line a playpen or dog crate with blankets, towels, or sheets.
- Invest in a heating lamp, as piglets cannot generate their own body heat for the first two weeks.
- Feed it goat milk from a shallow pan.
- Be careful not to overfeed. For the first week, feed it a half ounce per feeding, then move up to a full ounce mixed with cereal in the second week. Feel its belly. When it is firm and round, it is time for it to stop eating.
- After the second week, add a tablespoon of cottage cheese or yogurt to the milk. Steadily switch the pig over to pig feed. For every 25 pounds of weight, the pig should eat a half cup of feed twice a day.
- When the pig is old enough to go outside, set up a wire fence, but be sure to dig it into a trench. Pigs like to root, so be sure the fence goes deeper than they are likely to dig.
There’s no doubt the reasons behind some people’s decision to adopt wild pigs contradict other opinions on the non-native species and its interaction with humans, livestock and farmland. Nonetheless, some some would take a wild animal into their home just as likely as others would shoot it.
What’s your take on adopting wild pigs?