A decade after people began going hog-wild for Vietnamese potbellied pigs, the pets are turning nasty and owners are abandoning them.
These little piggies aren’t even good for sausage. There’s too much fat.
“They’re just using them for pet food now,” said Dale Riffle, who keeps nearly 260 potbellies at his sanctuary for homeless pigs. “They’re going to slaughterhouses by the thousands.”
The wrinkled little animals were seen as cute when they entered the United States from Southeast Asia as piglets in the mid-1980s. They routinely sold for $1,500.
But a lot of those darling oinkers grew into 120-pound bullies that got mean after being cooped up in houses without other pigs. The typical price for a potbelly today is less than $50.
“The people who were promoting them said they would grow to 30 pounds and could live in a house like a dog or cat. They can’t,” said Riffle, who runs PIGS, A Sanctuary, in Charles Town, W.Va.
“For the last few years people have been bringing them out here. Sometimes they just leave them on our doorstep,” said Anne Case, owner of Limestone Zoological Park.
Case recalled attending a 1989 auction where an Alabama doctor paid $35,000 for a potbellied sow and seven piglets.
“They were going for $5,000 as recently as three years ago. Now you can’t even give them away. They’ve become overpopulated like cats and dogs,” she said.
One problem is that true Vietnamese potbelly pigs have been crossbred with regular livestock, yielding what’s called a Guinea hog. Guinea hogs look like potbelly pigs when young but get much larger, said Chip DeShields of the Montgomery Zoo.
Susan Morris of Leesville, S.C., got her first potbelly about a year ago as a gift, and she has taken in two more from owners who didn’t want them.
Morris and Riffle said the trick is to have more than one potbelly.
Pigs crave porcine companionship. When no other animals are around, Riffle said, potbellies begin treating people like pigs. Owners often report obnoxious behavior like biting, snorting and rooting.