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Porkers Accounted For; Press Saves Their Bacon Tabloid Buys Them Both And Offers Them Asylum

The grand adventures of a pair of runaway pigs who captivated Britain after escaping from a slaughterhouse came to an end Friday.

“It’s one of the great escapees - a very cunning pig,” Police Constable Andy Walden said of the 110-pound boar who was cornered in a field Friday after six days on the run.

But the story of the 5-month-old pigs - nicknamed Butch Cassidy and Sundance Pig - has a happy ending: They will spend the rest of their days in an animal sanctuary.

The Tamworth pigs broke away from slaughterhouse workers last week in Malmesbury, 90 miles west of London, squeezed under a fence and swam across a river.

National tabloid newspapers enthusiastically took up their tale - and the resulting wave of public sympathy prompted a change of heart by their owner, a roadsweeper who had raised them in his back yard to eat.

The owner announced Thursday he would spare their lives and sell them to a good home - prompting a bidding war among the tabloids that was rumored to reach $24,500.

On Friday morning, the Daily Mail trumpeted that it had bought the pair for an undisclosed amount, and had captured Butch - who was, in fact, a feisty female.

She was cornered early Thursday by reporter Barbara Davies and her team, who published what the paper claimed was a “world oinkslusive” with the captive.

“One second she was free, then, with one slam, Butch was trapped - squealing and flinging herself around the pen in an indignant display of pig ignorance,” Davies wrote.

Authorities said Sundance’s flight for freedom ended Friday with a shot from a tranquilizer dart by a marksman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The pig was tracked down by dogs and was found in a field less than a mile from the slaughterhouse.

Sundance was under a vet’s care Friday as it recovered from the anesthetic.

The media frenzy prompted comparisons with the 1994 pursuit of O.J. Simpson’s Bronco, with reporters - including some from the United States and Japan - joining in the search, outnumbering police with their helicopters and hordes of volunteers scouring the Wiltshire countryside.

The pigs’ exploits are likely to be remembered long after they retire to a sanctuary: One of Britain’s biggest toy companies announced plans for souvenir stuffed piglets.

Their adventure may even have produced some vegetarian converts. The Vegetarian Society reported it had received three times the normal level of calls Friday, a surge it attributed to compassion for the pigs.

When it was all over, Londoners took pride in the pigs’ defiance.

“It’s very cool. These pigs were saying, ‘We’re not having any of this,”’ said Susie Hinchliff, a Web site designer. “They are a symbol of animals biting back.”

“It has really tapped into the British sympathy vote for the underdog - or is it underpig?” quipped her companion, Liam Clancy.