California Potbellied Pig Association, Inc

Male or Female

Is your potbellied pig a male or a female?

Is it spayed or neutered?

Are You Boar-d ?

by Marcie and "Chris" Christensen

We often get calls and emails from people and animal shelters telling us that they have a potbellied pig, and they have a few questions.

Questions like:

     How can I tell if I have a male or a female pig?

     Why is SHE always mounting the dog, or the chair, or me?

     We've given HIM a litter box to go potty in, but when HE gets in it he pees and hits the wall.

           Why is this?

What promoted this article was a recent email from one of our members who said she had searched the Internet for pictures of neutered male potbellied pig (called Barrows) vs intact males (called Boars) but she couldn't find any information.  And since I've been collecting pig-tures of boars for years I figured it was time to put this article together. 

First: Do I have a male or female potbellied pig?

This should be relatively easy, but I can’t begin to tell you the hundreds of times in the last 20 years that both inexperienced and experienced animal people have given us wrong information when it comes to this question.  Just like dogs, cats and most mammals I’m familiar with, the female pig has two openings in the back-end.  The anus on both male and female is located right under the base of the tale.  On the female there is a vulva just below that, and she will urinate out the rear of her body.  A male will not have that second opening, and he will urinate from under his body.

This video shows an un-neutered potbellied pig rescued from animal control who has one normal testicle on the right, an undistended (cryptorchid) testicle on the left and a hernia on his lower left abdomen.  Expensive vet bill on this one, but he's doing fine.

In some cases a boar will also have a more distinctive penile sheath, more like a male dog has. Most barrows will have a smooth belly with a tuff of hair where their penis is.

In all fairness to the people who mis-identify the sex of these pigs, they are probably thinking of the farm pigs that they have seen at county fairs and elsewhere who have quite large testicles.  This also leads to confusion as to whether or not a potbellied pig is neutered.

Second: Is my male potbellied pig neutered?

This is a question that even veterinarians unfamiliar with the breed can get wrong, and it's dangerous to get this question wrong, especially if the boar (un-neutered male pig) is going to be in the proximity of un-spayed female pigs.

Third: Is my female potbellied pig spayed?

Female potbellied pigs are called sows, if they have given birth, and gilts, if they have never given birth.  There is no special term (that I'm aware of) for a spayed female other than spayed or altered.  Telling if a female is spayed is even harder than telling if a male is neutered.  Veterinarians will look for signs of a spay incision. 

The easiest way to tell if she is spayed or not, and if you have possession of the pig for a month or so, is to wait until she shows signs of going into heat.  Make sure to house her away from boars just in case she is not spayed. 

Each pig's heat cycle can vary from one animal to another.  One description was, "her vulva became swollen and a pinkish red color, she started following my dog around more than usual and became more moody about things".  This was quite mild compared to some pigs who become distructive and aggressive during a heat cycle, which occurs about every three weeks.  Bottom line, is it can be very difficult to determine if a female is spayed.

What is important to keep in mind when having a pig spayed is that the removal of the ovaries only (ovarectomy) will act as birth control for the female, but often leads to devastating tumors as the pig gets older.  It has become common practice to do a total histerectomy on female potbellied pigs.

Pigs aren't our whole lives...They make our lives whole.

An intact male boar will not be smooth on the backside. He will not have cute little cheeks like a barrow or even a female.  He could have just a slight swelling below his anus, or he could have more of a wrinkly, almost "crusty" area (see pics below).  In some cases they might have a slight swelling on one side but nothing on the other.  This could be a sign of a cryptorchid testicle.  A testicle that has not dropped or even developed.  If this is the case a more invasive surgery will need to be preformed in order to neuter him.