California Potbellied Pig Association, Inc

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Distributed by Friends of Potbellied Pigs

Complied by Donna Knauber 


     1. What does a potbellied pig look like?      

     2. What are their medical needs?      

     3. What kind of general health care do they need?         

     4. What is their personality like?      

     5. What do they eat?      

     6. Do pigs need exercise?      

     7. Can pigs be trained?      

     8. What kind of housing do pigs need?      

     9. Do pigs get along with kids and pets?    

   10. Where do you get a potbellied pig?


Ancestors of the potbellied pig were first domesticated  as long as 10,000 years ago in South China.

The Vietnamese Potbellied Pigs that were first imported to Canada in 1985 by Keith Connell are the breed known in Vietnam as the "I" breed. These pigs are from the Red River delta area and are mostly black with wrinkled, dished faces and small eked ears. Known as a 'small pig' the adults are about 200 pounds. The "I" breed pigs came to be known as the "Con Line".

In 1988 and 1989 Keith Leavitt of Cypress Texas imported more potbellied pigs from "the China area". These pigs had some white markings, smoother faces, longer noses and more upright ears compared to the Connell pigs. They look similar to the 'Mong Cai" breed from Northeastern Vietnam, along the Chinese border. Other groups were imported from England and Sweden. The English group (imported into Indiana) contained some pure white potbellied pigs. Breeding among these groups of pigs has produced the potbellied pig of today.      

1. What does a potbellied pig look like?      

Potbellied pigs have a sway back, large stomach (pot belly) short snouts relative to other breeds of pigs, small rounded pricked ears, straight tails and many times have wrinkly faces. They come in all black, pure white, black with white markings, white with black markings, and a silver color. Adult pigs are covered with course, dense bristles. Most have a 'mane' or 'mohawk' that runs along the top of the neck and topline. The mohawk bristles can be raised and lowered depending on the pigs emotional state. Upright bristles can indicate aggressive feelings, but the mohawk is also raised when the pig is very content.

Potbellied pigs have very fine bones relative to their size. They have hooves that consist of two main toes and two dewclaws. The dewclaws touch the ground in many cases. Male potbellied pigs grow tusks even if neutered. Females will also grow tusks, but these teeth remain very small.

They range in size from about that of a cocker spaniel to that of a small Labrador retriever. Although the size is comparable to that of dogs, a pig is much denser than a dog. Potbellied pigs will weigh from 50 to 200 pounds at maturity (2 -4 years).

Although they don't mature emotionally or grow to their full size until 2-3 years, potbelly boars are fertile as young as 8 weeks and females are sexually mature at 4-5 months. Because they have been kept as pets for such a short time it is uncertain what their lifespan will be, but is estimated to be from 15 – 20 years.

They have relatively short legs and long dense bodies, thus are not as agile as dogs. It will be more difficult to get them in and out of a car, or have them negotiate steps as they mature. Potbellied pigs can interbreed with regular barnyard "hogs" as well as the European Wild Boar as all are in the genus and species, Sus scrofa. In general, a potbellied pig/hog cross will have a curly tail instead of the straight potbelly tail.      

2. What are their medical needs?

All pigs to be kept as pets should be spayed (females) or neutered (males). Unspayed females will 'cycle' or come into heat every three weeks, which can make them very restless, vocal and moody. Unneutered boars are extremely aggressive, restless and have a very strong odor.

In addition potbellied pigs need vaccinations and yearly boosters for common pig diseases.

They do need annual worming.

Some veterinarians will not deal with potbellied pigs. It may be necessary to call around and speak with a number

of vets before finding one that will treat your piggy.      

3. What kind of general health care do they need?

Even when neutered the males will grow tusks. The tusks generally need to be trimmed every couple of years. This usually requires a vet visit.

Hooves may need annual trimming. Pigs that spend time walking on pavement or concrete are sometimes able to keep their hooves trimmed by themselves. Hoof trimming can be done by a vet or, with patience, and the pigs permission, by the pigs family members.

Pigs do not get fleas. They do get ticks! Although ticks have a hard time dealing with the tough hide of a pig. Biting insects can be very bothersome to a pig. White pigs are prone to sunburn and need protection such as children's

sun block.

They have naturally flaky skin and will shed their bristles once per year on the average (sometimes less).

They have virtually no odor.

Obesity is one of the greatest health problems potbellied pigs face. Lots of roughage (grass, greens, fruits and vegetables) is very important to their health and well being. In Vietnam they subsist on water plants and whatever else they mange to forage. They are not fed 'high density' corn and soybean containing feed! An additional problem is that over the thousands of years of domestication, they have been bred to be passive and lazy. In other words...they have a tendency to sit around and get fat! Unfortunately, this is not healthy for the pig!      

4. What is their personality like?

Pigs are highly intelligent, social, affectionate herd creatures. They have been called sly and devious and have been compared to a 2-3 year old child as far as emotional maturity. Because pigs are very intelligent, they get bored easily. A pig confined to a house all day will amuse itself any way it can. Eating wallpaper, rooting up linoleum, tipping tables, opening kitchen cupboards and the refrigerator. Therefore it is strongly recommended that all pigs have regular access to a yard or grassy area.

Rooting is an essential part of a pigs behavior, therefore a manicured lawn and a pig don't co-exist well. They will use their considerable brainpower to get to whatever food might be available. Gardens and flowerbeds must be protected from the might of the porcine snout!

Experience has shown that, in general, pigs that live outside with other pig companions tend to have fewer behavior problems as they mature.

Many times problems don't surface until the pig is 2-3 years old (which is the age a potbellied pig reaches maturity). Although some potbellied pigs have successfully been kept as 'only' pigs, it has been found that generally pigs are better socialized when living with at least one other pig.

If possible, adopting pigs as pairs of siblings is desirable. 'Only' pigs have a greater tendency to be aggressive

and assertive. It is actually easier to care for two well adjusted pigs than one spoiled, demanding and possibly aggressive pig.

Pigs are very social and affectionate creatures. They need and love all the attention they can get. They will flop on their sides for tummy rubs and love having their tough hide scratched. They enjoy just being close and seem to prefer lying on their human companions feet.      

5. What do they eat?

Pigs are omnivores. They eat fruit, vegetables, grains and meat. They also have quite a sweet tooth. They use their snout to 'root' up tasty roots and shoots. When grasses and other leafy greens such as clover, dandelions, chickweed, alfalfa and many kinds of 'weeds' are available they spend quite a bit of time grazing. If given a choice they will opt for high calorie food, much like their human companions. When they get hungry, or have no other options, they will graze! It's very much like convincing a child to eat vegetables.

Pet pigs are commonly fed one of many available commercial pet pig feeds. These feeds usually are grain based, containing corn, oats, sunflower meal, alfalfa meal and wheat. Ideally pigs should be fed a diet containing about 12% protein and a lot of fiber or roughage (grasses, leafy greens, fruits and vegetables). Unfortunately most commercial feeds contain more protein, fats and carbohydrates than is necessary. When deciding on a brand of food, choose a well balanced diet that has as close to 12% protein as possible and supplement that diet with the above mentioned greens, grasses, fruits and vegetables.

The amount a pig needs to eat to be healthy depends on its size and metabolism. The adult size of the pig cannot be controlled by amount of food it is given. Size is determined by genetics.

Food for potbellied pigs is available in many pet food warehouses and feed mills. It may be necessary to special order feed.      

6. Do pigs need exercise?

Exercise is important, as pigs tend to overeat and easily gain weight. They have been bred to be quite lazy if given the chance. A house pig will need to be walked daily. Daily grazing gives them a chance to move around and get plenty of roughage at the same time. It is easy to train them to wear a harness and walk on a leash.      

Even though just the action of standing and grazing is better than sleeping all day, outside pigs should be encouraged to wander around or taken on walks.      

7. Can pigs be trained?

Pigs are very easy to train but are motivated more by food than the desire to please.

They can learn their names in a couple of repetitions if a food treat is offered. They will learn tricks such as sitting, twirling, dancing, etc.

They can be harness and leashed trained with ease.

Pigs can be litter boxed trained with ease, although there will be accidents as with all learning. Because they are bulky and short when adults, a litter box has to be low and depending on the size of the pig, much larger than a cat litter box. As pigs must have access to the out-of-doors, it is preferable to also teach them to go outside, a situation they seem to prefer.      

8. What kind of housing do pigs need?

Pigs living in the house will need their own space, preferably their own room. It is advisable to have the pig area away from the kitchen so the human family can eat in peace. They like to burrow under blankets or hay to make a nest for sleeping.

Many people have slept with their pigs but pigs can be very moody, pushy and possessive about their sleeping area.

If your piggy lives outside, a porcine companion is very strongly recommended. Pigs love to snuggle together when sleeping.

Outside pigs need a house that will be cool in summer and warm in winter. In areas where the temperature is much below freezing for long periods of time a heat lamp is desirable. Pigs need a swimming pool or wallowing area for hot summer days. Pigs do not sweat or pant, and need a bathing area to keep cool.

The yard or area where your piggy will stay needs to be securely fenced. If you live in a populated area the piggy will need to be kept from wandering. That sensitive sense of smell will be able to detect a good dinner blocks away. In addition fences are necessary to keep dogs and other intruders out. Hog panels, cedar fencing, chain link fence, and electric fencing have all been used successfully. Hog panels are the most secure but can be expensive for large areas.

It is absolutely not a good idea to tie a pig. Pigs are prey animals and when frightened will panic if they are restrained from running. This panic can be life threatening as the pig attempts to get free from the rope or chain and works itself into a frenzy.

When deciding where your piggy will live it is good to consider ease of access. Pigs have difficulty with stairs as they reach maturity. Piglets can leap onto a couch and negotiate steps with ease, an adult pig can not.      

9. Do pigs get along with other pets and kids?

Pigs and cats get along well. They are either enamored of each other or ignore each other.

Dogs and pigs may get along but shouldn't be left alone together. Dogs are predators and pigs are prey. Something about that combination is inflammatory and can lead to the dog attacking the pig. Although pigs have been known to shred a dog, more often it is the pig that comes out on the losing end.

Pigs need to establish dominance over those they perceive as being weaker than themselves. They have a tendency to see small humans (children) as something they can dominate. Small children and pigs need to be watched.    

10. Where do I get a potbellied pig?

Potbellied pigs should be purchased only from a reputable breeder or adopted from one of the pig sanctuaries or rescue groups. Piglets should not be taken from their mother before at least 6 weeks of age. Later weaning of 8-10 weeks is preferable. There is some evidence that piglets weaned too young have a greater tendency to have behavior problems as they grow up.

Before deciding to live with a piggy in your life it is important to determine whether or not potbellied pigs are allowed in your town. Many towns classify potbellied pigs as 'livestock', thus they are not legal to keep as pets. Zoning regulations can be changed. Many cities and towns that once did not allow pigs as pets now do as a result of the persistence and hard work of devoted pig people.

There are many clubs and support groups. There are also many internet based listserver groups that offer conversation and advice on PBP's.

”…pigs are very beautiful animals.  Those who do not think so
do not look at anything with their own eyes but through other people's eyeglasses."
G. K. Chesterton