A Right Pig’s Ear!
I don’t have many tales of the pig family, as it was not a species that l really had any dealings with, however this isn’t saying that l didn’t have episodes with them. Today, three separate stories, concerning Albert, Ruby and Kunekunes.
Later today l will be starting a different part to this series entitled ‘From Dooalot to Doolittle’ which will look at the species l did work with.
Miniature Pigs [Sus scrofa domesticus]
Kunekunes is a type of miniature pig, sometimes referred to as the micro or teacup pig which basically means it’s simply a breed of small domestic pig, also commonly known as minipig. Towards the end of my business in 2010, these little darlings were becoming quite popular as household pets. The potbellied pigs have long been kept as household pets, although perhaps not as popular here in the UK, the Americans have long favoured them for their socialness. Pigs despite popular belief are a highly intelligent species and noted for their emotional ability to receive and display emotion to their carers or companions.
Similar to that of the more common place dog or cat as a pet, pigs can live up to 20 years of age, so are just as much the commitment as their canine and feline counterparts.
Due to their popularity starting as my business was in the closing down days, l only had one experience of actually handling and working with these and it was with piglets, who l had stay with me for a short while before they were transported to their new owner. The three l had stay with me were high jinxed, mischievous and really quite lovely.
The video below will do more justice to your understanding than a bloke who had them stay overnight.
I had a new client come onto my books, and they asked if l could pay them a visit as they were wishing to introduce primates into their collection, “Sure”, l said and we agreed upon a day that l would pop in. They told me where to go, and that l was to meet with Ruby at the gate on their drive.
“Oh ok, is she your head keeper or something?” I asked.
“She is definitely something, you will not be able to miss her, she tends to like to meet all the new people first, is that ok?” The client answered.
Due to the very nature of my business as an exotic livestock broker, in the early days as a concept it wasn’t looked upon with always the most favourable eyes. It was new for starters and people always feared both new and change to existing procedures, so l had become accustomed to being met first by other parties before l met finally with the clients. I was only slightly wary of the term ‘She’s definitely something!” Admittedly that bit stumped me a little. What exactly was this Ruby then? Was l going to be grilled on my moral scruples first before meeting with the new clients?
The day arrived, and my driver dropped me off whilst he went into the village for some lunch. I found myself first and foremost having to walk down a longish drive to the main house, and for the first five minutes l met with no one, let alone any Ruby. It was only as l neared the house that l saw something that l can only best describe as ‘squodgy’ in the distance near the door to the farmhouse.
As l got closer l saw a dark grey shape that was either lying down or sitting on the doorstep? Closer still and this beady eyed thing was eyeballing me. In the initial moments l couldn’t quite tell what this ‘thing’ actually was. It was dark greyish a sort of diluted black with a strange hair type over its body, and making strange noises that sounded like grunts. Maybe it was a strange looking dog, or worse maybe it was a badly deformed and sadly overweight dog?? It was about the size of a medium sized dog, but as l got closer still, l suddenly stopped dead when l realised that it was a pig?!
What on earth was a pig doing on someone’s doorstep, had it escaped from a pen? I was at this point very wary indeed, due to an earlier episode in my life with a boar on a pig farm that l used to have my business on. At about 10 feet l stopped and looked at the pig who was looking back at me, and to all intent and purpose it resembled a Mexican standoff.
Was this pig going to suddenly attack me like before, was l going to have to run off into the distance, this looked different to the other pig, squatter maybe, could it run just as fast? Ok, ok, calm down, act like this is normal, that this pig is supposed to be here, it’s an everyday thing, become one with the pig! The pig got up, and suddenly there was a jangling ringy noise. “Good grief, you are wearing a bell?”
“Who makes a pig wear a bell?” I was now really worried, if a pig was wearing a bell, then maybe this was an attack pig, and the bell was there to warn others that a rampaging pig was about to set chase.
The pig moved forward, and l had to fight down my flight instincts having learned before that some pigs see this as a game!! “Stand your ground Rory, it’s just a pig!!”
The pig walked like a swaggering cowboy in jeans that were too tight sauntered over to me and started talking to me in pig squeal, and once it started it didn’t stop, it must have been five minutes of listening to this pig telling me what seemed like its life story! I couldn’t help but think of Babe at this point, and thought that maybe just maybe this was indeed a pet pig. However, l was standing there talking to a pig and hoping that this Ruby person didn’t just turn up and take me for a demented what not.
In truth, the pig was quite endearing, or would have remained that way in my eyes if not for the sudden and rather unexpected bite to my knee, which hurt! Now hopping on my left foot, with my right knee throbbing in my hand, the pig started to think l guess that this was a game and started to push me, to which point l started to lose my balance and fell over, flat on my back with a resounding ‘whoompf!’
The pig then started to scoot or root my stomach, not aggressively, but rather disturbingly and it was ticklish! If that wasn’t enough, the door to the farmhouse opened and there was this big jolly looking fellow looking at me and laughing, with tears streaming down his eyes!!
“Are you Rory?” he asked.
Lying flat on my back, with a pig tickling my stomach was not the best way to meet with a new client. “Yes, that’s me, l will be right with you, l am just a bit preoccupied with this pig at present.”
“You mean Ruby?” he asked.
Slowly it dawned on me the phrase washing over my brain like dripping sandpaper “She’s definitely something!” “This is Ruby??” I asked still trying to shake the tickling attentions of the pig away from me.
“Yep, this is our Vietnamese pot belly Ruby, she likes to meet with everyone first. Has she given you her playful nip yet?”
“That was a playful nip?” I enquired still feeling the throbbing right knee complaining about the mistreatment.
“Oh yes indeed, if she really wanted to bite you, you’d know!”
The client helped me to my feet and told Ruby to leave me be. Sitting in the conservatory shortly afterwards, with Ruby now lounging on my feet and constantly asking for her belly to be tickled, l was to learn in fact that Ruby was their first line of defence and if you were awarded a playful knee nip, then you were okay. But more concerning, was the entire family had been watching me from the upper story of their house and laughing at my bonding antics with Ruby!
When l first started my business in 1993 it began as a very small concern which ran literally in the garage at home, by 1994 l was in a bigger premise and then in 1995 l moved to a haulage firm and rented myself a couple of portacabins and then 1996 l moved next door to a farm and took on board a brick and mortar building which happened to be an old pig barn. It was in fact a livestock farm that worked mostly with pigs and cattle.
As my business got bigger and l started breeding more animals for the then pet market, l was able to take on a few more outbuildings or out barns to house more of the species l was running – more on this in a different post.
I used to breed rabbits, not one or two but literally hundreds and in addition to their staple diet l tried where possible to feed them a more balanced diet which would include organic matter. I have many quirks at my own concession, but one of them is l happen to love weeds and in 1997 l was quite knowledgeable of all the localised weeds l could pick and feed into my breeding herds.
On the farm there was a lot of fields in which l used to visit during my organic foraging trips, and the best one was in front of the farm itself, it was filled with lush greens that were always quite high around the edge. It was also full of pigs, but l had been in there several times and l had never once experienced a problem.
The field was split into two halves by a head height hedge, and you could gain access to the second part of the field by walking further up into the field itself and walking through. The day itself was a beautiful sunny day, and l noticed that a good majority of the pigs were a good way up, so l thought no problem, there is plenty of the ‘Keck’ [Cow parsley] in the middle of the field, l will content myself with picking from these as the leaves were young meaning that the rabbits would love the succulence.
I was about thirty minutes into the foraging when further down near the gate l saw a car pull up, and the farmer Tom leap out of the car and start shouting and waving at me, so me thinking he was being his normal jolly self, l waved back and hailed out his name. Tom started pointing behind me, and so naturally l turned. It was then that l saw this enormous pig, a brute of an animal about 300 feet up from me, standing hard and fast in the gap between the two fields in between the hedges looking at me.
“Strange.” I thought l have never seen that pig before, how could l miss something that big? I started looking at this pig and Tom and a wave of alarm swept over me. Looking back at the pig, l saw that it had started moving towards me, and it was creepy how it was seemingly walking but getting closer without actually appearing to be running.
By this time, Tom had now climbed up over the gate and was in the field and was running towards me, and at the same time as l looked back at the monster pig, l realised that this pig was now actually running and to boot was squealing. It was at that point that it all became very surreal. The monster was running towards me, the farmer was running towards me, and behind the monster all the other pigs came running out of the other field and were now running behind the main pig!!?
“Rory Ruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuunnnn!!” Tom yelled at me when he was about 50 foot away, and as l turned to speak to him, saw him also turning tail and running headlong out of the field! As l looked around, l suddenly realised that monster pig was now squealing aggressively and bearing down on me and at this point only 50 or 60 feet away, with the remaining herd about 40 feet behind, l realised that l may not be in the right place at the right time!
I dropped everything l was holding to the ground and sprinted fast towards the gate to see Tom who was by no means a spring chicken leap over the five bar gate and land roughly the other side. Behind me l could hear thousands of footfall, and squealing and a strange snarl. I daren’t look around as l had a terrible suspicion that the monster was literally on my heels judging by this strange snarling noise and was never in my entire life worried as much as l was then that l think l was about to be attacked by a pig! Who gets attacked by friendly pigs l thought? Why is it always me, these things happen to? I got to the gate, with mere inches to spare and as l was hauling myself over, suddenly realised that my Wellington boot was snagged on something, the more l pulled the more it pulled back and looking down l saw that the toe part of the boot was in the monster’s mouth – no wonder l had this pain in my foot!
“Albert let go of him!!” Tom hollered at the monster, “Let go of his foot!!”
Who the fuck was Albert was all l could think of as the rest of the herd was now also at the gate, grunting and squealing. Finally, l managed to wiggle my foot free and “Albert”” in a squeal of triumph ran off with it in his mouth?
“What on earth was their problem Tom?” I demanded, hobbling across the road completely out of breath.
“Their problem?!!” Tom shouted back. “You were in their field, and more importantly you were in Albert’s field!”
“Gees Tom, surely they are just pigs?” I said.
“Oh fine, well l tell you what Mr Smarty Pants, why don’t you get back in the field and tell Albert he is just a pig! Did you see me staying with you when l yelled run? No, because an adult intact male pig is a boar, he is and was protecting his sows you muppet! He saw you as a threat; he could easily have killed you!”
“Really? A pig, kill me, seriously?” I asked with a smile on my face.
Tom just walked off muttering, “Well next time, l will not bust a gut and risk cardiac trying to help you out. You can have that conversation with Albert yourself as he is ripping you apart, ok?”
I never went into that field again or in fact any field with any pigs. Even when they told me Albert wasn’t present, l decided to forage in no livestock zones. I read up about it as well, a male intact boar could within a few short steps change from a sauntering walk to a gain of 11 mph. That certainly explained the surreal aspect of it all. I also never retrieved my Wellington boot, but when it was taken out of the field a few days later, it had been ripped to shreds and that was really all the proof l needed!!
Thanks for reading.
Someone said to me recently that pigs couldn’t run? Ha ha!!