The Big Myth: Why So Many Potbelly Pigs are Abandoned

By Joshua Carpenter Costnerboy-and-girl-hug-potbelly-pig

Seven years ago, this December, I first encountered “The Big Myth.” It involved a lie about a potbelly pig and my life changed forever.

It started when Oliver, our potbelly pig came to live with us. He was purchased for $1,100 from a breeder in Tampa, FL – and it was there that we encountered “The Big Myth.” The breeder told us Oliver would never grow larger than 45-pounds — if we fed him the diet she prescribed.


The Myth

Early on, my husband and I worried about behavior we saw in Oliver. After much research, we were shocked to discover he was acting out because he was constantly hungry. The diet the breeder gave us was one of starvation!

The Big Myth is that potbellied pigs are guaranteed to stay small (45-pounds). This just isn’t true. The “diets” breeders prescribe are meant to keep them smaller, but at the painful price of abuse, starvation and in many cases, early death.

Oliver was 45-pounds at nine months old but continued growing, as all pigs do, and six years later he weighs 110-pounds! Through our research, we learned more about how many of these amazing creatures are abandoned once they quickly exceed their promised size (The Big Myth); how many are starved due to breeder instructions and how many die horrible and early deaths. Our love of Oliver pushed us head first into advocating for, and rescuing pigs in need!


Cotton Branch Farm Animal Sanctuaryman-hugs-potbelly-pig

Just outside Columbia, SC, we found Cotton Branch Farm Animal Sanctuary. It is a safe haven for abandoned, abused, neglected, and elderly farm animals. While there are many shelters and rescue organizations for animal companions such as cats and dogs, and wildlife, there is a lack of sanctuary for farm animals, who make up 98% of the animals killed in the US each year. Cotton Branch exists to help those animals.

Since joining the team at Cotton Branch, we have met hundreds of pigs, found homes for around 300 in the last four years, and have 96 who call Cotton Branch Farm Animal Sanctuary home. Their personalities, body shapes, and sizes vary as widely as ours do. Their love and dedication to their human and pig family is as strong as ours. They are emotional beings who express joy, sadness, and anger. They pout, sulk, mourn losses of family members, and they bore easily. They are amazing companion animals, but they require a lot of care and attention. They live an average of 12-20 years, always behaving like a toddler! They amaze and perplex us daily; they make us laugh and give us joy daily.


Is a Pig Companion Right for You?

Whether you are interested in a Potbelly Pig, Micro pig, Nano pig, Juliana pig or Teacup pig, your pig is never going to weigh 45-pounds as an adult. We have interviewed pig parents, sanctuary directors, rescuers, veterinarians and even scientists asking, “What was the weight of the smallest, healthy adult pig they’d ever personally seen?” The answer was a unanimous 75-80 pounds. The average weight of a miniature pig is 80-150 pounds. That’s a fraction of their 600-1,000-pound relatives, but definitely not a “teacup” by any stretch of the imagination.

Before you adopt a pig, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I have sufficient fenced space for them to have quality outdoor time?
  • Is there a place for my pig to root happily?
  • Do I have time to spend with them daily?
  • Can I commit to their care for their entire 12-20 year average lifespan?
  • Am I open to the possibility of needing to add a second pig companion to keep them company?

Before you adopt, we urge you to answer the questions above and really think about the love and commitment these incredible animals will need from you. If you have questions or would like to support our mission of saving pot belly pigs, please reach out to us at Cotton Branch Farm Animal Sanctuary (www.cottonbranch.org).


Joshua Carpenter Costner is a Director at Cotton Branch Farm Animal Sanctuary near Columbia, SC.


Cotton Branch Farm Animal Sanctuary

The sanctuary encourages compassionate choices in our everyday lives when it comes to what people eat, wear, and use for entertainment.

Learn More and Donate at: www.cottonbranch.org