Last pig standing: a tale from growing up on the farm

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

I like pigs.

Or I did like pigs, back when I was a kid on a farm and we had them. I wouldn’t necessarily want to have one as a pet, but I did take the time to watch a video of a pet pig the other day. Pigs are social animals, and if there aren’t other pigs to socialize with, a porker will make do with whatever else is available.

In the case of the video, it was four dogs. The pig is smarter than the dogs, said the owner. It gets along with them, but it also does its own thing. It enjoys company, but it has no use for the playfulness of its doggie siblings.

This all brought up vivid memories from my childhood of the last pig standing on our farm. We’d had lots of them, then a few and finally were down to one pig.

It grew up without the company of its own species, but had other critters to hang out with. Some it was friendly with; others it tolerated or even taunted. It was a pig with plenty of personality.

It had the run of the farm, there being no particular reason to keep it penned.

We even had it in the house. It was a bit unsure of its footing, but walked in and drank up the bowl of beer we set out with no complaints. The idea was to get it drunk for a laugh, but pig (I think we actually called it ‘pig’) took it in stride. It took everything in stride.

Afternoon naps for our pig were often spent curled up between the front legs of our big horse, Deuce, when he was lying down in the barnyard.

They got along very well – never a harsh word between them. What the horse got out of it is hard to imagine – yet there it was.

He’d be lying there, as horses do, and pig would nestle in, grunting gently.

The other barnyard denizen at that time took an entirely different view of the pig.

This was a cow with a new-ish calf. She got all protective and threatening when he came near. Fair enough – that was her motherly protective instinct kicking in, though it still seemed pretty dumb. But cows aren’t noted for their intelligence and she was no outlier.

Piggie, it seemed, knew exactly what was going on and saw an opportunity for entertainment.

Not intimidated at all by her hostility, he would sidle up, daring her to respond.

She did – turning, lowering her head, fake charging and pawing the dirt. He’d circle around and come up again on her flank, sideways, provoking exactly the same reaction. You could almost see him grinning.

This went on and on. He had not the slightest interest in harming her calf, but she never figured that out. My brother and I, watching this, laughed our heads off.

But it got even funnier. A trapper acquaintance of our father had left one of his dogs – a husky/shepherd type – with us for the summer. It was not trusted, so it had been tied up on about a 15-foot tether to a tree near the house. Unlike any dog we had ever known, it had only one use for other animals. It was out for blood.

So one day pig ambled up near the house, which was a couple hundred metres from the barnyard.

The dog of course went wild, savagely barking and straining at its leash.

But instead of giving it a wide berth, or indeed showing any apprehension at all, our gallant hog wandered over closer, affecting mild curiosity and no apparent concern for his safety.

The dog got even wilder, practically foaming at the mouth. It was bizarre – it wasn’t as if it wasn’t getting fed.

So anyway, you probably guessed what happened. Piggie eased right up to the leash limit, calm as can be, and stood there, inches out of the dog’s slavering jaws.

The dog, meanwhile was right out of its mind. If the tether line had broken, it would have been carnage, no question.

But it didn’t, and pig continued with this torment for several minutes, backing off and coming up again right to the leash limit, with the dog hurling itself against it and making a hell of a racket.
Eventually pig sauntered off for a nap with his pal the horse.

You can’t pay for entertainment that good, and we were delighted as you can imagine.

I can’t remember what happened to pig – and perhaps it’s better not to.

Photo courtesy: Garth McLean of Full Throttle Farm Rocky Mountain House Alta.

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