Pigs get a bad rap most of the time, but there’s more to these intelligent ungulates than meets the eye
“Dogs look up to you, cats look down on you. Give me a pig! He looks you in the eye and treats you as an equal.” Winston Churchill delivered that sage little chestnut, which has become a favorite aphorism of pig owners everywhere. But how accurate is it, really?
“Pretty accurate, actually,” says Erin Brinkley-Burgardt, co-owner of Hog Haven Farm, a 501(c)(3) non-profit in Deer Trail that rescues abandoned pigs, rehabilitates them and tries to readopt them to happy homes. “Pigs are incredibly intelligent animals. Fully grown, they reach the cognitive ability of about a four-year-old human. Their mannerisms are closer to those of a child than those of a dog or a cat. They really do treat you like a peer.”
Brinkley-Burgardt has loved pigs all her life, and today her farm, which she manages with her husband, Andrew, is one of just a few pig-specific rescue facilities in Colorado. “The demand for rescue is really, really high,” she says. “It’s a shame more people don’t do what we do. So many pig owners are trying to surrender their animals every day.”
The reason, she believes, has something to do with social media and the rise of the “teacup pig” marketing myth. “On Instagram and Facebook, people post pictures of piglets and refer to them as teacup pigs,” she says. “There’s this craze of people wanting these teacup pigs that supposedly stay 20 to 40 pounds, but there’s no such thing. So people will go to breeders, pick up a piglet and expect it to stay small. Suddenly, they’ve got a 70- to 100-pound pig on their hands that’s not done growing, and they can no longer accommodate it.”
Since the launch of Hog Haven Farm in 2014, Brinkley-Burgardt and her husband have relocated twice to accommodate an ever-growing number of surrendered animals. In four years, they’ve rescued more than 150 pigs, 90 of which currently live on the farm. Brinkley-Burgardt says that for every pig Hog Haven sends to a new home, at least 10 new surrender requests come in. Even so, she tries to remain focused on the task at hand—finding homes and responsible owners for the animals in her care.
“Pigs have been my favorite animal since I was six years old,” says Brinkley-Burgardt. “They’re affectionate. They’re social. They love to snuggle. People don’t realize, at first, what wonderful pets they make. It’s a hectic life on the farm, and we’re trying to fight a problem that seems to be getting worse. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
HOG HAVEN FARM
Hosts interactive events throughout the year to educate the public about responsible pig ownership.