Here at Crook Barn Stables we operate a riding centre so we have a regular stream of people visiting the yard. Our horses and pigs live side by side and often people are quite surprised when they look over the stable door and see a pig. Time and time again the reaction is “Wow, pigs, I love pigs”. Some people remember family or friends keeping pigs, some have kept pigs themselves and some just seem to love pigs, whether they have ever seen one for real or not.
Of course, here in the Lake District you see lots of sheep and there are plenty of cows and you see farm animals all over the countryside but most people have not seen farmed pigs. There are not many areas suited to large scale, commercial, outside pig units. However, you are more likely to see a couple of Saddleback’s or British Lops busy having a good old root outside if the interest in our pig keeping courses is anything to go by.
So, where does this fascination and love of pigs come from? Well, my guess is the many famous pigs from literature, film and TV that we are introduced to from a very early age. How many of us with children have affectionately wiggled their toes as babies whilst reciting “This is little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed at home, this little piggy had roast beef, this little piggy had none and this little piggy ran all the way home”! Then as we grow we learn the story of the Three Little Pigs. How disappointed we are when the first two pigs fail at their house building but then how good is it, when clever number three pig out wits the big bad wolf?
As we expand our library at home and school we meet “Wilbur”, one of the stars of Charlottes Web. I loved that book, little Fern persuading her father to spare the runt and his friendship with Charlotte the spider. Of course, I cried when Charlotte died. Now Charlottes Web is an animated film and films are where we meet that other famous pig whose bacon was saved, “Babe”.
Hardly a Christmas passes without one of the Babe films making an appearance. Here is a very intelligent creature, which of course is a very true characteristic of any pig, who wants to be a sheep dog and work with those not so intelligent creatures, sheep! We worked with the director of Babe when he made the Miss Potter film, supplying a sow and litter for one of the scenes. Now that’s a whole story on its own.
Of course, not all pigs we find in books are cute, cuddly and depict the nicer side of us human beings. Squealer and Napoleon represented Molotov and Stalin in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”, with Snowball a more likeable figure based on Trotsky.
There are many more likeable and famous pigs out there. Peppa Pig is still a firm favourite with today’s children. The Warner Brother Studios created Porky Pig, one of their first major cartoon stars and his girlfriend Petunia. Piglet was, of course, Pooh Bear’s best friend. The Muppets brought stardom to Miss Piggy but I never really liked her or The Muppets. These are just a few. Maybe you would like to share yours with us on one of our pig keeping courses!