Depending upon which book you pick up on the history of pigs, will determine how long they say they have been around. Some believe it is millions of years while yet others hold to the fact that pigs they’re part of creation. They do know that the first pigs they’re domesticated in Asia and the first book known about raising pigs was written by the Emperor Fo Hi of China. China still remains the leader in the number of different kinds of swine breeds with almost 200 different breeds ranging from small to large.
You will find that most farms in China and Asia all have at least one pig. The reason behind this is that they are used for not only food, but to barter for much needed goods and baby piglets can be sold for cash and last but not least, the manure is used to fertilize gardens and fields for crops.
Many Asian families keep potbellied pigs because, unlike the larger farm hog, potbellied pigs don’t require as much food and are easier to maintain and they thrive well in that hot and humid climate. Because they are relatively small, they don’t have to worry about refrigeration to store their meat, thus solving a major problem in outlying areas.
The potbellied pig became almost extinct during the WWII famine in China. Some of the refugees brought some north with them and then in the 1950’s some were brought into Europe for zoos. Then in the 1970’s Keith Connell went to Europe to import unique pigs for the Canadian zoos. Then later they came to the United States and became household pets. Because of the strict import laws in the United States, the gene pool for the potbellied pig is still relatively small compared to their cousins, the farm hogs.
In the mid 1970’s, Keith Connell went to Europe to seek out unique pigs to show in the Bowmanville, Ontario Zoo where he was Director. He arranged to have four boars and fourteen sows born in 1984 brought over from Sweden to Canada. When they got to Canada, the paperwork was incomplete and customs refused to let the pigs off the boat. They were returned to Sweden, the paperwork corrected, and the “world-traveler” potbellies finally arrived in Canada in 1985.
Keith Connell concentrated on providing the potbellies to zoos, and the Connell Line potbellies started to arrive in US zoos in 1986. Because of their popularity, Keith Connell started making them available to the general public in 1987.
The NAP Pigs
In 1990-1991, Keith Connell brought over another line of pigs which he called North American Potbellies (NAPs) to differentiate them from the original Connell Line. While the original Connell Line came from pigs that were third generation (or more) Swedish stock with no German blood at all, the NAPs came from all over Europe — mainly Austria and Germany.
In looking at the picture gallery, it is clear that the NAPs were larger pigs with very thick legs. To breed them down to size, Keith Connell bred them with the Connell line, producing the show stock that is popular even today. It is believed that all the original NAPs are now gone, and very few, if any, second generation NAP pigs are alive today.
Connie Merrifield, who lived in Alberta, Canada bred Ethel, a second generation Connell Line (from Roger and Barbie) and Eddie, a second generation Connell Line pig (who died in 1993). The resulting 1988 litter was uneventful except for one piglet who was named Pinto Pete due to his having the white coloring and blue eyes now known as “Pinto” At the time of his birth, it was thought that he would not be able to be sold because of his unusual coloring and markings.
That idea quickly changed when prospective pig purchasers all wanted him! Because of his popularity, and in order to obtain more of the popular pigs, Pinto Pete enjoyed a long life as a breeding boar, producing many more pintos for Connie Merrifield. As of December, 1998, Pinto Pete is still alive and currently resides in New York on Jenny Blaney’s farm.
Keith Leavitt, seeing the popularity of the “pinto” colored pigs, brought over the next recognized line to enter the US. Since he was concentrating on the booming pet market, he focused on correct genetics above all else. He selected his foundation stock of two boars and ten sows based on small size, conformation, disposition, and “pinto” coloring.
There have been several other lines, including the Royal Line which is predominately white, Majestic Line from England, Lone Star Line from Sweden, and the Imperial White Line also from Sweden.
Even though the potbellied pig has been in the US for only a short time, the pet industry responded quickly to organize, promote, and protect this wonderful and unique companion animal.