Miniature Potbelly Pigs
Potbelly pigs were first bred in Vietnam, taken from wild populations that at one time spread through much of Asia. Growing over 300 pounds they were still smaller then their Western counterparts but weren't really considered miniature. They were used to plough fields, sniff out truffles, and carried out many of the jobs otherwise filled by mules and oxen in other parts of the world.
Potbelly pigs first became popular in North America in 1985 when Keith Connell imported 18 unrelated pigs into Canada to breed for zoos. These pigs were predominantly black and by the time they finished quarantine only sixteen remained. Little was he to know the pigs would hit it big, not as exhibit animals, but as pets. In 1989 a second batch of pigs was imported to Texas by Keith Leavitt. These pigs were predominantly white in color. A third line was imported by Espberger. These pigs were also predominantly white but slightly larger then Leavitt's pigs. Though other importations have been made possible it is these original three lines which account for most of the breeding stock of potbelly pigs in the US.
People fell in love with these exotic pigs and breeders worked to scale their size down, getting it as low as sixty pounds in limited cases, but averaging 100-150 pounds with most of their stock. They caught on by the pet trade because of their size, novelty, docility and fierce intelligence. They could be housebroken or litter box trained and responded well to training, often learning quicker then dogs how to do tricks. It may have been the potbelly pigs that led to intelligence research that suggests pigs are far brighter then even dogs. However pigs are pigs, and being such many pet owners couldn't handle them. As fast as they became a fad they became throwaway pets, filling shelters and sanctuaries. Only now are they regaining status among reputable pet owners.
Pet owner's insatiable desire to own increasingly tiny pigs resulted in some breeders claiming to breed micro-mini or teacup potbellies. These pigs were said to be fifty pounds and sometimes less. Responsible breeders cried out their denouncements, claiming at best these pigs were regular babies being sold by con artists and scammers, and at the worst these pigs were severely malnourished animals with stunted growth. It remains to be seen if breeders will choose to aim for smaller pigs through successive generations, the old fashioned and reliable way to breed miniature animals.
Currently potbelly pigs are becoming less popular in their home land of Vietnam where pigs are being crossbred with larger European pork breeds to produce more meat. A conservation effort is under way and the government is rewarding farmers who are sticking to breeding the traditional potbelly pigs. It seems likely that these animals will become somewhat more popular among exotic pet owners in other parts of the world but they will always remain a big commitment. These animals can live 15 or 20 years.