They're Clean, They're Cute and They Cuddle

Wee swine catch on as hip, huggable choice for discerning pet owners.

January 7, 2010, 12:14 PM

Jan. 11, 2010 — -- Iguanas had their day but, generally, reptiles are so '80s. Exotic fish were in fashion for a nanosecond. And who could deny the ubiquitous Yorkie, a dog so small supermodels were spotted toting them around the world in custom-made Louis Vuitton purses?

There have been so many trends that holding the title of pet-du-jour for longer than five minutes is harder than finding a lost Yorkie at doggie daycare. Leave it to a breed willing to get down and dirty to reverse that.

Pet micro-pigs are the latest trend in must-have companions. Victoria Beckham, aka Posh Spice, reportedly gave her husband two for Christmas. Paris Hilton has been heard to have one. Rupert Grint, who plays Ron Weasley in the "Harry Potter" movies, recently brought two home. That's right, home. Pet micro-pigs don't live in the barn, they live in your bedroom.

Jane Croft, a breeder at the Little Pig Farm in Christ Church, Cambridgeshire, England, said a micro-pig is the perfect pet.

"They are so intelligent, and they are so much fun," she says. "They will lay with you in the evening and watch TV, they love their belly scratched and they are very, very loving."

I don't get it. When it comes to pigs, of any size, I have to admit that I think of bacon, pork sausages or a good pork sandwich. I also believe that dogs truly are man's best friend, not a pig. A dog was placed on this earth to be the perfect companion and, in my mind, history shows that they have fulfilled their role exceptionally well. A dog will play with you, go running with you and, when called upon in a time of need, will even protect you.

Hollywood would have you believe the same can be said about a pig. Movies such as "Charlotte's Web" and "Babe" promote the idea that a pig is a sensitive, sweet and loving animal fully capable of challenging a dog's place in my world. And, now, Posh Spice is doing the same thing!

But I was not raised in isolation. I read "Charlotte's Web" and I cried for Wilbur. So, with an open mind, I spent a day with Croft at the Little Pig Farm to see what the fuss over little piggies is all about.

Some Very Happy Pigs

Deep in the English countryside, some very happy pigs are living the good life with Croft (the pigs also are bred in the United States). She breeds a mixture of Gloucester Old Spots, Tamworth and pot-bellied pigs to tiny proportions. At birth, the piglets weight 9 ounces.

But here is the catch: They grow up. So much so that a fully-grown micro-pig can weigh between 40 and 65 pounds and can be over a foot tall.

"Nightline" met the pigs Croft keeps outdoors. Two things hit me immediately: the smell and the mud. Pigs smell like pigs, plain and simple. I needed more convincing.

Croft introduced me to Liquorice, one of her favorites and, in her mind, the perfect pet. Liquorice squealed hello, did not look particularly impressed with anything and seemed much happier once returned to the feeding trough so she could get her snout back to business. Still, Croft thought one more thing might change my mind.

She led me into a tiny shed where, to the soothing sounds of classical music, the newest litter of piglets was snoring away next to mama pig.

You would have to be a robot not to melt, just a little bit. Those soft tiny ears, those cute little tummies, those adorable snouts. I was falling fast.

Inside Croft's house, she introduced me to Squeaky, Moonpig and Sweep, the three micro-pigs that share the house with her dog and cat. I watched in slight astonishment as she asked Moonpig to sit and he obeyed (later, a request to play fetch fell flat).

They were quiet, clean and, Croft told me, non-allergenic. I scooped Squeaky into my arms and felt my heart melt when she fell asleep in my lap.

Croft says interest in micro-pigs has soared in the past year. They don't come cheap. A well-bred micro-pig can set you back as much as $1,200.

Croft has strict guidelines for raising a pig and won't sell to just anyone.

On the upside, you get a companion that can live up to 19 years and will not require much exercise. Indeed, too much exercise can give pigs arthritis.

You can take your pig for a walk, provided you get a special license from your local animal health bureau.

At meal time, as Squeaky tore into her porridge, I was reminded that even a pet micro-pig is still ... a pig. But if a little mess and a few high-pitched squeals don't bother you, a pet micro-pig might just make you as happy as a pig in mud.