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A passion for pigs

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What is it about these snub nosed, barrel bodied, cloven hooved denizens of the barnyard that captures the hearts and imaginations of so many people? The pig that most people fall in love with is pink, for one thing. Who doesn't love a pink animal? And then there's that snout. Rubbery, also pink, with two big nostrils that look like an over-sized electrical outlet. Sensitive to the point of super powers, far overshadowing the talents of any dog, that impressive snout can sniff out a truffle from as many as three feet below the ground. Here are some ideas as to what may have caused us to become so enamored of these pudgy pink critters.

Winston Churchill (1864-1965) is quoted as saying, "I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals."

Pigs were valued as truffle hunters as far back as the Roman Empire. Their ability to root out this expensive fungal delicacy has endeared them to humans for many centuries.

E.B White captured our imaginations with the classic 1952 children's story Charlotte's Web, about the humble runt Wilbur, destined for slaughter until he is saved by the farmer's daughter Fern and the well-spoken spider Charlotte. Another generation was allowed to fall in love with Wilbur when the full length live action feature film was released in 2006.

In 1995, we were introduced to Babe, a pig raised by sheepdogs, who avoids the inevitable just like Wilbur did by helping Farmer Hoggett herd sheep. That'll do pig, that'll do.In both of these stories, we are compelled to root for the underdog, or in this case underpig, and rejoice when they are allowed to live out their lives in peace and harmony with the human and animal occupants of the farm.

In the mid 1980s, a Canadian zookeeper started a whole new craze when he brought several breeding pairs of Vietnamese Potbellied Pigs to Canada. Originally intended as zoo exhibits, some of the pigs were imported to the U.S, and pet pig mania was born.

Suddenly, all those children who grew up loving Wilbur could have their very own pet pig, regardless of whether they lived on a farm. Piglets were selling for many thousands of dollars. The fad soon faded, and sanctuaries to house the unwanted pets sprang up all over the United States and Canada.

Every so often, something will spur anew the desire for people to obtain a pet pig, such as a celebrity acquiring one. Paris Hilton bought one of the new trendy "teacup pigs" and suddenly, the breeders were back in business. Never mind that Paris' teacup quite quickly outgrew the ability to be carried around in a Louis Vuitton purse. Victoria and David Beckham purchased two pet pigs for Christmas in 2009. Rupert Grint, Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter films also purchased a pair. Clint Eastwood has a pet pig named Penelope, who has a propensity to dress up in Christmas gear during the holidays. The actor George Clooney famously had a beloved pig, Max, for 18 years http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,1565629,00.html

So whether one is swept up in a wave of yearning for what a celebrity has, or falls in love with a pig from literary or cinematic fame, it's clear, the passion for porcines is alive and well. As long as one does diligent research and knows what they are getting into and what the animal requires to be happy and healthy, we can fulfill our fantasy of having our very own Wilbur.

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