New Designer Pigs Are Tiny, Cute — And VERY Expensive

<p> Shutterstock </p>
<p> Shutterstock </p>

Eager buyers already shell out hundreds of dollars for pet "teacup" pigs, and are often shocked when their so-called micro pigs grow to a hundred pounds (or more). Many of those pigs wind up in need of new homes when their misinformed owners realize they're not equipped for such a large, demanding animal.

Now scientists in China have gone and made the whole situation even messier by breeding a new kind of genetically altered mini-pig, Nature reports.

Beijing Genomics Institute, or BGI, originally bred the genetically altered mini-pigs as test subjects, but quickly realized that there was money to be made by selling them as pets.

To keep them small, scientists artificially "turned off" a growth hormone receptor gene, stunting their size.

The new pigs will be only about 30 pounds at most, and will cost about $1,600. The company even plans to allow buyers to "customize" their new pet by choosing the color and pattern of his or her coat.

"Teacup" pigs are often kept small through inbreeding, which is its own type of genetic modification, or by keeping piglets permanently malnourished. These new designer pigs are being kept small because of work that's happening in a laboratory. Either way, the results are the same - more little pigs being sold to families who may or may not be able to properly care for them.

While these new pigs won't grow to the same sizes as potbellied pigs sold as "minis," they'll still have the same piggy behaviors, like rooting and digging, that make keeping a pet pig challenging for unprepared owners.

In addition, these lab-grown pigs may have unforeseen medical problems. "What happens down the road when these animals need care?" Crystal Kim-Han, who runs a rescue for abandoned pigs, told Nature.

Some of these genetically modified pigs may wind up in the same places as the "teacup" pigs who grew too big - rehomed or dumped at sanctuaries.

The truth is, there are enough pigs out there who need homes, and no one needs to shell out thousands of dollars for a genetically modified tiny pig. "Adopt, don't shop" is true for piggies, too.