7 min read

Pig Meets Orphaned Babies — And Immediately Knows They Need A Mom

“She’d become extremely concerned when any of them squealed ... I feel like she had a deep understanding that they needed her comfort."

Rachael Pitchford was on the lookout for another rescue pig to adopt. She already had Ruby, a 2-year-old potbellied pig whom Pitchford refers to as her “pig daughter,” but Pitchford felt that Ruby would be happier with a friend.

“Pigs are very social animals, and do better in pairs or a herd,” Pitchford told The Dodo. "I’ve heard a lot of people say it’s unfair to only house one pig, as they get super lonely and long for companionship.”

So a couple weeks ago, Pitchford wrote a post in a Facebook group for pig lovers, saying that she was interested in fostering or adopting a pig. She didn’t expect the response she got.

Rescued pig lying on straw bed
Some of the potbellied pigs who were rescued | Broken Shovels Farm

“A woman wrote to me stating she had been ‘overrun’ by potbellies and all would be taken to auction … and was wondering if I’d like one,” Pitchford said.

This raised alarm bells for Pitchford. If the pigs went to auction, she worried someone would buy them under the false belief that they were teacup pigs. In reality, there’s no such thing — so-called teacup pigs sold by breeders are often juvenile potbellied pigs who are underfed and malnourished. But they’ll eventually grow up to be very big animals. Another fear Pitchford had was that someone would buy the pigs to eat them.
 

Rescued pig lying on straw and blankets
Some of the potbellied pigs who were rescued | Broken Shovels Farm

Pitchford reached out to three rescue groups — Broken Shovels Farm, Hog Haven Farm and Rescued Friends Animal Sanctuary — and asked for their help. People from all three groups teamed up with Pitchford to rescue all of the animals. 

It turned out that there were 14 pigs who needed to be rescued, including three newborn piglets — Figs, Persimmon and Durian — who went to Broken Shovels Farm.

Rescued piglets inside trough
Figs, Persimmon and Durian | Rachael Pitchford

The piglets were too young to leave their mom, but the owner refused to surrender their mom to the rescue group. So Andrea Davis, founder of Broken Shovels Farm, had to bottle-feed the piglets to keep them alive.

On Saturday, Pitchford and Ruby went to visit the newborns at Broken Shovels Farm, and Pitchford couldn’t believe how Ruby reacted.

Big pig looking after baby piglets
Ruby watching over Figs, Persimmon and Durian | Rachael Pitchford

“I walked Ruby into the room with the piglets, and she calmly approached them in their nursery trough,” Pitchford said. “She showed a lot of interest and was wagging her tail and grinding her teeth, which is something she does when [we] cuddle.”

Then Ruby went quiet and still, which surprised Pitchford again. “She didn’t act fussy whatsoever, which is strange for her,” Pitchford said. “She was absolutely taking on a motherly role with the piglets. She’s naturally pretty sassy, and it was as if I was in the room with a completely different girl.”

Big potbellied pig gazing at tiny piglets
Rachael Pitchford

Then another amazing thing happened. When Pitchford and Davis let the piglets out of their trough, Figs made a beeline for Ruby.

Tiny piglet standing in front of larger pig
Figs walking toward Ruby | Rachael Pitchford

“They went snout to snout and kissed each other,” Pitchford said.

Potbellied pig touching noses with tiny piglet
Rachael Pitchford

Pitchford and Ruby ended up staying the night, and Ruby would go into the piglets’ room every few minutes to check on them, according to Pitchford.

Potbellied pig touching noses with tiny piglet
Rachael Pitchford

“At one point, she tried crawling into the trough with them, though she wouldn’t fit,” Pitchford said. “She’d become extremely concerned when any of them squealed.”

Baby piglets snuggled up and sleeping together
Rachael Pitchford

“Pigs are super intelligent,” she added. “I feel like she had a deep understanding that they needed her comfort.”

Since Ruby and Figs have such a strong connection, Pitchford plans to adopt Figs once he’s grown up and ready to be rehomed. Until that happens, Pitchford and Ruby will make frequent visits so she can play “mom” to them and give them the comfort their own parent would have.

Potbellied pig looking after piglets
Rachael Pitchford

“It was so heartwarming to see Ruby connecting with the piglets in a way I’d never seen before,” Pitchford said. “It was extremely beneficial to not only the piglets, but to Ruby. It was like she had found her purpose.”

To help the three piglets grow big and strong at the Broken Shovels Farm, you can make a donation to the sanctuary.