Updated March 9, 2021
Though all pigs in the world come from the same species (Sus scrofa), there are a number of differences between the common types of breeds within the species that greatly impact how to properly care for the individual pig. Domestic pigs have been selectively bred by humans for different human desires. Most have been bred dramatically larger than their ancestors for their flesh. Others have been bred smaller to be used as pets. Each breed may have their own personality traits and health considerations; ideally you should know exactly what kind of pig you’re taking in before making any plans or accommodations! And regardless of which pig you care for, it’s imperative that you get the pig spayed or neutered as soon as you can.
Here are the broad categories of pig breeds and some of their attributes:
Large Breed Pigs (also known as “Farm”, “Market”, “Industrial,” or “Commercial” pigs)
These pigs are the ones commonly thought of when someone thinks about pigs. They have been selectively bred by humans for generations in order to maximize their size in the fastest growth period possible. They can generally weigh anywhere between 600 and 900 pounds, and some even bigger than that! These animals, raised and killed in just a few months to a year of their lifespan by the millions, can actually live over ten years with proper care and good fortune. Large breed pigs regularly suffer from foot and leg issues, skin cancer, overheating, and reproductive illnesses. Common Large Breed pigs include Yorkshire, Landrace, Giant White, Pietrain, Chester White, Spot, Poland China, and Hampshire.
These pigs, also selectively bred for their flesh by humans, are similar to other Large Breed pigs in terms of size, personality, living space needs, and health challenges, but are unique in that they have retained many qualities of older pig breeds and have been less dramatically bred for industrial efficiency in human consumption. Common heritage breeds include Duroc, Red Wattle, Berkshire, Tamworth, and Large Black.
These pigs originally were found across Asia, (most famously the Vietnamese Í breed) where they are used for their flesh. In the 1980s, one Potbellied pig was imported into the United States, and two others were brought in shortly after which have created the foundation of most Potbellied pigs in North America today. Potbellied pigs are very different than large breed pigs, most notably in that they are much smaller in stature (though still averaging anywhere between 75-250 lbs when mature) and therefore treated as pets by many people. Many people still consume their flesh, referring to them as “Asian Heritage Breed pigs” in order to avoid the consternation of people who treat them like pets. Potbellied pigs have different needs in terms of health and nutrition compared to Large Breed pigs, and they can commonly live as long as 20 years.
“Miniature” Pigs (also known as “Micro”, “Mini”, or “Teacup” pigs)
Miniature pigs are purely a marketing term to refer to smaller Potbellied pigs. The truth is that even a small breed Potbellied pig is still going to be significantly larger than what most people are expecting based on their name. Any breed of pig will grow quite a bit, even if it’s a startling size difference between a smaller Potbellied and a Duroc! Many tactics have been used in order to convince people that a pig is miniature, from breeding very young pigs in order to fool a buyer into thinking both mother and baby were near their mature size (rather than just immature pigs), inbreeding pigs which creates catastrophic genetic consequences, and using an extremely restrictive diet, which is both ineffective and abusive. Could you imagine someone demanding you feed a young large breed dog barely any food in order to keep them smaller? People fooled into adopting these pigs and then watching them grow to their actual size have been known to abandon them, causing more pigs to need a place to go.
Feral pigs (also known as Wild Boars)
Feral pigs are treated and exterminated as pests in many parts of the world, but in most ways these pigs are quite similar to domestic pigs (they are the same exact species, after all!). Feral pigs, if rescued young, can fairly easily adapt to human contact and life at a sanctuary (unfortunately, adult feral pigs won’t likely tolerate captivity). You will need to keep their tusks trimmed (just like any other pig) for the safety of other residents or humans, but otherwise they can happily live among domestic pigs. Feral pigs with appropriate care can live 15 to 20 years!
Though pigs have different appearances, sizes, and have been exploited by humans in different ways, it’s important to remember that they all have the capacity to have richly unique personalities, curiosities, and deserve to live a comfortable life free from human mistreatment like everyone else.
Vietnamese Potbelly Pig | Oklahoma State University (Non-Compassionate Source)