Since when do you live with Hamlet? You rescued him right? You didn’t buy him… Please share with us your story! Were you already a vegetarian when he came into your life or did you change while living with him as Esther‘s dads did?
I adopted Hamlet in 2019, after being notified by an acquaintance that he was in a dangerous environment: he lived in a tiny cage (like those designed for rabbits), had wounds on his head and a broken tail. I don’t think he had ever even touched the ground before. I wasn’t planning on getting a pig, to be honest, and the decision was very spontaneous, but I haven’t regretted it even for a second. When I went to see what was going on in the place he was at, I immediately decided that I cannot just get up and leave without taking him. The truth is, I had some backup solutions for him (that is, a farm in Kythera, belonging to a vegetarian family), but after keeping him for the first month and seeing how attached he became to me, I just simply could not give him up. It was so touching to see him regain his trust towards humans, become so close with my dog, Gina (he viewed her as a maternal figure!) and basically become my tail…
When he started letting me pet his head, listen to his name and follow me around the house, I knew it was just meant to be to have a pig son! And indeed, he has changed my life forever, and for the best.
I grew up with many animals, in the southern suburbs of Athens, and always felt very close to them. However, I did eat meat and fish- not to a great extent – and it was always limited to chicken and beef. I somehow dissociated the meat I was consuming, with the animals I supposedly loved. Throughout the years, even before adopting Hamlet, I started cutting down on my meat and fish intake, and eventually I quit their consumption whatsoever, after becoming more educated on various animal matters and understanding that you can’t love animals, if you choose to eat, even some of them. Of course, Hamlet has played a huge role in this process and especially in my understanding of concepts such as speciesism. By interacting with him on a daily basis, I witness, firsthand, how smart and emotionally intelligent pigs are. This, of course, applies to all animals but I am fortunate enough to be living with the 4th most intelligent one!
Could you please let us know some things about “mini” pigs? It’s time for people to understand that this doesn’t exist and you are the most appropriate person to inform us!
People often see cute, young pigs advertised as minipigs, online, and fall into that “trap”. There is no such thing as a mini pig, as people think of it. he pigs are usually just very young at age or are not fed properly, to halt their growth.In other words, no healthy pig remains 5 kg its entire life. People buy pigs thinking they will remain pocket size and the pigs end up growing and people do not want them anymore, and give them up…And this is the root of the problem regarding stray pigs, especially in the US.
However, there are some sort of “mini pigs”. Basically, it is a term used to encompass any smaller breed of pig, and is often substituted with other terms like “micro-pigs,” “pocket pigs,” and “teacup pigs.” They are not a distinct breed, but rather can be a variety of breeds (like kunekune, potbellied or juliana) and mixes of breeds (mixes between the aforementioned) that have been selectively bred to be smaller in size. This means that they can still grow to be 100 kg, which is still less than a normal pig. Usually, the size of the pig depends on its genetic makeup (its parents). Hamlet, for his breed, is truly on the smaller side, weighing approximately 20 kg.
What does Hamlet eat? Where dο you get appropriate food for him? Is he sterilized/does he need vaccines?
Hamlet eats a combination of fruits and vegetables, and pig pellet. I buy the produce from local markets or grocery stores and his pig pellets, online. Unfortunately, pig feed in Greece is destined for regular sized pigs and is usually enhanced, as these pigs are bred for slaughter. On a typical day, he eats a salad of predominantly vegetables (because fruit has sugar) morning and night, and in between I use pig pellet in toys and puzzles. I also use fruit or mini pig treats (which I bring from the US), as a reward for good behavior / tricks / training.
Hamlet has been neutered for health and safety reasons, as unneutered male pigs become very aggressive and sexually active (even at a few weeks old). The process of sterilizing him was a “project” for various reasons: vets in Greece who know how to sterilize farm animals, do so when the animals are very young and usually without an anesthetic. As far as I’ve been told, baby pigs are held upside down and are neutered/spayed on the spot (even this is rare because most pigs are exploited for meat production). Vets in Greece are also not exposed to mini pigs (simply because people don’t own them as pets), which are a little different than usual pigs in terms of overall sensitivity. Hamlet, not only is a mini pig, but was also rescued and was neutered at a few months old (because that’s when I adopted him), which made the process more complicated. Pigs are very sensitive to anesthesia and must wear a gas mask (the anesthetic comes in such form). Unfortunately, such infrastructure is poor in Greece and so I had to bring in a foreign vet, to perform the operation alongside my vet, who coincidentally knows about pigs.
Hamlet, like all animals, needs his annual vaccinations to stay healthy, even though he isn’t exposed to other farm animals/ doesn’t live primarily outside.He has done all of his vaccinations. Unfortunately, they are quite costly here in Greece, as they come in big batches because they are primarily sold to breeders/slaughter houses that have many pigs. So, I basically paid the price for a big batch, even though I only used a few.
Would you recommend to anyone adopt a pig (especially to people living in a flat like you)? If not… please tell us why so we get to know the challenges of having such an animal species as a pet.
Even though Hamlet is now my son and therefore I certainly don’t regret adopting him, I would not recommend to someone to own a mini pig, especially in Greece and more so, if the person lives in a flat. Pigs are extremely intelligent animals, that need continuous stimulation. It is basically like having a smart, naughty two year old child. No wonder pig owners say they are perpetually going through the “terrible twos” phase.
To properly handle this, a lot of time and effort, on the part of the pig parent, is required. In Greece, especially, there is also a lack of infastructure in terms of vet needs, overall support (people do not own mini pigs and so there are no relevant support groups, or professionals),pig feed/treats, toys. This automatically makes things more complicated and expensive. I, personally, am fortunate to be half American and I frequently travel to the US to see my family, which is also an opportunity to consult people and purchase what is needed for Hamlet.
Has Hamlet ever done something that shows his intelligence and complexity of his thought, like when Esther opened the cupboard with the treats in 3 steps?
Ohh yes! Constantly. I generally thought I had a pretty intelligent dog, but Hamlet is on another level and he knows it! Living with a pig is truly a blessing when it comes to training because they are so intelligent and thus easy to train. For example, it was relatively easy to train him to walk on leash, wearing a harness. Since we live in downtown Athens, where there isn’t generally much green, it was a top priority for me to have him feel comfortable walking on a leash, so that he can go on walks. In fact, the only hard part of the process was him trusting me to lift his leg in order for me to put the harness on. The rest, came almost naturally. And of course, treats always help!
I have many interesting and funny moments to talk about, but one memory I have and really stuck with me was when Hamlet was a few months old, just a month and half after I rescued him: I had left the house and before leaving, I put Gina’s dog food bag (which had a little left), all tied up on a shelf which is about a 1,5 m from the ground, thinking that there is no way he could reach it. I came back and opened the door, only to see Hamlet looking extremely bloated, standing next to the opened bag, which was completely empty. I was mindblown and could really not understand how he managed to reach it. I looked and saw that he has basically moved some boxes which were on the bottom shelf (floor level) and stepped on them, to climb up and reach the bag.
What has Hamlet taught you so far? Because surely he has given you many lessons by now!
Indeed, every day is a basically a new lesson for me! Unfortunately, pigs are generally portrayed as nasty, dirty animals and you even see this in many children’s books. Living with Hamlet has really made me view pigs in a different, more positive light (even though I never disliked them): they are very clean and emotionally intelligent animals and very affectionate and loyal to humans. Through his daily interaction and cohabitation with my dog, Gina, I have witnessed mutual acceptance and kindness, which is very touching and has actually inspired me to write a children’s book about their story.
Thank you for your time Arianna, keep up the good work!
You can follow Hamlet on instagram, here.