In Pursuit Of Piglets

Happiness is…


Talking of piglet feeding troughs, as we recently were, reminds me of the one final tale I have to tell from time spent living on a farm. Long time readers may recall that the shepherd had a sideline. Not enough for him the management of several hundred sheep. No, he also had a pair of Gloucester Old Spot sows. And as if BigUn and Littl’Un were not enough of a handful, he wanted more.

Every evening when Mike got home from work we would set out on a trek across the fields, ending up at the pig barn. It got so much of a regular habit that the shepherd, never being one to let an opportunity pass him by, asked if we’d like to get involved in the night time feed. You can read more about those shenanigans, The Great Escape (here) and Gated (here). One day we arrived at the pig pen to find not two residents but three.

Pure bred Gloucester Old Spot piggies can be worth a penny or two and the shepherd had secured, on a temporary basis, the services of a boar. Calendars were pored over and he had calculated the time that BigUn and Littl’Un were most likely to be receptive. As that time drew near our evening trips became tinged with a sense of trepidation. A boar in full rutting mode can be a fearsome beast. So what sound filled our ears as we approached the barn? Snoring. The sows, as usual, were rooting their way around the field. The boar? Fast asleep, tucked up in the far corner of the pen.

 It was the same story the next day. And the day after that. The shepherd, in general a philosophical sort, decided to wait until the next round of ‘seasons’ to see if by then relations might have improved. But alas, the old pig wanted none of it. A trailer departed the farm gate with the boar on board.

A couple of weeks later Old Spot headcount increased once again. This new arrival was in a completely different league. The first thing you noticed, couldn’t fail to notice, was that he came equipped for the job. He was huge. In any piggy dimension you might care to measure, he was huge. The shepherd was in the main farmyard as we strolled back through. He caught my eye. “You’ll have met Boris then…”

What could I say. “I’ve never seen such big…  shoulders…  on a pig!”



Boris, eyeing up the talent


Not only were the boar’s physical attributes formidable, he made up for every bit of enthusiasm his predecessor lacked. The shepherd started to worry about his girls, especially Littl’Un. Boris was getting on for twice her size. Weeks passed and BigUn came back into season. No luck there then. Littl’Un did not. Littl’Un just kept getting bigger. As per instructions, one morning there was a knock on the door. The shepherd stood there, hat in hand. “Five”.

Feeding times were never the same again. We chased those piglets up hill and down dale. They could trot clean underneath the electric fence and squeeze through a gap in the gate to a neighbouring farmer’s land. Leading us a merry dance through a wheat field was only the start of their game. The brambles that barred my progress they just bulldozed their way through. Delight in a tummy rub became their ultimate undoing. There would be a sudden shoulder roll on to the grass and all four trotters were held aloft. Only then could I scoop up a piglet triumphantly and return it to mum. Mischievous they certainly were. But utterly gorgeous.

Eight weeks after the piglets were born we moved down here to Devon. The farm wasn’t always the easiest place to live. No garden for a start. But sometimes I don’t ‘alf miss it.


2018-04-17T16:14:35+00:00August 26th, 2014|Tags: |


  1. Denise August 26, 2014 at 2:53 pm - Reply

    We live near a pig farm – quite the opposite type to the one you mentioned here Jessica – the piglets in the local farm never see the light of day.

    • Jessica August 26, 2014 at 9:25 pm - Reply

      That is so sad Denise. I hope the tide is turning and pressure from consumers will make it more viable for farmers to raise animals with welfare considerations front of mind. The farm we lived on was one such, although the pigs were more of a hobby than a commercial enterprise. Their standard of living reflected that. Lucky pigs.

  2. Sigrun August 26, 2014 at 3:03 pm - Reply

    So cute! Weeks ago I saw pigs at a farm in Britain, the Bus driver called it *Pic-Camping! It was on a field!


    • Jessica August 26, 2014 at 9:35 pm - Reply

      They are cute as babies, maybe less so when they grow up.

  3. Isabelle August 26, 2014 at 3:15 pm - Reply

    Oh. My. Goodness. I am totally in love with those piglets. Gorgeous. xxx

    • Jessica August 26, 2014 at 9:36 pm - Reply

      They were adorable. Probably best I never found out what happened to them.

  4. Mark and Gaz August 26, 2014 at 3:52 pm - Reply

    Wonderful memories Jessica, always there for you to treasure 🙂

    • Jessica August 26, 2014 at 9:38 pm - Reply

      Living on a farm has its good and bad bits. One thing’s for sure, it’s very hard work.

  5. Jane and Lance Hattatt August 26, 2014 at 4:10 pm - Reply

    Hello Jessica:

    What a fabulous tale and wonderfully illustrated. In fact, your first image is superb. And it brings back to our minds pigs and piglets on the farm of friends which was much visited during younger days. This post has revived very happy memories.

    • Jessica August 26, 2014 at 9:41 pm - Reply

      I’m so pleased that the post has provoked happy memories for you too. The first image was a complete and utter fluke, as many of the best ones are. I just love the expression of contentment on that little piglet’s face!

  6. Anne Wheaton August 26, 2014 at 4:26 pm - Reply

    We’ve had several visiting boars – Cedric and Rupert were my favourites – and sometimes our girls went off to visit the boar. What a holiday that was for them! Our two piglets are rapidly growing into pork sized fatteners but still pretty gorgeous though not in the league as the tiny ones in your photo.

    • Jessica August 26, 2014 at 9:45 pm - Reply

      Anne you are a proper hardened farmer. I’m struggling to put piglet and pork fatteners in the same sentence..

  7. Marigold Jam August 26, 2014 at 4:58 pm - Reply

    What a super story!

    • Jessica August 26, 2014 at 9:45 pm - Reply


  8. angiesgardendiaries August 26, 2014 at 5:31 pm - Reply

    Wonderful memories for your both Jessica. It was nice to read about those pigs and piglets. Seeing the boar and the pigs in the same picture, you can’t help but feel sorry for those ladies 🙂

    • Jessica August 26, 2014 at 9:46 pm - Reply

      I had the same thought..

  9. Jo August 26, 2014 at 5:59 pm - Reply

    What a wonderful tale. I have a real soft spot for piggies.

    • Jessica August 26, 2014 at 9:47 pm - Reply

      Me too, always have had. And it’s amazing how many people do.

  10. Denise August 26, 2014 at 6:53 pm - Reply

    When I was a child we had an enormous sow called Josephine. Her biggest litter was 16 and they all escaped one day. What fun we had trying to round up that lot!

    • Jessica August 26, 2014 at 9:53 pm - Reply

      I did read somewhere that a pig makes it its mission in life to escape. 16 in one go though, and piglets at that. A bit like trying to keep hold of runny jelly.

  11. Vera August 26, 2014 at 7:53 pm - Reply

    I was watching the shannanagins our piglets were getting up to today, and then realised that it was actually the girls who were doing the mischiefs while the boys stayed indoors with mum!

    • Jessica August 26, 2014 at 9:55 pm - Reply

      That figures! By that reckoning all of these piglets were girls.

  12. Annie August 26, 2014 at 8:24 pm - Reply

    Cute aren’t they. But having spent summers with my aunt during my secondary school years, whose (thankfully high walled) garden abutted a pig farm, I can never see pigs without remembering that pong!

    • Jessica August 26, 2014 at 10:00 pm - Reply

      There was a bit of that. Especially in winter I seem to remember. Pigs are generally very clean and conduct their ablutions away from their bedding area. But they also prefer not to get wet so their range is then somewhat more concentrated!

  13. Sarah August 26, 2014 at 8:46 pm - Reply

    What a shame you didn’t capture some of the piglets antics! Even in Devon your hands are often kept busy with other animal antics instead! Sarah x

    • Jessica August 26, 2014 at 10:03 pm - Reply

      It was pre blogging days.. the camera was not always to hand!

  14. CJ August 26, 2014 at 10:22 pm - Reply

    They’re adorable. I can imagine what you mean about the vastness of it all, I’ve been similarly amazed at agricultural shows. Sometimes you just have to stop and stare and mutter “Mother of God would you look at the size of that.”

    • Jessica August 27, 2014 at 2:20 pm - Reply


  15. wherefivevalleysmeet August 26, 2014 at 10:22 pm - Reply

    He really is a BIG boy, but those little ones are simply adorable.

    • Jessica August 27, 2014 at 2:20 pm - Reply

      It’s a shame they have to grow up really, for all manner of reasons.

  16. Alain August 26, 2014 at 11:23 pm - Reply

    These piglets in your first picture look like they are in heaven! They are so cute.

    • Jessica August 27, 2014 at 2:21 pm - Reply

      They do look rather contented, or at least the ones in the top layer. I wonder how those underneath view it?!

  17. snowbird August 26, 2014 at 11:27 pm - Reply

    I am a huge fan of of pigs they are such intelligent animals, I loved this, what a lark it must have been trying to catch the little beggers! That had me smiling, although whenever I see piglets I always wonder what their fate will be. A lovely post!xxx

    • Jessica August 27, 2014 at 2:24 pm - Reply

      Yes, I think it’s probably best that we left when we did. I had to get used to watching lambs born, sometimes bottle feeding them, and then seeing them go off in a truck.

  18. woolythymes August 27, 2014 at 1:24 am - Reply

    what a great piggy story!!!

    • Jessica August 27, 2014 at 2:24 pm - Reply

      Thanks Steph!

  19. Charlie@Seattle Trekker August 27, 2014 at 5:17 am - Reply

    Such fun, love the photos. I dream that someday I will have it together to be a sustainable farmer…I do think the animals will be mostly pets.

    • Jessica August 27, 2014 at 2:29 pm - Reply

      I would be the same. Except that they’d probably all be pets. I need a rare breed farm or some such. Farming genes.

  20. ginaferrari August 27, 2014 at 8:05 am - Reply

    What a fabulous story. We have friends who keep a few pigs and I always like to go and see the latest litter of piglets.

    • Jessica August 27, 2014 at 2:30 pm - Reply

      They’re so cute. Such a zest for life!

  21. Mrs GH August 27, 2014 at 8:36 am - Reply

    A little note from a 5th generation farmer……Just remember my dear if you ever get bitten by a pig, that they don’t let go until their teeth meet!
    In the 60’s we used to export pedigree breeding stock to the former Yugoslavia and former Russia…..eeee; them w’o’t days! It’s the paperwork these days….. Mrs GH.

    • Jessica August 27, 2014 at 2:37 pm - Reply

      The shepherd used to complain bitterly about the paperwork, and he wasn’t even exporting. The local market was as far as he went.

  22. Sue@GLAllotments August 27, 2014 at 10:05 am - Reply

    I’d become far too attached to such cute little creatures that knowing what they were destined for would be impossible. Piglets are gorgeous,

    • Jessica August 27, 2014 at 2:41 pm - Reply

      I never did find out what happened to these. Probably just as well. They would undoubtedly have been sold. But they had good parentage so I’ll kid myself it was for breeding.

  23. Anny August 27, 2014 at 10:12 am - Reply

    Oh no Jessica, I just about had my pig fetish under control and now you’ve set it off again. It’s all my mum’s fault. When I was little, we were always visiting her country relatives and they almost all seemed to keep pigs, and they all seemed to think it necessary, even desirable to spend a lot of time talking to them. Well, you can’t fight against ingrained habit…

    • Jessica August 27, 2014 at 2:47 pm - Reply

      My grandmother was to blame in my case. She adored animals and I was her excuse to visit as many as she possibly could.

  24. sustainablemum August 27, 2014 at 11:12 am - Reply

    What a lovely post, wonderful memories 🙂

    • Jessica August 27, 2014 at 2:50 pm - Reply

      I think we fell on our feet and ended up living on a farm with very high animal welfare standards. It could have been a lot more of an eye opener. Plus the shepherd was very keen for us to get involved.

  25. Pauline August 27, 2014 at 11:15 am - Reply

    Lovely story Jessica, it must have brought back such happy memories for you.

    • Jessica August 27, 2014 at 2:51 pm - Reply

      It was an interesting few years, I’m glad we did it. Even if I didn’t always think so at the time.

  26. Jennifer August 27, 2014 at 2:46 pm - Reply

    Oh my, the piglets are so sweet. I’ve never raised pigs but I have always enjoyed watching them at the fair.

    • Jessica August 27, 2014 at 2:55 pm - Reply

      It would be extremely hard work I would think, if just a pair of them and one small litter were anything to go by! And as you can see from the photograph, there’s an awful lot of mud. They can tear up a nice clean grass field in a matter of hours.

  27. Countryside Tales August 27, 2014 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    Ahh indeed. They don’t half make a mess of the ground, though 🙂

    • Jessica August 27, 2014 at 10:14 pm - Reply

      The mud, water and who knows what else almost came over the top of my wellies..

  28. Jayne Hill August 27, 2014 at 4:50 pm - Reply

    Chuckling – I sometimes wonder how close you were to buying a smallholding when you moved to Duck Towers ….

    • Jessica August 27, 2014 at 10:24 pm - Reply

      It’s nice to have the freedom to be able to up sticks and go away for a few days when fancy takes hold. Having a menagerie would restrict that, or at least cost us dear in house sitters.

  29. Chloris August 27, 2014 at 5:49 pm - Reply

    A lovely post. Pigs are irresistible aren’ t they? I’ m surprised you didn’ t bring one with you. Just a little one.

    • Jessica August 27, 2014 at 10:27 pm - Reply

      Very tempting. If only they stayed little.. !

  30. Dorothy Borders August 27, 2014 at 6:06 pm - Reply

    Lovely post. Lovely piglets. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about them.

    • Jessica August 27, 2014 at 10:27 pm - Reply

      Thanks Dorothy.

  31. casa mariposa August 27, 2014 at 9:22 pm - Reply

    I once read a book called The Good Good Pig that completely changed my perspective on pigs. I had no idea they were so intelligent. Plus, the piglets are so just so cute.

    • Jessica August 27, 2014 at 10:30 pm - Reply

      Very intelligent. And stubborn with it. A pig won’t do what it doesn’t want to do.

  32. Willow August 28, 2014 at 12:07 am - Reply

    I do love piglets ~ have bottle fed several even.

    • Jessica August 28, 2014 at 9:26 am - Reply


  33. elaine August 28, 2014 at 8:27 am - Reply

    There is never a dull moment when pigs are around – I had seven Tamworths once – they led me a merry dance I can tell you. Your piglet picture is charming – the look of pure bliss on that piglet’s face is second to none.

    • Jessica August 28, 2014 at 9:28 am - Reply

      Seven is quite a handful. Oh to experience the level of contentment evident on that piglet’s face!

  34. Suzanne August 28, 2014 at 12:56 pm - Reply

    It’s a great story! All your tales from the farm are happy reading. Love the photos!

    • Jessica August 28, 2014 at 10:05 pm - Reply

      Thanks Suzanne. The pity is, I’ve run out of them now. They cheered me up too.

  35. AnnetteM August 28, 2014 at 10:13 pm - Reply

    A great story. I love the way those piglets just lie on top of each other.

    • Jessica August 29, 2014 at 12:38 pm - Reply

      I feel rather sorry for the ones on the bottom.

  36. Annie Edwards August 29, 2014 at 2:17 pm - Reply

    a heart-warming tale and those piglets are so divine!

    • Jessica August 30, 2014 at 9:55 am - Reply

      They’re so sweet when they are tiny!

  37. SeagullSuzie August 29, 2014 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    Lovey story, baby animals are just so cute. Pigs have a bad time as farm animals, as they are fun and intelligent creatures. I always buy free-range pork.

    • Jessica August 30, 2014 at 9:58 am - Reply

      They certainly do have a terrific sense of fun. Many was the time I thought they were deliberately playing with us. It’s hard to think about the conditions some of them endure.

  38. Paula@BloomsnSpades August 29, 2014 at 5:13 pm - Reply

    What a lovely post Jessica. Piglets are just so cute, how funny that they like having their bellies rubbed 😉 .

    • Jessica August 30, 2014 at 10:01 am - Reply

      They adore it and roll over on their backs to give you the hint!

  39. Cathy August 29, 2014 at 7:16 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing your reminiscing Jessica 🙂

    • Jessica August 30, 2014 at 10:01 am - Reply

      You’re welcome Cathy.

  40. hoehoegrow August 29, 2014 at 10:59 pm - Reply

    Pigs are just the best – like dogs but without the shed hair ! Can’t think of anything nicer than giving one a tummy rub, to be greeted by four trotters in the air !

    • Jessica August 30, 2014 at 10:04 am - Reply

      More stubborn than dogs though. If they don’t want to do something the grunt tells you exactly where you stand.

  41. Layanee DeMerchant August 30, 2014 at 12:29 pm - Reply

    Such a great story. We had pigs for a while. I never really took to them. I don’t even like pork so much. LOL

    • Jessica August 30, 2014 at 2:28 pm - Reply

      They do make a lot of mess, not the easiest things to keep.

  42. Helen August 30, 2014 at 5:22 pm - Reply

    I am completely smitten – they look so completely cute! I don’t think I would want to meet Boris though!

    • Jessica August 30, 2014 at 10:53 pm - Reply

      It took me several days to pluck up the courage to climb into the pen, but in reality he was a pussy cat!

  43. CherryPie August 30, 2014 at 7:54 pm - Reply

    Cute piggy pictures. Boris is HUGE!!

    • Jessica August 30, 2014 at 10:55 pm - Reply

      He was huge. I had a picture of him from the back, but it wasn’t pretty!

  44. Helene August 31, 2014 at 2:55 am - Reply

    What a lovely story, how tempted are you to get your own? 🙂 I haven’t got any experience with pigs, but I lived a few years next door to a sheep farm, their grazing field was next to my garden. I can still recall the smell of the wool of 250 wet sheep whenever it had rained for a long time….but the lamb were so cute, never got enough of watching them!

    • Jessica August 31, 2014 at 7:41 am - Reply

      I have been tempted to borrow a couple of pigs and let them graze the woodland for a few weeks. They are great at removing unwanted vegetation. Even brambles disappear without a second thought. But you can see from the photo how they destroy the ground. The bluebells might not fare very well!

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