There is no doubt in my mind that full grown pigs are the ugliest animals on the farm. They’ve got stunted snouts, bristly hair, sandpaper-rough skin, flabby haunches, awkwardly pointed mouths… they’re just unattractive. Not only that, but they smell to high heaven and any time you go into their pen they nibble curiously at your shoes, which wouldn’t be so bad except that, without a proper shooing, they’ll quickly develop a taste for leather boots and go for a full on chomp. I can’t even begin to embrace the width of their acoustic production, a category which is rife with sounds as diverse as the throaty grunt and the shrill, intolerable squeal. Even the various titles which we use to refer to them hint at the creatures’ comeliness; pig, hog, boar, sow, etc. They are words that seem to be derived directly from the grunting language of the pigs themselves.
Despite all that, if you asked me to assert which is the cutest animal on the farm, I wouldn’t hesitate to put forward the infant version of this same animal. It may seem strange that a creature can develop from an absolute delight into an unmitigated irritant, but it’s true. For some reason the stubby nose on a piglet is endearing. Their grunts sound almost like giggles. They squeal, but it makes you want to offer protection rather than cover your ears.
We don’t farrow pigs here on the farm. Normally we only raise feeder pigs, meaning they are several weeks or months old when they come to us. One of our sows must have arrived on the farm pregnant because when we went to sort the pigs out a few months ago, we were surprised to find that she was certainly carrying a litter. We made her a cozy nest of hay in one of our mobile shelters and covered the entrance with a tarp to keep out the cold drafts. Sure enough, about two weeks afterward she gave birth to eight of the cutest little creatures I’ve ever laid eyes on. I don’t know exactly what quality it is that makes infants so appealing other than their total need, both physically and emotionally, for protection and provision. Once that obvious need is gone, I find that much of my patience diminishes too. For now though, these guys positively reign in the cuteness department (though Amy and Jamie’s son Levi gives them a run for their money).