What Was Up With That Whole Teacup Pig Thing?

(Last Updated On: May 19, 2023)

Remember that weird fad in the early 2000s when rich people and celebrities were just… getting teacup pigs out of nowhere? Then people just kind of… stopped talking about it? There’s a pretty good reason for that, and it’s called “teacup pigs still get really big.” But what was up with people getting teacup pigs anyway? Like… why? Yeah, part of it is that rich people are weird.

Are Teacup Pigs Actually a Thing?

We kind of referenced it earlier, but the answer to “are mini pigs actually a real thing” is a resounding no. Sort of. It depends on how you define “mini.” Teacup pigs, generally, max out at the smaller end of adult pigs. The thing is, if you were expecting a piglet-sized friend in the same way a miniature dog can fit in your purse to mean “mini,” then teacup pigs have a very different understanding of “mini.”

Domestic pigs typically weigh between 110 and 770 pounds as adults, and come in between 3 and 6 feet in length (head to body). By comparison teacup pigs will come out between 70 and 150 pounds. If you’ve heard the joke cracking fun at people who got teacup pigs and didn’t realize “miniaturized pigs don’t exist,” it’s a bit of a misnomer. Though anyone who got a teacup pig thinking it would stay that size forever without knowing it would probably go over 100 pounds in weight probably gets to be ribbed a bit.

Anyway, miniature pigs first made their way into the West in the 60s from China. They grew to between 150 and 200 pounds, and were mostly used for medical research. It was the Vietnamese Pot-bellied pig that became popular as a pet in the US. They made their way to North America in the 1980s. They’re not purebred anymore, since purebred Vietnamese Pot-bellied pigs are super endangered. 

But why?

To answer the question literally, domesticated pigs might be favored for being hypoallergenic—as well as being particularly intelligent. But you were probably wondering why they got so popular out of nowhere, and what exactly that means for pigs.

For starters, one of the reasons people keep falling for “my mini-pig will stay small forever” is because sellers just lie. It’s not uncommon for someone looking for a teacup pig to get told they won’t keep growing past their first year, especially if fed a restricted diet. This is also known as “if you malnourish your pig it will stay small.” They’ll just tell you the pig will stay whatever size it is you’re targeting. If we haven’t illustrated that already, that is not the case. When the trend resurfaces (and it often does), it leads to lots of people abandoning their pigs to shelters because they can’t care for a 100+ pound animal when they were told it would stay like 30 pounds. Imagine getting a purse-sized chihuahua for your one-bedroom apartment and then ending up with a full-sized German Shepherd. It’s no surprise, then, that over 90% of pet pigs end up being rehomed within a year. 

The overloading of shelters gets even more complicated when you remember that many places consider pigs legally livestock (exclusively)—and not domesticated pets. Since cities tend to not allow livestock on property not specifically zoned for livestock (same for vets and treating them), it makes it hard to house and care for abandoned pigs.

Anyway, give it a good think if you thought the social media buzz around some rich celebrity’s pig was enough to get you considering a new pet.

See if you know where most of the world’s pigs are here. It’s probably not in someone’s McMansion, but it would be funny.

About the Author:

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Kyler is a content writer at Sporcle living in Seattle, and is currently studying at the University of Washington School of Law. He's been writing for Sporcle since 2019; sometimes the blog is an excellent platform to answer random personal questions he has about the world. Most of his free time is spent drinking black coffee like water.