Guide to Safely Handling Pigs

Pigs are intelligent animals that can be handled easily when proper training and techniques are put to use.

  • Generally, pigs only move forward if they are comfortable doing so – gentle perseverance is the key.
    Image credit: © Mike Corrigan, Octopus Publishing
  • Using a slapboard and pig stick, you can train your pigs from an early age to walk beside you.
    Image credit: © Mike Corrigan, Octopus Publishing
  • “Choosing and Keeping Pigs” by Linda McDonald-Brown, is a practical and accessible book that is ideal to introduce you to a practical livestock choice. Pigs are friendly, intelligent pets, they also help clear ground, recycle waste and fertilize the soil.
    Cover courtesy Firefly Books

Choosing and Keeping Pigs (Firefly Books, 2009), by Linda McDonald-Brown, also includes a history of pig keeping and a comprehensive directory of 30 traditional and rare breeds. This unique reference provides all the information a pig keeper requires.

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Choosing and Keeping Pigs.


Incorrect handling and a loud voice can cause pigs stress, so they should always be handled in a calm, quiet manner. Handling pigs is the not the easiest thing to do, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Getting to know your pigs

It helps if your pigs know and trust you, and are used to you touching and moving among them. Get into a routine of spending time with your pigs, rubbing them frequently all over their bodies (especially their ears, which they love to have rubbed) and talking to them. Pigs are intelligent and will often come running when they hear your voice, so by talking to them and using their names (if they have them), you are helping to build up a relationship with them that goes a long way towards stress-free handling.

Spend a few minutes each day moving them around in the pen, so that they learn what is required of them and you are safe in the knowledge that they cannot escape. Whenever you do have to move them from familiar situations, do so quietly and try not to make any sudden movements. Pigs that are kept quiet and stress-free will be far easier to move than worried or frightened pigs. When stressed, pigs become excitable, so never lose your temper if they won’t go in the direction you want. If you are having real problems, go and get help, or put them back and try again later when you have all calmed down. Bear in mind that pigs with lop ears tend to be quieter but more stubborn to handle than pigs with prick ears such as the Tamworth.

Pigs love a good scratch and often go all submissive if you touch the right spot. If they are breeding pigs, get them used to having their stomachs scratched – more often than not, they will roll over and lie down, which helps if you need to encourage the piglets onto the sow.

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