“Cute” is not a word we usually associate with pigs. Then again, we usually don’t think of them as very bright either but they are the 5th smartest animal on the planet, ahead of even dogs!
Meet the Hungarian Mangalica pig breed, also called “sheep pigs.” Thanks to their sheep-like coats, if you were to look at these large animals from afar you can easily mistake them from a herd of sheep. Up close you’ll notice the pig snout and short legs, of course, but those just make this breed look even more interesting.
And no, they don’t come in white only, there are also reddish-brown and black variants of the breed!
What exactly are the Mangalica “sheep pigs”?
Obviously, Mangalica pigs don’t have any sheep DNA in them. They’re not crossed with dogs either, even though some dog breeds have similar coats. The Mangalica breed was created artificially through selective cross-breading.
The breed was created in 1833 by crossing the classic Hungarian pig breeds Bakonyi and Szalontai with European wild boars. There was also a touch of a Serbian pig breed tossed into the mix.
The end result of this concoction was the Mangalica sheep pig breed. Back then the purpose of the breed was to create high-quality meat for the royal courts of the Austro-Hungarian emperors. Nowadays, the breed is bred either for high-end meat or as pets. The sheep pigs are not a part of the mass pork meat industry because they produce too little lean meat for farmhouses. So, pets or delicacies – that’s the current purpose of the breed.
And the sheep pigs do make for amazing pets, thanks to their high intelligence. They are bigger than the miniature toy pig breeds, of course, but if you have the space, a Mangalica pig can be as faithful of a companion as any dog. “If you treat them nicely, they’ll become as tame as dogs – they’ll follow you, play with you,” says one of the sheep pigs’ breeders.
If you want to see these adorable pigs in action, you can check out this video.
On the brink of extinction
Even though the Mangalica breed is still less than 200-years-old, it was already an endangered breed once. With the rising availability of food and technology for preservation, the species was very close to extinction around the 1950s. There are other factors to it too, such as Hungary forcefully becoming a part of the Soviet Union after World War 2. Since the soviets prioritized mass production over quality or diversification, “low-yield” livestock breeds like the Mangalica pigs were tossed aside.
So, even though the breed was the most popular pig breed in East Hungary before the end of the Second World War with quantities of over 30,000, by the end of the Cold War, there were just over 200 sheep pigs in the country.
Thankfully, animal geneticist Peter Toth came to the rescue of the adorable pigs after the fall of the Berlin Wall and resurrected the breed. Now the president of the “Mangalica Breeders Association”, Toth has got the breed to the point of 7,000 sows (female breeding pigs) producing between 20,000 and 60,000 new piglets every year.
The Mangalica sheep pigs today
So, can you get a sheep pig pet? Sure you can! The pig breed is available even outside of Hungary with smaller populations present in Austria, Canada, Gernany, Slovakia, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Romania, Serbia, and even the U.S.
The breed also comes in three distinct varieties. The “Swallow-belied” sheep pigs with black fur and blonde bellies.
The “Blonde” breed with its sheep-like white or blondish color.
The “Red” breed with brownish or reddish coloring,