Teacup pigs are popular on YouTube and Instagram once again, but be warnedOctober 17, 2018
It’s a universal truth that what’s old will eventually become new again, and what’s beloved on Instagram or YouTube can never truly die. And so, adopting teacup pigs, a fad inspired partly by Paris Hilton in 2007 (the same year Hilton’s reality series, The Simple Life, ended) is back.
Saturday Night Live comedian Pete Davidson and Ariana Grande adopted a pet pig before they broke up. (Grande reportedly returned the engagement ring, but kept the pig, adorably named Piggy Smallz.) Agents of SHIELD actress Chloe Bennet and YouTube creator Logan Paul also adopted a tiny pig, Pearl. YouTube creator Ricky Dillon based his entire YouTube persona on his pet pig, Luna. Dillon even called out Paul for stealing his brand after he and Bennet adopted Pearl.
While pet pigs aren’t anything new — people have always found a way to get their hands on exotic pets like monkeys, lions, and farm animals — there does seem to be a recent uptick in the number of influencers and celebrities who have started adopting pigs again.
A quick search via Google Trends for “micropig” or “teacup pig,” two common terms used to describe the miniature farm animals, shows an uptick in search over the past couple of months. Related queries include “how much does a micropig cost?” and “how big does a micropig get?”
It’s no surprise that pet pigs, particularly those that remain perpetually tiny, are a hit, especially in the age of Instagram and YouTube. Bennet and Paul, for example, put together a 12-minute vlog about their experience shopping for and purchasing a micropig. Throughout the video there are instances where Bennet talks about watching multiple YouTube videos about micropigs before deciding to purchase one, coming up with an Instagram-perfect name, and creating an Instagram account for the pig immediately after picking her up.
“She’s going to have an Instagram account within the next hour,” Bennet says in the video above, followed by a plug for the account from Paul.
Pearl’s Instagram account has nearly 500,000 subscribers.
Meghan Arriola is a popular YouTube creator who focuses her channel, Happy Tails, on the medley of animals she raises. There are more than 50 animals under Arriola’s care, including a pet pig. Arriola isn’t surprised when micropig trends pick up after celebrities, influencers, and YouTube creators rediscover one of the world’s favorite “novelty pets.”
“Novelty pets” are exotic animals that appear in circulation at certain times; people rediscover micropigs on Instagram or through Davidson and Grande’s breakup, and decide they want their own Instagram-gold-worthy pet. Other types of novelty pets include foxes, which are legal in certain states. These aren’t domesticated animals (although they can be trained as such), something people often forget until a pig reaches 150 or 200 pounds.
“It’s the way that people see pigs on Instagram or YouTube,” Arriola said. “It’s something that’s very unique and strange, but also cute. It really sets you apart from the average pet owner; at least that’s the way that I think society sees it. I’m not sure I see it that way.”
Some owners buy into the pet pig phenomena and then decide the animals are too much of a hassle when they realize they won’t stay as small as they expected. These pigs are abandoned or brought to farms. Arriola doesn’t put the blame on anyone, but told The Verge that breeders will often sell “micropigs” without informing buyers of what to expect. There’s a stunning lack of information, or explicit misinformation, spread.
“I think that the issue is education,” Arriola said. “First of all, there’s no such thing as a teacup or micro pig. None of that is an actual breed. It’s just a descriptive term. The term is used by a lot of breeders that are just in it for the money, but a micropig is any pig that’s going to be under 300 pounds, which is a lot. Full pigs are about 700 pounds, so under 300 pounds is considered small for that animal. A lot of people don’t realize this. If you’re going to get a dog, you can get a teacup poodle and it’s going to be small. We’re not talking about dogs here; we’re talking about a giant animal that has been bred for hundreds of years to gain weight quickly. A lot of weight.”
“So it’s only been the last couple of decades that people have been trying to downsize this animal now.”
She also doesn’t expect Instagram influencers or YouTube creators to be responsible for educating everyone about micropigs, but suggested that creators take a second to be honest with their audience.
“The most important thing I would want to see is explaining what the pigs actually become as an adult,” Ariolla said. “A lot of times these people are showing off these pigs as babies. These animals are eight weeks old. They’re going to grow — they grow for five years — so I would definitely want to see that explained. That might seem like something silly, but having been on the internet for a while, I am very aware of the fact that a lot of times people think that these animals at just two months old are full grown, which is just crazy.”
She also doesn’t think the micropig trend will disappear. It didn’t in 2007; it didn’t in 2014; it didn’t in 2016; and it will probably continue to pick up from time to time in the future.
“It’s going to have its ups and downs, but the market sees it,” Ariolla said. “These people are selling these pigs for ridiculous amounts of money. It’s always going to be something.”
Based on the fact that Grande’s pet pig, Piggy Smallz, has nearly 500,000 followers on Instagram without any posts, that assumption seems 100 percent true.