The latest in my Washington Post pig series.
Of all the ways to waste time on the Internet, the most compelling, for me, is the cross-species harmony video. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. If you come here often, you know I’m a particular fan of the dog playing with the otter, and the owl and the pussycat.
It doesn’t even have to be a video. I like the photos of the dog curled up with the cats, the hippo nestling with the tortoise, the horse nuzzling the goat. The idea that animals can have friends, and the friends can be of another species, appeals to me immensely.
It’s hard to know where the line is between appreciating the sensitivities of animals and all-out anthropomorphizing, but I do think that animals can feel something like fondness. Most of the time, I think we kid ourselves that they’re fond of us. They’re mighty fond of the food we bring them, and they’re probably glad to have some variety in their day, but most animals, most of the time, would be just as happy to see the mailman, as long as he brought dinner. (I’ll make an exception for dogs, but only some dogs.)
Animals’ bonds with other animals takes food out of the equation. I’ve never owned horses, or goats, but I’ve been told by reliable sources that a particular horse will bond with a particular goat, and will show signs of what seems to be loneliness when the goat is absent. It doesn’t seem unreasonable, or even sentimental, to say that the horse and the goat are friends.
Our one cross-species experience was when our Buff Orpington hen, Queenie, hatched a turkey. It warmed our hearts to watch as she took wonderful care of that little poult (although she let the other five eggs die while she did it). We know it was just hormones, but still.
Ever since we first got the pigs, I’ve wondered what our three species – pig, chicken, turkey – would make of one another. I haven’t tried to facilitate introductions, mostly because I’ve read that pigs will happily eat chickens or turkeys that make their way into the pen. I’ve also read that this generally doesn’t happen when the pigs have plenty of space, plenty of food, and other pigs to play with, but it still seems like a stupid chance to take.
The birds do follow us down when we bring the pigs treats, though, and they are clearly interested in what’s going on over on the other side of the fence. The pigs come over to investigate every time a chicken gets close to the wire. I keep waiting for a bird to fly in for a closer look, but they’re wary, and tend to back off.
I wish one of them would muster the courage and venture in. I want to know what one of our pigs would make of one of our birds. I’d bet on something less than a friend, but hope for something more than a meal.