Ten days ago I bought five shoats (newly-weaned piglets). Baby pigs are one of the cutest things on God’s earth. They also grow very quickly.
For this reason, in 1994 when the producers of the movie Babe were faced with a six-month film shoot and wanted their star to remain adorable, they bought successive 10-week-old Yorkshire piglets. Forty-eight of them. If you figure that they always had two piglets on deck for the cameras, that means each pair starred for an average of a week before outgrowing the role.
(Despite all this, the filmmakers apparently felt that piglets needed a little help in the cuteness department. Makeup artists glued a toupé of dark hair on each one — what?! — plus false eyelashes. A real piglet has its own eyelashes, but they are short and white. In the publicity shot at left, a smile has also been drawn in.)
In real life, an adolescent pig — such as Babe purports to be — weighs about 300 pounds at six months old.
Cuteness is not the first word that comes to mind.
I saw the parents of my piglets. The sow weighed about 450 pounds and the boar maybe 650. When he reared up against the battered wooden fence to grunt at me, he was taller than I. With tusks. You can understand why small children were occasionally mauled, or even killed and eaten, by loose pigs when hogs roamed city streets rooting through garbage up until the middle of the 19th century.
I knew an affable 600-lb Large Black sow once, named Charlotte. I remember sitting leaning against her as she snored on her side in the pasture.
But there is no doubt that pigs are most emotionally appealing when they are tiny. Even without false eyelashes and a toupé.