Kayla Mull Brings Her Potbellied Pigs to Market as Pets but Vows to Sell No Swine Before Its Time
When Kayla Mull visits friends, they often ask—indeed, frequently insist—that she bring home the bacon. She's happy to comply. Mull, 36, simply loads five or six pet pigs into her Honda CRX and heads for her friends' homes. Five or six pigs? Have Honda CRXs gotten unusually large lately? No, but Mull's pigs are unusually small. They're Chinese Potbellied pigs, an ancient breed that on the average weighs only 75 lbs. and stands a mere 16" high. Mull, a microbiologist and part-time entrepreneur from Norco, Calif., is the first person in this country to market the miniporkers as pets. Through the efforts of her company, Creatures of Comfort, she hopes lovers of traditional pets will knuckle under, go into hock if necessary and fork over $1,500 to $5,000 for one of her pigs. A family tree is included, the better to build a pedigree with.
In Mull's eyes there are several qualities that make porcine pets divine indoors. Housebreaking, of course, immediately comes to mind. "It's very, very easy," says Mull, "because pigs are naturally neat about where they poop, much neater than dogs. They'll pace back and forth when they want to go out and growl at the door when they want to come back in." In addition, Potbellied pigs are particularly amenable to training. They can be taught to sit up, roll over, climb stairs or go whizzing down a kid's slippery slide. You can walk a pig in a harness and leash and dress it in a sweater and bonnet. And forget the animal psychiatrist. "Pigs are totally relaxed and hedonistic," says Mull. "They're incredibly into being comfortable." Kayla's own pigs can often be found snuggling in the water bed she shares with her husband of 17 years, machinist Marden Mull, 42. "Pigs are more docile than dogs and don't move around the bed like a dog will," says Marden. "They'd sleep through an earthquake."
There are drawbacks however. Pigs are overly fond of undoing Velcro shoe straps and can also squeal at 110 decibels, about the same noise level a Concorde reaches when it takes off. One of Mull's pets, Pignacious, has a habit of stealing apples and loaves of bread out of grocery bags. Another, Walker, has learned to knock the phone off the hook. "Pigs like to hear that buzzing sound," says Mull. She has come home and found Walker and his pals standing around the buzzing phone receiver, looking guilty.
Mull first thought about making the Potbellies a commodity two years ago when she heard about the breed from an animal importer who'd seen them in Europe. Through importing and breeding, Mull has since raised 30 pigs. She and Marden currently keep seven in their rural suburban home, where zoning isn't a problem. Others are being studied at the California State Polytechnic University in Pomona. Only 18 have been sold. Animal aficionados aren't exactly hoofing it to Mull's door. Is she discouraged? In a pig's eye. It takes time to propagate both the breed and a new idea. Besides, one of those 18 customers is former Go-Go Belinda Carlisle, whose pig is named Loretta—so becoming a pet pork shopper may soon gain celebrity status. In any case, Mull is girding her loins for an increased demand. "Pigs are cute, cuddly and funny," she says, fully expecting that someday her sows will reap enough profit to fill a hog-size silk purse.
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