Some years back, I did a feature for this publication on the swimming pigs of Big Major Cay, situated in the archipelago of the Exuma, Bahamas.
These pigs truly live out their lives in Utopia. Apart from visitors who pass by in yachts or smaller ocean crafts, Big Major Cay is bereft of humans. It has blinding white sandy beaches, crystal clear turquoise waters, a natural fresh water supply, and is the home to some 35 porkers that can swim better than the average human.
The good life
The pigs bask naked in the sun most of their lives and are fed leftover steak, lobster and Caesar salad from Staniel Cay Yacht Club at the marina, just around the corner on a separate island. They even drink beer when it is offered to them.
Like our Stingray City, the swimming pigs draw thousands of tourists each year to the Exumas and are heavily protected by law and the Ministry of Tourism. Anyone who attempts to hunt them will be criminally prosecuted, which is comforting security considering their northern relatives are destined for the bacon factory.
The swimming pigs are surrounded by a variety of local legends of just how they got there, so, of course, anyone who spends an evening at the Yacht Club bar will hear endless fables about the swimming pigs’ origin.
Some say they came from a shipwreck, while others claim to have established the porcine colony. Either way, the pigs have become so famous that another chain of Bahamian islands has decided to take advantage of the tourist draw these porkers can provide to the local economy.
‘No Name’ no longer
Welcome to Piggyville, which is on the island of No Name Cay in the Abaco chain. How interesting is that? An uninhabited island with the “No Name” moniker has now had that identification (or lack thereof) unofficially removed and replaced with the new name of “Piggyville,” thanks to a bunch of frolicking pigs.
No Name island has become a popular destination for tourists and a money maker for many locals. Excursions to Piggyville keep local guides and boat captains employed.
Boatloads visit from the surrounding islands such as Elbow Cay, Great Guana Cay and Green Turtle Cay to hang out, snorkel and swim with the porkers. Believe it or not, the pigs are very tolerant of people. Many visitors with a bit of navigational knowledge make the trip on their own, for in the outer islands, the boat rental business is huge – much more popular than car rentals. There are hundreds of islands to explore and the only way to get there is over the sea.
Pigs are actually good swimmers; they swim doggie-style so visitors do need to be careful and watch for their sharp hooves when feeding them. The pigs are also smart; one local guide informed me that they will signal each other when a rare shark cruises along the shallows of the island. They quickly make for shore and wait until the brute moves to deeper waters.
Recently, a water supply system was introduced to No Name Cay to ensure enough fresh water for the popular residents. As for food, that was the least of the pigs’ concern. The visitors feed them well and they have the waistlines to prove it.