Animal TalesBloom

The Swimming Pigs of Big Major Cay, in the Bahamas

Published on Friday, March 22, 2013 by

Not everyone agrees with me, but I’ve always thought pigs were adorable creatures. Sure, they aren’t exactly the cleanest, but they’re very cute especially when they’re young. So when I heard about this tiny island that a bunch of pigs had all to themselves, I just had to find out more! Turns out this pig island is located in the Bahamas, where the creatures were first discovered in 2009 by photographer Eric Cheng and captain Jim Abernathy.

The island’s official name is Big Major Cay, but most people know it as Pig Island. The region is blessed with a natural water spring and sheltered by a string of neighboring islands that protect it from tropical storms. It’s the perfect environment for the pigs to laze around all day like little beach bums. They frolic in the water, swimming along-side each other and showing off their paddling skills to visitors. It’s interesting how the pigs appeared on this island in the first place. Rumor has it that a few sailors passing by the island a few years ago thought to leave a few pigs behind and turn the place into a reliable and secret source of food. Lucky for the pigs however, the sailors never returned. The creatures have never had to worry about their own food, thanks to the passing yachts that regularly dump excess food into the sea. It seems the pigs are able to tell when their next ‘shipment’ is arriving, so they eagerly plunge into the waves when they spot a yacht. They sweem a few feet up to the vessel, in the hope of getting the best catch.

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Photographer Eric Cheng says he was “in the southern Bahamas to photograph oceanic white-tip sharks,” when his ship’s captain “heard there were pigs on Big Major.” So they dropped everything and went to check it out. Much to their surprise, the rumors were true. “Upon reaching the sandy white beach, it is easy to spot the pigs – both pink and dark brown – lying in the sand,” says Cheng. “Because locals bring food, the pigs will run into the water and actually swim out to the oncoming boats, as if to greet them individually. It is strange enough to see pigs laying around on tropical beaches of white sand, but to see them charge into the water to greet oncoming boats is just bizarre.” Cheng and his team took a lot of pictures with the pigs, which have become quite popular in the last couple of years. They even joined the pigs for a swim with good success. “Nadine Umbscheiden, one of the photographers was so at ease with them that she managed to swim with them,” says Cheng. “We dubbed her the ‘pig whisperer’ because she was so good at getting the pigs to swim to our cameras!” Apart from the pigs, Big Major is completely uninhabited.

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This isn’t the first time we’ve seen habitats completely ruled by a particular species. A while ago we wrote about the Rabbit Island of Japan, and before that there was the Brazilian island full of snakes.

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