Wilma and Betty, Oxford Sandy and Black piglets arrived at KTCF at six weeks old in summer 2018 full of squeaks and energy. Named after the two charismatic matriarchs from The Flintstones they have been growing ever since.
Wilma and Betty proved to be an instant hit with staff, volunteers and visitors alike. They came to us at the beginning of our Summer Play Scheme, which meant we could introduce our excited Young Farmers to them, and at the same time get the girls used to human interaction. The kids took 30 minute shifts in pairs in the wallow with the piglets, playing, cuddling and caring for them, and as a consequence the sisters have grown into two pigs that are completely at ease with people. This is precisely what is needed in a city farm environment, particularly with large, heavy animals that have 44 teeth.
As time has gone on, Wilma and Betty have developed quite different personalities.
Betty learnt her name very quickly and responds with excitable grunts and squeaks which sometimes sound aggressive but actually translate to ‘oh my goodness I’m so pleased to see you!’ She will readily drop to the ground like a sack of spuds, expectant of tummy tickles when she hears familiar voices, and also loves to have her face and nose stroked to the point of virtual hypnosis.
Wilma on the other hand is much more indifferent and can take or leave attention. If she is already down doing a bit of sunbathing, then by all means tummy rubs and fuss are fabulous. But if she’s alert and foraging, she’s more likely to just brush past you to the next more interesting smelling thing, pausing only to see if you have anything in your pockets she can pinch. She also tends to be a bit more vocal at feeding times than Betty.
Pigs are very intelligent, and it only took a couple of days for the girls to learn where their wallow is, what times are mealtimes, and who are their softest targets when it comes to cuddles and treats.
You can tell the girls apart in a few different ways:
Wilma’s snout around the nostrils is entirely pink, where Betty’s is black on the top edge.
Wilma has both of her yellow ear tags still in place, but Betty has managed to lose both of hers.
Wilma’s colouring is a slightly stronger ginger. This may change over time.
OSBs are one of the UK’s oldest and more unusual breeds. You can read more about their history and characteristics here:
We still remember and miss the magnificent Margery, a Gloucester Old Spot pig who was with us for quite a few years with her own very distinct character but now we have Betty and Wilma and all their particularities who have made their own special place amongst the animals at KTCF.
The reason pigs enjoy bathing in mud is because it helps to cool them down in warm weather. Contrary to the popular saying ‘sweating like a pig’, pigs have very few sweat glands and therefore cannot sweat. They need the cool muddy water to lower their temperature as it evaporates from their skin. The dry mud then also acts as a sun block and exfoliant when it rubs off any dry skin they may have.
Visit the farm and see Wilma & Betty and find out more fascinating pig facts. We are open seven days a week, 9 to 5pm.
Kentish Town City Farm,
1 Cressfield Close,
off Grafton Road
It’s not often that we have to give sad news at the farm, so it is with extremely heavy hearts that we must announce that Margery, our Gloucestershire Old Spot pig has passed.
What a charismatic and beautiful lady she was. She was the first big animal you would see if you arrived on the yard in the morning before turnout (or on a wet day as she hated the rain and would not go out), and the last you would see at the end of the day. She delighted everyone that met her with her pink slippery snout, blond eyelashes, squeaks and grunts and fondness for having her soft pink tummy tickled for as long as you could muster.
In the Autumn of last year, she was diagnosed by our two independent vets as having arthritis in her back legs and hips. It is a common condition in pigs of her size and age. We hoped that with the arrival of Spring and Summer she would overcome her symptoms and have a brighter outlook for a time. However, even after being medicated and having daily exercise to keep her joints moving, she was obviously still feeling the effects, even during the amazing weather of late.
With all of these factors in mind and her increasing awareness of her aches and pains, we were advised that it was time to spare her any further discomfort and indignity. We hope as supporters and friends of the farm that you can appreciate what a hard decision this was for us to make as a team. We felt we should make this announcement because we know that she was loved by so many of you.
Daniel Fletcher is one of our young farmers, and went to collect Margery when he was twelve with our retired Stockman John Langan in 2012. He had been coming to the farm every weekend since he was eight years old, and is now almost eighteen and has just started an apprenticeship with us. He wanted to talk about his memories of Margery.
“When we got her, she was ‘in pig’ which means she was pregnant. We walked her every day and she settled in to her new home really quick. I loved going in to her wallow to interact with her. She really loved to have her tummy scratched and her back brushed. I came in every weekend so when she had the piglets I was one of the first volunteers to see them. It was a great experience, and she was a brilliant mum. She made me laugh so many times when she made her funny noises at dinner time. She grew so big, it was like she would never stop, but she never stopped being a lovely animal.”
We will all miss her and the yard will not be the same without her presence, but we hope that the arrival of two new piglets will give everyone a smile after the sadness of losing our dear old Margey Girl.
At the start of the new year we asked people through our Twitter and Facebook accounts to bring their real Christmas trees to the farm to feed to some of our animals. We were, and remain absolutely astounded at the phenomenal reaction to the posts. We reached record-breaking amounts of people on social media and received a small mountain of trees in response.
We would like to say a gigantic thank you to everyone who liked, shared, retweeted and generally spread the word on our behalf. You’ve warmed our hearts, raised awareness on recycling and most importantly made our goats the happiest in London, possibly the world!
We received 30 fresh trees, free of chemicals or preservatives, almost all of which are in great condition thanks to people keeping them in water and/or away from radiators. Here are some of the benefits for the goats and farm:
Thank you all so much!