When pigs Horton and Henry first came to The Gentle Barn, they were in horrible shape. They had gone so long without food that their bones were visible, they were full of ticks and parasites, and they were anemic from lack of care.
“They were scared to death,” said Ellie Laks, founder of The Gentle Barn.
Staff and volunteers sat with the pigs, showing them love and making them feel safe.
Once Horton and Henry finally realized they were in a safe place, they began to open up and let the caretakers get closer to them (as long as they had a bunch of treats in their pockets!).
“We read books to them and sang them songs,” Ellie said. “It was as if their eyes went from dull to bright. After a few weeks, they started rolling over to let us rub their bellies.”
As time when on, Horton and Henry put on weight and got stronger. Their hair began to soften and they spent their days basking in the sun.
The two were inseparable, spending every waking – and sleeping – moment together.
“They were inseparable since day one,” Ellie said.
But around the time the pigs turned one, caretakers began to notice Horton was having trouble walking. Sadly, this is a common issue in pigs raised for food – their legs aren’t able to support their massive weight.
Horton had surgery and was put on anti-inflammatory medicine to help his condition. While he now feels better, he still spends most of his days on “bed rest.”
The caretakers had already observed Henry being loving and affectionate, but as time went on they noticed something truly remarkable: Henry was taking care of his brother.
“When we bring out hay for them to eat at lunchtime, Henry will grab a mouthful and bring it right into the barn for Horton,” Ellie said. “He is very nurturing to him — to the point where he won’t let any other pigs near him. He knows that Horton is delicate and vulnerable.”
If Horton makes a noise at any time, Henry will rush back to check on him. He also makes other little visits throughout the day to make sure Horton is doing okay.
Ellie says this kind of sweet behavior is actually common for pigs. They are highly emotional animals that thrive on social interactions with others, forging deep bonds with family, friends, and even their human caretakers.
“Pigs have a highly developed language,” she said. “They’re always communicating through their different snorts or grunts. Henry especially loves people, too. He’s always up for a belly rub and some veggies.”
In addition to keeping him fed, Henry also makes sure his brother is always comfortable.
“We’ll set out straw for bedding, and Henry brings that in for [his brother] too,” Ellie said. “And I’m sure Horton says thank you in his own way.”
What a sweet example of love and kindness. If only we were to treat others with the same compassion and care Henry has shown Horton, this world would be a much better place!
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