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The Mysterious Beach Pigs Of Big Major Cay

Wendy Syfret

Wendy Syfret

You know how people say, "Happy as a pig in mud"? Those people don't know shit. It should be, "Happy as a pig on its own private tropical island".

We get a lot of photo submissions at VICE and most of the time they’re pretty depressing. So when our friend and sometimes co-worker Dan Daly sent us a folder of adorable pigs living in a non-terrifying Animal Farm meets Lord Of The Flies style paradise we were intrigued.

VICE: Dan where are these amazing pigs?

Daniel Daly: On an island in the Bahamas that’s part of a chain called the Exumas, the pig island is called Big Major Cay. People like Ted Turner, Tyler Perry, and Johnny Depp privately own a lot of the islands in the Exumas, but there was nothing there but some pigs and chickens. We just hired a runabout and drove over, you take table scraps and they swim up to the boat you feed them. It’s cool.

I didn’t realise Tyler Perry was so rich. How did they get there?

No one really knows, that’s the thing. No one looks after them they just kind of do their own thing. The main theory is sailors dropped them off and were going to come back and pick them up at some stage to be raised for food.

How long have they been there?

Again they don’t know, but maybe 40 or 50 years. They shot Thunderball on one of the islands next to it and the pigs were there then. That’s the early 60s. I didn’t see any pig bones or carcasses, I don’t know if they’re eaten by the other pigs when they pass on or if they decompose.

Do they have a natural food source there or are they dependent on tourists?

This is the other weird thing, we were there for about an hour and a half and in that time there were about ten or so boats that came through and threw food into the water. A lot of people pull their boats up and get off and feed them. But as far as what’s on the island, I think it’s a shrub and plant arrangement. The little ones don’t swim so there must be some other food source. There’s not really much there, just some chickens, but I don’t see the pigs eating the chickens.

They would have been there for decades before tourists started coming.

They would have sustained life before being fed so I don’t know, unless they ate each other in the early days.

Yeah, were they friendly?

Yeah, they were super friendly. They have a lot of weight behind them so when they go for the food they could definitely knock you over, but they’re super nice. One of the smaller pigs bit me but it was like a hard pinch. It wasn’t painful or anything.

They must be so happy.

Yeah, well they ate a lot.

I wonder if they have trouble with sunburn.

This is the funny thing, there were two colour types. There were brown and black ones, and traditional pigs with a really light bristly skin. Maybe when they’re kids they get sunburn but when they grow up they become more resistant to. They haven’t been there for long enough to change their genetics or anything.

Do they have a rough idea of how many there are?

They don’t because no one’s tagging them and taking the time to check which pig is which. They have this blanket idea that there are about 30 or 40 there, but it might actually only be 15 or 20. No one seems to be super interested in it.


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