The Two Tamworth Pigs Who Escaped Death at a UK Abattoir
A True Story of Porcine Escapism, Intelligence & Ingenuity!
The Great Escape!
In January 1998, two 5-month old Tamworth rare breed boars escaped
while being unloaded at a Wiltshire U.K. slaughterhouse. The agile
pair went "on the run", chased by an army of abattoir workers, police
and news reporters. Their dramatic escape from the abattoir - just
before being slaughtered - and their wily tricks to evade capture
attracted media attention and captured the hearts of the animal-loving
British nation. The two resourceful hogs were given the names "Butch
Cassidy" and "The Sundance Pig".
The intrepid porcines squeezed under a supposedly secure fence and
swam a large icy river in their bid for freedom - swine are naturally
Even after they were finally discovery, six days after escaping, one
of the young boars continued to evade capture for a further 36 hours
in a confrontation with an army of animal handlers, RSPCA humane
society officers, abattoir staff, police, dogs and a tempting female
Tamworth sow. He even survived the first two of three immobilising
darts before finally succumbing to capture.
The pigs were eventually recaptured on January 15th in the garden of
local residents - only quarter of a mile away from the abattoir. They
had been feeding regularly on kitchen vegetable waste. It seems that
local residents refused to report their presence until a national
newspaper had guaranteed to purchase them and send them to an animal
The newspaper which finally bought the good pigs did so for a high
price in order to have exclusive photo rights. The last pig to be
caught was taken to a local veterinary practice to recover from the
immobilising drug injection. There was a struggle for possession of
the pig at this point because the purchasing newspaper wanted to take
him away to join his companion for a "Reunited in freedom thanks to
us" photo shoot. However, the vet refused to release him saying that
he should be kept under observation for 24 hours. Other reporters
allegedly tried to break into the vets to photo the drugged boar and
the police were called to intervene and prevent a "breach of the
peace". The newspaper claimed ownership rights, but could not
immediately produce a receipt in proof of this.
Fugitive Porkers Reprieved from becoming Pork Chops!
Butch and Sundance evaded capture for over a week. When eventually
re-captured they were saved from death by a huge public outcry. A
local butcher voiced the widespread opinion that it would be
"unsporting" to kill the two swine after such a daring bid to avoid
the fate which befell their "less-fleet-of-foot" companion, who had
been unloaded at the same time.
A national newspaper arranged for them to be re-homed in an animal
sanctuary - prompting headlines about how the intrepid swine had
managed to "Save their Bacon"! The English are of course famous for
their eccentricity and for their love of animals - pigs being a
species considered particularly endearing. The pigs now have a
guaranteed long life at an animal sanctuary. During the week they were
on the run, their value soared from 40 GB pounds each, to a staggering
15,000 GBP - the sum finally paid to buy them - against intense
competition from other TV and newspaper companies by a national media
Immortalised on Film!
The BBC have made a movie based on this true-life story. Six out of
the eight pigs used to make the movie were female because it was
thought that the sight of male pigs' genitals was not suitable
material for family viewing! The two male pigs used were only ever
shot from the front view! In real life Butch was female (a "gilt" i.e.
virgin sow) and Sundance was male.
In true Hollywood style, the brave heroic pigs journey through the
English countryside to the village of Tamworth, from which the breed
gets its name, hoping to be reunited with their mother while an evil
slaughterhouse manager fiendishly plots their recapture. Will they be
able to avoid the traps he has set and reach Tamworth? The film
The abbattoir from which the pigs escaped, located in Malmesbury,
Wiltshire, was later "named & shamed" for low standards. UK Food
Safety Minister, Jeff Rooker, reported that the abattoir had scored 61
points out of 100 in a nation-wide check on slaughterhouses - official
action was taken against all slaughter plants scoring less than 65. He
commented that and added, "They obviously didn't want to die in a
low-scoring Action is being taken against all the plants scoring less
It has been suggested that this pair of pigs became a focus for a
growing consumer guilt issue. More and more EU consumers were
expressing reservations about the price paid by hogs to meet the
demand for cheap meat. A philosopher referred to the "ocean of porcine
misery" that this dramatic escape symbolised. Their escape came at a
time when new pig welfare legislation was under consideration by both
the UK parliament and the European Union.
More Livestock Escapes from UK Abattoirs!
In June 2000 an Aberdeen Angus heifer escaped from a U.K. meat plant
in Warwickshire and gained the nickname "Houdini". The cow was later
given sanctuary at an animal shelter - Hillside Animal Sanctuary in
Norfolk. According to Animal welfare campaigner, Dr Tim O'Brien, the
shelter was also home to five cattle who ran wild in a wood near
Tamworth, Staffordshire, and eluded capture by trained animal trappers
and Army marksmen for several weeks.
BBC Film about the "Tamworth Two" Pigs
Available now on DVD or VHS video:
UK & Europe USA
VIEW CLIPS FROM THE FILM!
Pigs are strong swimmers - Check out the film!
Farm Animals - Management, Meat, Welfare: Books, Documentary Films,
KID'S QUIZ: Farm Animals in Popular Films: Children's Farm Animal