There are plenty of top show jumpers at Georgina Bloomberg’s Gotham North, but there’s no doubt who runs the barn: Wilbur the pig.
The two met at the Bergen County Animal Shelter (N.J.) where Bloomberg and friend Lorenzo Borghese were volunteering after Hurricane Sandy. The shelter was overflowing with dogs after the storm, but the woman in charge of the shelter fell in love with the pig and was paying out of her own pocket to take care of him.
“She said she’d had a few offers from sanctuaries, but that she had a special feeling about this pig, that he’s a pet, not a farm animal,” recalled Bloomberg, who splits her time between North Salem, N.Y., and Wellington, Fla. “A pig wasn’t something I’d ever wanted or thought of. But when we left my friend said, ‘You should go adopt that pig.’ I knew nothing about pigs, but I knew he was right. I emailed the shelter and they told me to come pick him up.”
No one knows his history for sure, but Bloomberg guesses that someone got him as a piglet and when he started to grow into a pig they couldn’t keep him. She guesses he was about 6 months old when she picked him up, and around 6 years old now.
Here’s a look at life with Wilbur:
• When he first came home from the shelter, Wilbur lived at home with Bloomberg.
“He lived in the house for the first year and a half,” said Bloomberg, who named him after the pig in Charlotte’s Web. “He loved being on the couch with me, and he never went to the bathroom in the house—not once. I can’t say that about my dogs!
• But eventually Wilbur chose barn life. “He’s clean and well-behaved and fun,” she continued. “When the horses went down to Florida he started living in the barn. He really loved having the action, with the people and horses everywhere. We joke that he runs the barn for us. He basically decided he wanted to start staying in the barn, so he lives there now and keeps an eye on everything.”
• Wilbur isn’t the only non-show horse hanging around the barn—not by a long shot.
Bloomberg has five rescue dogs, and staff dogs and fosters brings the canine count to around a dozen at any one time. Then there are two mules, two rescued miniature horses, a retired carriage horse, several retired show horses, a barn cat and a rescued rabbit who comes to visit the barn during the day and sleeps at Bloomberg’s home.
• Then there’s Petey, Wilbur’s main companion.
Petey the goat came to join the Bloomberg family in February of 2016. He, again, was a rescue, having broken two legs after being hit by a car in Charleston, S.C. His stint in Bloomberg’s home was shorter (“He was not house trained at all,” said Bloomberg) and soon he found a buddy in Wilbur down at the barn, where they share a stall at night. Petey’s a bit more of a troublemaker than Wilbur.
“They’re a good balance for each other,” said Bloomberg. “Wilbur needs someone to give him a little push, and Petey needs a calming force around him. They’re a good pair and very funny. I never thought of myself as having a pig or a goat, but they both needed a home.”
• In North Salem, Wilbur and Petey spend their nights in the stall, and their days in their own paddock. In Wellington, they wander free around the farm all day.
“[In North Salem] You just open the stall door and Wilbur makes his way to the paddock,” said barn manager Barbara Lopez. “He knows what to do. We’ll sometimes take a bucket of cookies to get Petey going. At night, you just open the gate to the paddock and they make their way to the stall.”
Wilbur never relieves himself in his stall—he always waits until he’s outside. Petey’s side of the stall….isn’t as spotless.
• Wilbur is smart. Like, really smart.
“He’s well-behaved, but he’s like a child,” said Bloomberg. “They say pigs are as smart as a 3-year-old child, and it’s so true. I had to childproof my home [for Wilbur] before I had a child. I have five dogs, and none of them figured out how to open the dog food container. One day after I got out of the shower I could hear him having a snack. He’d figured out how to get the container open.”
• He’s friendly with everyone, but has a special friend in South Street, Bloomberg’s first homebred. In Florida you can usually find him hanging out with “Shrimp” in her paddock. And Shrimp, who has competed through the 1.45-meter level with Bloomberg, is a big fan of Wilbur.
“He’s got a special connection with her,” said Bloomberg. “She’s sweet, but Shrimp was never an animal that was good with the dogs. She’s a pig girl.”
Given the chance, Wilbur will hang out in Shrimp’s stall as well.
“A lot of people said horses are terrified with pigs, but everyone gets along and accepts each other,” said Bloomberg.
• Wilbur travels in style. When he was younger he could travel via car to the local vet, but these days if he has somewhere to go he gets in the trailer. He doesn’t wear a harness or collar, but if he needs a little guidance a gentle touch on the side with a broom will steer him where he needs to go.
“When we head down to Wellington he walks right up the ramp onto the horse trailer, gets in his bed and wakes up in Florida,” said Lopez. “We ship all the horses in box stalls, and he gets an aisle between two stalls with Petey.”
• Wilbur eats a special diet because he has a history of urinary problems (he once had to stay at Cornell University [N.Y.] for a few days to treat the issue.) He eats three cups of prescription cat food and two cups of fruits and vegetables every day, plus all the grass he wants.
“We’ve tried—and failed—to find something he won’t eat,” said Bloomberg. “One time I tried giving him some grapefruit and he chewed on it a bit then spit it out and we thought we’d found it. But then he gobbled it right up.”
Keeping Wilbur’s weight down is a constant struggle. The last time he stepped on a scale he was at 239 pounds, and Lopez admits he may have grown a bit since then. He’s not big on fitness (his favorite gait is an amble) and these days he gets as few snacks as possible to keep him in fighting form.
• Thanks to Wilbur, Bloomberg’s farm is a no-pork zone.
“He’s changed my whole perspective,” said Bloomberg. “I didn’t each much pork before, and after I got him I swore off pig products. I won’t touch pork or ham product, and I don’t allow it for me or my dogs in my house.”
• Wilbur’s fame has spread beyond the show jumping world. Shortly after Bloomberg adopted him she brought him to visit her father, then-mayor Michael Bloomberg, at Gracie Mansion, the New York City mayor’s official residence.
He’s also the first porcine Chronicle cover star, as he graced the front of the premier issue of Untacked back in January of 2013 along with Bloomberg and two rescue dogs.