A Year of Heroes #4: Ralphy’s Retreat Animal Sanctuary, Norfolk, ON

Potbellied pig at Ralphy's Resort Animal SanctuaryDo potbellied pigs make good pets?

Not in apartments or urban settings (usually) and many people don’t know this until they try it. Then it’s sanctuaries like Ralphy’s Retreat in Norfolk County, Ontario to the rescue – when they can. Many sanctuaries are full. Yes, full. That’s how many pigs need rescuing.

Potbellied pigs are smaller than farmed pigs, and really cute as piglets – that’s the image most people see. However, regular pigs can grow up to 1000 pounds. What many people don’t know is potbellied pigs grown on average to 120 to 200 pounds – technically smaller than a farmed pig  but often too big for the living room – which is why Ralphy’s Retreat and Animal Sanctuary is at capacity.

Ralphy’s Retreat, a registered non-profit, is the permanent home of about 60 potbellied pigs – a number that accelerated after two pregnant sows rescued from the side of the road had five to seven piglets each. These sows were likely ‘released’ into the wild by an unsavory breeder who discovered pet pigs weren’t as profitable as first though. Unfortunately, this is a too common occurrence according to Ralphy’s staff.

Papa pig was found wandering not far away.

The entire family is doing well and the busy pen of piglets attracted scores of admirers at Ralphy’s annual open house and fundraiser in June 2017.

Papa pig is now fixed. All the male pigs at Ralphy’s are neutered and this is their permanent home. Pigs at Ralphy’s are not available for adoption, though the farm used to board people’s pet pigs short term to generate revenue.

Also available (for a fee) is human/animal bonding experiences for individuals, families and small groups. It’s a type of animal-assisted interaction  facilitated by Kara Burrow, a special needs teacher and president/founder of Ralphy’s Retreat, housed on her family farm.

The public can visit Ralphy’s once a year during the annual open house each spring, and by appointment throughout the year. Suggested admission is $5.

What does this have to do with horses?

These little piggies share the family farm, tucked away on a side street in the small village of St. Williams, Ontario. Fourteen-rescued equine – mostly horses, several minis and one blind donkey named Radar – also find sanctuary at Ralphy’s.

Every horse has a story, including Teddy and Skipper, inseparable buddies who share the large farthest pasture. Tess and Ginger, mom and daughter, literally have their own book. Their rescue tale is woven into a children’s picture book that ends happily-ever-after at Ralphy’s Retreat Animal Sanctuary. (Radar, below, loves to roll and sleep).

The pigs and horses are joined by several roosters, ducks, cats and three dogs – each can be sponsored via monthly donation.

If you ever wanted to visit the popular conservation area of Long Point, Ontario, Canada, here’s a great opportunity: Wellies & Wine on October 22, 2017 is a sponsored walk to raise funds for a new well at Ralphy’s Retreat. Following the walk, participants will eat at Long Point Eco Adventure then head to Burning Kiln Winery to celebrate a successful fundraiser.

Visit Ralphy’s to register or donate.



  1. If only people would research and fully consider the entire impact of bringing an animal into their lives. It should not be a spontaneous decision based on a cute baby. It should be a thoughtful, informed decision based on adding an animal to the family. Thank you for rescuing these piggy families.


    1. So true. Ralphy’s is a great farm and I had no idea there was a need for pet pig rescue until I visited here. Now I’m learning about other places too.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanking you for sharing – more people need to know


  2. Most people don’t realize that pot bellied pigs can get huge if their diet isn’t restricted. Glad this place exists to take them in and care for them the rest of their lives.


    1. I had no idea how big they can get in general. I think a lot of city people don’t know how big actual pigs get. Pot-bellies are smaller by comparison, but only by comparison. Some of these guys were bigger than big dogs.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. […] horsetrotting.net previous hero profile: Ralphy’s Retreat Animal […]


  4. […] and Ralphy’s Retreat, a sanctuary for pot-bellied pigs and farm animals we visited before for horsetrotting.net. If you’re in the St. Williams, Ontario next month, drop into Ralphy’s Third Annual Open House, […]


  5. […] and pet print kitchen gear was represented and so was local Ralphy’s Retreat Animal Sanctuary (check out our previous visit here). Attend its Watermelon Fundraiser August 31, […]


Been here or near? Share your experiences

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: