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Chengdu: Pig in the pink

Updated: 2013-05-09 14:16
(China Daily)

The sow, who became a symbol of hope after she survived more than five weeks stuck in rubble, finds life keeps getting better.

Strong Pig is enjoying middle age - that's 6 for a swine - especially since she lost enough weight to walk again. The sow, who became a symbol of hope after surviving on charcoal and rainwater after the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake trapped her for 36 days, now leads a cushy life grazing on grass and playing with her new puppy pal. Known as Zhu Jianqiang in Chinese, Strong Pig has toned down her exercise regimen since reaching an optimal 150 kg, well-down from a peak of 250 kg. Workers at Sichuan province's Jianchuan Museum, where she lives and "works", believe she ate so much after nearly starving in the rubble, seven meals a day for the first six months, perhaps because she thinks each time she eats might be her last.

Chengdu: Pig in the pink

Strong Pig stays in a temporary pen in Sichuan province's Pengzhou city in June, 2008. [Photo by He Xinyong/ For China Daily]

After she became obese and unable to walk, she was put on a strict diet and exercise regimen. She later went from two meals a day to one and hiked a kilometer daily until she shed the excess kilograms.

Strong Pig has kept this up despite several ulcer surgeries and other ailments over the past year.

Also doing well are her clones, born in 2010. Two live at the museum, and another two live in a science park that funded the cloning.

The clones haven't had any weight problems like their mother. They weigh about 100 kg.

Strong Pig hasn't met her offspring. The museum has kept them separate because foot and mouth disease spreads easily among pigs.

"They're not as cute or as docile as their mother, so they haven't yet met the public," the museum's planning director, Huang Yi, says. "Strong Pig has a special disposition."

The museum's owner, Fan Jianchuan, says, "Strong Pig must be a spirit or god. She understands human feelings and behavior."

She never relieves herself in her pen or in public. Nor does she squeal.

Chengdu: Pig in the pink

Strong Pig now leads a cushy life, grazing on grass and snuggling with her new puppy pal at Sichuan's Jianchuan Museum. [Photo by Huang Yiming/China Daily]

Strong Pig is also a ham for photo ops."She always turns toward the biggest cameras," Huang says.

Shutterbugs are especially happy to snap her frolicking with her favorite friend — the puppy Guang Tou (Bald Head), who was given to her caretaker, "Grandpa" Wang Fuqing, last year.

But Strong Pig is more than cute, Fan says."Zhu Jianqiang is an icon of resilience," he explains."She survived the quake, overcame starvation and obesity, and turned out healthy and happy in the end."

Fan bought Strong Pig two days after her story made headlines. Her owner asked for 2,000 yuan ($320). Fan gave him 13,800 yuan. "He needed the extra money to rebuild after the quake," Fan says.

The farmer visits her every year on the disaster's anniversary. That day, she also enjoys a special cake — diet be damned.

"May 12 is her re-birthday," Fan says. "Most pigs are butchered when they reach adulthood. She's already 6 and can live several more years.

"She must be China's happiest pig."

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