For a pig named Matilda, a mother’s love knows no bounds.
Born on a factory farm, the pregnant pig knew what fate awaited her babies. Pigs can naturally live for 15 to 20 years, but unless the farmer kept them for breeding, her babies wouldn’t last past six months.
Matilda’s instincts told her it was time to escape and find a safe place to give birth — so she did.
Earlier this month, a dog walker spotted Matilda and her nine newborn piglets in a wooded area in Ollerton, Nottingham, England. Surprised to see the little family in the wild, she called Jon Beresford and Beth Hewis, cofounders of Brinsley Animal Rescue, for help.
“We visited the following day to check it out and found she had escaped from an adjacent pig farm and had her babies in the woods,” Beresford told The Dodo. “Her babies looked well, [but] she was thin and able to graze but not forage for food as she had a ring through her nose.”
Unfortunately, keeping Matilda safe wasn’t going to be an easy task.
“She had the maternal drive to escape and save her babies — we could not let her go back,” Beresford said. “But we couldn’t just collect them. How could we save them? Ultimately, we needed the consent of the owners.”
Finding the contact information for Matilda’s owners proved difficult, so Beresford and Hewis contacted the media and launched a public campaign to save Matilda. The story of the amazing mom went viral, and the rescuers were hopeful that Matilda and her family would soon be free.
“As the story appeared in almost every UK national paper, the company then made contact,” Beresford said. “They wanted to know the location of Matilda, in their words, ‘to check her over.’ We felt betrayed when a photographer for a national paper photographed the farm taking them back to her enclosure.”
Worried that the family might be lost forever, Beresford organized a protest and soon received a call from the farmers agreeing to relinquish Matilda and her babies. Now, Matilda and her family are living comfortably at Brinsley Animal Rescue, growing stronger by the day.
And Matilda can finally focus on what’s most important to her — her babies.
“Matilda is a very good mum. She is also very friendly and is happy for us to fuss over her and her babies,” Beresford said. “She feeds them and sleeps, then we let her out for a runaround and graze, as well as have a good mud bath, and it’s not long before she returns to feed the many mouths.”
Since pigs are highly social animals, Matilda and four of her piglets will live out the rest of their days at Surge Sanctuary, while the other piglets will be rehomed in pairs. But until they’re ready to find their forever homes, they’re enjoying their hard-earned freedom.
“Her piglets are like clockwork,” Beresford said. “They are either all asleep, they have the zoomies running around and flipping or all are feeding. They have the best life.”