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Holmes & Watson, Spitalfields Piglets

January 6, 2011
by the gentle author

I hope my readers will forgive me if I admit that I chose to keep a discreet silence over the peaceful death of Itchy, the old sow at the Spitalfields City Farm last year, and instead to share my delight in beginning this new year by introducing these two beloved young squealers, Holmes & Watson.

When I went along to take these portraits of Holmes & Watson in the sty that serves as their approximation to 221B Baker St, I did not know which was which. But, as you can see from the photograph above, it soon became visibly apparent that the smaller darker one possessed the keener eye and more remarkable faculties in general, and that one was Holmes. Helen Galland, the pink-haired farm manager, who plays the role of Mrs Hudson, providing food and housekeeping for these two bachelors, revealed she spotted the disparity when they first arrived at their new lodgings three months ago. “They like play-fighting, pushing each other out of the way to discover who is the dominant – and seemingly it is the smallest one!” she told me with a grin of astonishment.

“When I tried training them by whistling and giving rewards if they came, Watson didn’t understand the game at all but Holmes deduced it at once – ‘If I do this I get food!'” explained Helen in custodial affection, “They have a love/hate relationship over food. When I scatter the vegetables in the pen and they run around finding them, the smaller one always gets more than the bigger one, which is strange. Maybe he’s hiding them somewhere?”

Holmes & Watson are officially registered Kuni Kuni pigs, like Itchy who came before them, hailing from New Zealand and descended from just sixteen hardy survivors when the breed came close to extinction in the nineteen sixties. Born at a rare breeds farm, near Ipswich, they were weaned early when their mother died of a spinal abcess. But in spite of this early tragedy, both piglets have embraced life wholeheartedly, as Helen proudly explained to me, “They love people, because they know people bring them food and if you tickle their bellies they lie down, it’s an instinctive response.”

Little else is known of their early months, yet on this basis of these ominous words that I overheard from Holmes – whilst they were at the trough – we can only assume they are relieved to find themselves in Spitalfields, “It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside.” Subsequently, I was surprised to hear Watson confess, “I naturally gravitated to London, that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained. There I stayed for some time at a private hotel in the Strand, leading a comfortless, meaningless existence, and spending such money as I had, considerably more freely than I ought.” Let us be thankful that Holmes & Watson have found a satisfactory home now at the City Farm.

I certainly enjoyed my brief opportunity to share the serenity of their existence whilst photographing the piglets in their pen, although I did become frustrated that they barely took their snouts out of the mud, until Helen helpfully explained that this is called,“the investigative instinct.” When she conjured this phrase, I could not help recalling the unfortunate break-in and abduction of a ferret at the farm a year ago and I wondered if this event might have proved a factor in the decision to bring in Holmes & Watson. Yet at just six months old, it seemed premature to enquire about the crime-busting potential of these piglets. May it suffice to know that Holmes & Watson have ended up in clover.

Personal callers who wish to pay respects to Holmes & Watson are welcome at Spitalfields City Farm and you can learn more about sponsoring animals at

Watson keeps his nose to the ground, surveying the muddy details of the case.

Holmes, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

Bramble & Bentley, the twin goats, are Holmes & Watson’s neighbours at the farm.

Watson,“If I irritated him by a certain methodical slowness in my mentality, that irritation served only to make his own flame-like intuitions and impressions flash up the more vividly and swiftly. Such was my humble role in our alliance.”

You may enjoy these other stories of farm life:

Helen Galland, Spitalfields City Farm

Sheepshearing at Spitalfields City Farm

Spinach & Eggs from Spitalfields City Farm

Bentley & Bramble, Spitalfields’ Twin Goats

4 Responses leave one →
  1. melbournegirl permalink
    January 6, 2011

    Oh literary pigs – how gorgeous! Very pleased to hear of their antipodean heritage as well.

  2. January 6, 2011

    Hahah! Thank you Gentle Author for cheering me up on this gloomy January morning. I visited the City Farm in June and just missed meeting the big personality that was ‘Itchy’. I am hoping to visit again in the Spring when I hope to have a stall at one of the fairs. These farms are wonderful places and to be celebrated. I exhibited my work at Freightliners Farm in Islington which is a bit posher than Spitalfields but I think Spitalfields may have the edge now on interesting animals with the arrival of Holmes & Watson.

    I draw your attention to my painting of ‘Boris’ whom I had the pleasure of meeting three years ago in Somerset.

  3. January 7, 2011

    Brilliant! Your chortlesome captions are inspired.

  4. Susan Lendroth permalink
    January 7, 2011

    Why would Holmes and Watson settle into new digs in Spitalfields? Elementary, my dear Gentle Author, they have a ready chronicler in you! I anticipate many a tale to come — the Case of the Missing Carrots, the Mystery of the Muddy Snout, etc.

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