Butch and Sundance may be outlaws to most of us, but to the people of Malmesbury they were Tamworth pigs. Their story inspired a BBC movie, The Legend of the Tamworth Two, but the best part of the tale is the happy ending.
The two pig siblings had already arrived at the abattoir when their story suddenly became fascinating. Between the van and the slaughterhouse, they slipped through a hole in the fence, ran into the fields across the road, swam the River Avon, and spent a week eluding their would-be captors.
An account in the January 17, 1998, Independent says:
When reports filtered through to London teams of newshounds were dispatched. They chased the unhappy animals on foot, by car, in hired four-wheel drives. ITN even sent a helicopter. The pigs were variously named – Fred and Ginger, Babe and Algy, Butch and Sundance and, more universally, the Tamworth Two.
The papers and the local RSPCA office proclaimed themselves to be inundated with calls from people offering money to save the beasts. A mystified Mr Dijulio suddenly found himself being offered as much as pounds 15,000 for his pigs which the week before would have fetched him pounds 40 a piece.
For the next week they were media darlings. Every effort to capture them failed. Then one evening Butch was cornered while rooting in the garden of a local couple. Sundance fled the scene, but the next day he was flushed out of a thicket by a pair of springer spaniels, shot with tranquilizer darts, and taken to the vet for a rest.
Butchering the adventuresome pair would have brought the wrath of the public on their owner. Luckily, the Daily Mail bought the pair and turned them over to the Rare Breeds Centre. They lived there peacefully until October 2010, when Butch died of suspected liver cancer at the age of 13. Her lonely brother died the following May.
Having raised pigs, I can readily imagine the escape scene. Pigs are smart and fast. After being rudely taken from their farm and loaded onto a van for the trip to slaughter, the Tamworth Two knew bad things were ahead. They wanted none of it.
Yes, I know they were but two pigs out of the millions slaughtered every year, but they were a reminder that our fellow creatures are intelligent and deserve our respect and appreciation.