Toby, the Learned Pig

In 1784, someone stumbled upon the idea of exhibiting a "Learned Pig," which could do math equations, spell, and later on even read minds. Many pigs were eventually exhibited like this, and they were either billed as a "Learned Pig" or under the name "Toby." Robyn Pennacchia was intrigued to learn about them, and bought a reprint of an 1805 promotional book about one of these pigs.  

Toby supposedly dictated this “autobiography” to Nicholas Hoare, his manager. While he was born of an “illicit amour” between his father and mother (who supposedly ate a volume of the classics during her pregnancy, which is possibly the genesis of his genius), he was immediately spirited away upon his birth by Hoare, who taught him to read by the time he was a mere four months old. Toby reminds us that many children do not achieve this by their fourth birthday, and should be appropriately shamed for it. His name, we discover, was derived from Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” speech.

Having had no other companions, Toby dedicated every waking hour to his studies, and imagines that if other tutors were as dedicated as Hoare was to his education, that “we should not have so many blockheads in the world as we see every day; and truly, they are a very numerous race.”

Read more about the intelligent pig craze at Death and Taxes. Link


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