Film and television has made many an animal famous -- particularly dogs, cats, and horses. Pigs have had a tougher time making the cut in this respect. One notable exception is Arnold Ziffel, a highly charming and intelligent pig from the television show Green Acres that ran from 1965 to 1971. To most of the folks in the environs of the fictional town of Hooterville he might as well be human.
Image via BlogSpot
As the story goes Arnold is the adopted "son" of Fred and Doris Ziffel and lives with them on their farm. They were never able to have children of their own so adoption was the obvious answer. Because of this upbringing Arnold is incredibly anthropomorphized and is known for being addicted to watching television. He will turn on the TV himself and settle into a chair to watch just about anything that's on, but he prefers Westerns.
Image via Deadline Hollywood
The personable porker also attends school, can write his name, plays the piano, and creates abstract impressionist paintings. To make a little spending money he worked as a paper boy, er, well, pig. At one point he was even drafted into the army and no one seemed to notice. He could accurately predict the weather with his tail. Arnold also knew the tragedy of star-crossed love when he fell in love with a Basset Hound named Cynthia (she belonged to Mr. Haney) and they realized that their love could never be. *sniffle* It would have been strange if the show would have had to come up with a litter of "doglets" for them to raise. Of course, they could have adopted several chinchillas to raise. Who knows?
Image via That's Entertainment
The running gag through the series is that everyone in the greater Hooterville area are apparently able to understand Arnold's grunts as though he is speaking English -- with one clear exception. Oliver Wendell Douglas is a New York big city lawyer turned farmer who just can't quite get into the swing of being a local. To him Arnold is just a pig, which baffles everyone. In return he is completely freaked out that everyone else treats him as an extraordinarily intelligent little boy.
Image via BlogSpot
Away from the show the pig toured the country visiting 4-H Clubs and schools. He received the Patsy Award from the American Humane Society, an award given to animal actors, three times.
Image via Christmas TV History
As with many animal stars there were at least six piglets that played the part of Arnold. Each piglet was paid $250 per day for their performance on the show and had a union contract. Most of these piglets were actually female, just the opposite of Lassie, a female dog that was mostly played by male dogs.
Image via Women
All of the pigs were pedigreed of the Crested White breed and were owned by Frank Inn, an animal trainer in Hollywood. The pigs grow quickly and can be 900 pounds by the age of two. So the pigs cycled through the part of Arnold just as quickly. After the first pig to play Arnold passed away in 1972, Inn had it cremated and kept the ashes in an urn. At his request the urn was placed in his coffin and buried with him when he passed away in 2002. The two are buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.
Image via flickr
Rumors have been circulating for many years that once the show was cancelled Arnold was eaten at the final cast and crew party. According to Snopes this is definitely not true. Since Arnold was played by so many different pigs this would have been hard to do. Each pig was retired to Inn's property or a farm in the area to live out its natural life.
Arnold received a great deal of fan mail, especially from children who adored him. Even today people remember Arnold with fondness and laughter. I loved the character, but it never even remotely occurred to me to write him a letter.
It is safe to say that Arnold Ziffel was the pig that paved the way for the pigs that came after him, like Babe, the sheep-herding pig of movie fame, and Noelle the pet pig of Suzanne Sugarbaker on the TV show Designing Women. Pigs may not yet be equal to more popular pets in Hollywood, but they are certainly making their mark. You could say that they really have people thinking outside the pigsty -- and that's a breath of fresh air.