Introducing... Dom Joly’s pet pig Wilbur
10:52 06 November 2015
To celebrate our Pets Issue, Katie Jarvis goes to meet Wilbur the Pig, probably the Cotswolds’ highest-profile celebrity animal - oh, and his showbiz agent, Dom Joly
Don’t mention Gloucester Old Spot sausages – at least not around Wilbur, Dom Joly’s pet pig, who spends most of his time curled up by the family Aga: “The world’s slowest-cooking pork roast,” is how Dom describes him. “He’s curmudgeonly, hard-done-by, and only happy when in possession of food or a tummy-rub. It is like having a very angry old man wandering around the house, constantly grumbling, which is what Stacey feels about being married to me. I think we’re very similar in a lot of ways,” Dom says. “I do love dogs, but they’re a bit sycophantic – they follow me round the house going, ‘You’re brilliant’, which has its appeal. And then cats just think you’re a moron, whatever you’re doing.
“But pigs do not give a toss: it’s as though Wilbur is constantly doing me a favour to allow me to feed and scratch him. I admire his independence.”
Wilbur lives with Dom, Stacey and their children Parker and Jackson; a cat called Roo; three dogs - Huxley as in Aldous; Oscar as in Wilde; and Fitzgerald as in Scott F; and a gang of chickens.
Where does Wilbur live and why?
Wilbur lives here on my farm in Brockhampton. He moved from Cheltenham where he lived, with a very nice family, in a pink Wendy house in the back garden. When he got to six months old, he announced – in no uncertain terms – that he had outgrown the place: it was basically Babe in the City. Wilbur has two main hangouts here on the farm: his own residence, which is an old room with windows, a fireplace and a little run; and the main house, which he comes into for four or five hours a day. He’s really sociable. He loves to hang out with the dogs – can’t say the dogs feel the same, but I don’t think he lets that bother him.
How long has he lived in the Cotswolds?
He’s about a year-and-a-half-old now, and he’s been in the Cotswolds all his life - though his origins are uncertain.
What’s his idea of a perfect weekend in the Cotswolds?
He likes to sleep late, like a teenager, buried in straw: whenever he comes out, he’s got straw all over his face. If I haven’t let him out by around 11am, he’ll get very angry and charge his door; he’s broken it down six times now. He’ll then demand to be fed, before chasing the chickens for a good 20 minutes as his morning exercise. He hates the rooster and I think I can speak for the rooster when I say vice versa. After that, he’ll hammer on the front door to come in. If there’s no one around, he’ll go down into the basement where the dog food is, knock it over, and eat himself into a stupor. He also likes being sung to by Parker and me, though not by Stacey. He intimates that she might be tone-deaf, which she is. His preferences are soft indie, and he likes a bit of Jacques Brel as well. He’s quite eclectic; he’s read a lot.
If money were no object, where would he live in the Cotswolds?
Wilbur has one just one interest in life, and that’s food. I’ve never seen greed like it: that’s all he thinks about. We do have to keep him on a strict exercise regime, and he’s just started coming on walks with me. Every time I walk up to Cleeve Hill with the dogs, he tries to come too. Each time, I have to say, ‘Wilbur, you’re not a dog; you can’t come!’ and he gets annoyed and goes back. But, today, I wandered off with headphones on and got halfway up. Luckily, it was pouring with rain so I turned back – and there he was, standing staring at me. A pig running round up there wouldn’t be funny. I can see the headlines now: Dom Joly’s vicious pet pig: the Beast of Cleeve Hill.
Where is he least likely to live in the Cotswolds?
He doesn’t like Gloucester because of Gloucester Old Spot - there are a lot of rugby-playing bacon-munchers there. My kids like bacon so it’s a tricky moral quandary. When he’s lying by the Aga and they’re cooking it, we have to waft the smell away from him.
Where’s the best pub in the area?
He’s popped down to the Craven a couple of times in Brockhampton: he’s escaped and we’ve found him in the pub garden. He doesn’t drink as such but he enjoys eating old pears and apples - which are essentially fermented cider - and he gets quite frisky afterwards. So much so that we had to remove some of his equipment. The vet came to cut them off and injected Wilbur to knock him out, but Wilbur refused to go down. He injected him again and Wilbur still didn’t go down. He finally injected him a third time and Wilbur got down on his knees… then, when the vet approached, he stood up again. So the vet had to come back another day and give him all three in one. The vet is a very nice man, who has been away doing some work in South Africa. He came back the other day, got out of the car, and Wilbur – who was 200 metres away – just looked and bolted. I know you’d remember the man who cut your testicles off but it was extraordinary.
What’s the best thing about the Cotswolds?
Freedom. He liked Cheltenham as a town but he felt quite shamed by his Wendyhouse existence. Here, he’s very much the boss. This isn’t a working farm but we’ve got pig and chickens and dogs and a cat (we did have rabbits but, unfortunately, there was an accident with a fox) so he’s very happy. It is a sort of animal farm we’re building; if we get any more, we’ll be outside looking through the window, and Wilbur will be at the table, smoking a cigar.
... and the worst?
He really hates cyclists, and the postman. The postman is a very nice man but, each time he comes through the gate, Wilbur assumes this will be a delivery of food and gets very angry when he realises it’s not. Every day, there’s this misunderstanding so the postman always leaves a lot faster than he arrives.
Which shop could he not live without?
He’s a big fan of Countrywide. He’s very rural – not one of your posh Cheltonians: he thinks Cheltenham has become a bit poncey; a bit boutiquey. But he considers that everything you need is available at Countrywide – the Bourton one; obviously not the Gloucester one.
What would be a three course Cotswold meal?
The old apples and pears he eats are more of an aperitif than a starter, because he gets very drunk on them. So he’d start with raw cauliflower, and then eat his own body weight in pig pellets. I can’t tell you what’s in them - nor can the people at Countrywide - but he likes them a lot, and so do the chickens who break in to try to steal his stuff; total war. In the evening, he has scraps, which are his favourites. When he arrived, I could pick him up. I don’t think I could pick him up now.
What’s his favourite view in the Cotswolds?
He’s fascinated with Stacey. We call her Chufty because she’s like a train-driver who sits on the lawnmower – she’s obsessed with mowing lawns - and Wilbur absolutely loves watching her do it. He’ll occasionally try to barge her. He’s just playing but it’s probably quite unnerving.
What’s his favourite Cotswolds building and why?
He wouldn’t like Gloucester Cathedral. He does like the cricket pitch I’ve just built, though he has this unfortunate habit of lying on the wicket. My son has learned to bowl quite accurately to avoid the pig.
What would he never do in the Cotswolds?
He doesn’t like TV appearances. I’ve just done Through the Keyhole and it turned out that Keith Lemon and Wilbur had a mutual hatred of each other. It sounds a bit weird but, apparently, Keith Lemon is genuinely terrified of pigs, and Wilbur was absolutely terrified of the way Keith Lemon dressed – he objected to the leopard-skin crotch thing. Keith Lemon went round the house being rude about me, which I wasn’t allowed to listen to. But every time he did a piece to camera, you’d hear a sudden scream as he was charged.
What are the four corners of the Cotswolds?
Wilbur quite likes sitting in the back of the car and looking at people, which is brilliant in traffic jams. He’s been to Bath; he’s been to Daylesford, where he thought everything was overpriced and too clean. He’s been to Tewkesbury, which is quite pig-esque; he very much likes the Medieval Festival, though he doesn’t approve of roasting a hog on a spit. And he’s been to Fairford and Cirencester, which he quite likes. He enjoys putting his head out of the car window; it’s fantastic watching people’s reactions.
If he lived abroad, what would he take to remind him of the Cotswolds?
Before the vet came, he had a cushion with a picture of our cat, Roo, on it. He became very attached to that and humped it to death. He’d take that to remind him of spreading his wild oats.
What’s the first piece of advice he’d give to somebody new to the Cotswolds?
Avoid Gloucester, of course. But do visit Sudeley. He’s very fond of wandering the grounds.
And which book should they read?
Charlotte’s Web is what he’s named for, unoriginally: I’d have called him Napoleon or Bacon. But to get a true indication of what Wilbur is like, read Animal Farm. He seems very sweet but that’s his PR side.
Has he a favourite Cotswolds walk?
His dream is to get up on Cleeve Common. Every day he gets further, so it won’t be long.
Which event, or activity, best sums up the Cotswolds?
We had the village fete here two weeks ago, where they had an Owner Who Looks Most Like His Pet. I thought it was best not to enter that one. We’d have been the absolute runaway success.
If he were invisible for a day, where would he go and what would he do?
He has not been allowed into the [Sandford Parks] Lido, which is very unfair. He loves swimming and lounging around; so a day there, with a couple of lady pigs, would be great.
To whom or what should there be a Cotswolds memorial?
Francis Bacon. Big hero of his.
The Cotswolds – aspic or asphalt?
He’s quite a modern pig. He’s done his place up Bauhaus-style. Very Chris Ofili. A lot of dung flung on the wall; very freestyle. And, judging by what he used to shag when he had his balls, he is a fan of the straight clean line. I think he’d be quite happy to burn down a couple of thatched cottages. He doesn’t like the Eagle Tower, but who does?
With whom would he most like to have a cider?
He does have a girlfriend. There’s a woman on Facebook who keeps posting pictures and films of her Kunekune, who’s a little smaller and not quite as attractive as Wilbur. He has been proposed to – it’s sort of Pig Tinder: Pinder. She keeps suggesting, quite genuinely, that they should meet up for a date. And the pig is very sweet but I don’t approve of internet dating. Also, she lives in Wiltshire and I’m not sure if he can breed outside the county.
This article is from the pet issue 2015 of Cotswold Life