[Moscow Times]

To some people, pigs mean pork and a juicy bit of rump. But at Marina Kuzmenko's apartment, the hog is a faithful friend that bows its head in greeting and prefers sleeping in its owner's bed.

"When you get home, Tasya runs up to you and looks up at you, rubs herself against you. She's happy," said Kuzmenko, 41.

The economist is one of a small group of besotted Russians who've taken swine out of the farmyard and into their homes. While the agricultural variety can weigh more than 200 kilograms, these have been bred to weigh no more than 40 kilograms. Hence their name: minipigs.

"Historically, pigs were perceived like living, pre-assigned meat," said Konstantin Gurevich, president of Russia's only minipig club."But as well as feeding the whole world, they can also be companions, defenders, security."

Costing upward of $600 and often thousands of dollars, minipigs are the latest exotic prestige pets to appear in the homes of affluent Russians, joining crocodiles, birds of prey, monkeys, turtles and penguins.

Russians favor them as they're small enough for high-rise apartments, though minipigs, like other recently domesticated pets, are nevertheless unsuited for living indoors, said Yelena Maruyeva, director of animal rights group Vita.

There's probably a psychological reason why people are attracted to small dogs and hogs, she said.

"There's a theory that miniature animals arouse associations of a small child. They arouse parental instincts in people," she said.

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