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Web Extra: Ralph the Swimming Pig

Written by Lori Moffatt.

In 1996, shortly after Texas State University purchased the Aquarena Springs theme park and began to phase out the swimming-pig shows, I had the opportunity to interview pig-trainer Ada Davis at her ranch outside of San Marcos.

Ada had installed several above-ground swimming pools to use to train her piglets to swim, and I watched her coax some of her pink charges into the water with baby bottles filled with milk. Until they were comfortable in the water, the piglets wore harnesses so she could easily guide them out of the pool. I was enchanted. After I watched a few training sessions, we visited about her longtime pig-training career while curious piglets, chickens, turkeys, and full-grown sows meandered about. Forgive my bad pun, but I was in hog heaven.

Since so many years had passed since we last spoke, I called her in May 2012, as we were putting the finishing touches on the magazine’s most recent story on Aquarena Center, to learn how life was treating her. After her 20-year career as a swimming-pig-trainer ended, I knew that the transition had probably been difficult, and I wondered if pigs were still part of her life. We visited for perhaps ten minutes, and she told me about a series of health problems and tragedies that she had endured. Most of her plans hadn’t materialized. But the conversation brightened when I asked her if she still raises pigs. “As long as I live,” she told me, “I’ll have a pig.” Five pigs, it turns out—no longer of the swimming variety, but five Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs named Minnie Pearl, Leroy, Norvert, Football, and Fannie Mae.

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