Is it permitted for a Jew to have a pet pig? Can a Jewish farmer raise pigs for business purposes, for sale to non-Jews?


Before discussing swine, let’s start with the laws concerning raising and doing business with non-kosher animals—of any variety.

While a Jew may own non-kosher animals, he may not do business with non-kosher foods or non-kosher animals that are usually used or raised for human consumption. In other words, even though it is permissible to derive benefit from most types of non-kosher foods, one is forbidden to establish a business in this field.1

Swine are obviously included in this prohibition, as they are usually used and raised for food. On the other hand, raising or having a pet horse, for example, would not fall under this prohibition, since they are usually used and raised to ride upon, and not for human consumption. (Obviously, if one were to raise them for human food purposes, then this too would be prohibited.)

The above applies to all non-kosher animals (not just swine); however, there is an additional prohibition against raising swine in particular. In explaining this prohibition, the Talmud2 relates the following episode (quoting the Soncino edition):

It is not right to breed pigs in any place whatever. Our Rabbis taught: When the members of the Hasmonean house were contending with one another, Hyrcanus was within and Aristobulus without [the city wall].3 [Those who were within] used to let down to the other party every day a basket of denarii [coins], and [in return] cattle were sent back up for the regular sacrifices. There was, however, an old man [among the besiegers] who had some knowledge in Grecian Wisdom and who said to them: “So long as the other party [are allowed to] continue to perform the service of the sacrifices, they will not be delivered into your hands.” On the next day when the basket of denarii was let down, a swine was sent up. When the swine reached the center of the wall it stuck its hooves into the wall, and the Land of Israel quaked over a distance of four hundred parasangs by four hundred parasangs. It was proclaimed on that occasion: “Cursed be the man who would breed swine.”

This law is cited in the Code of Jewish Law.4

The significance of this ruling is that while with regards to all other non-kosher animals one would be permitted to raise or do business with them for non-food purposes (e.g., a horse to ride, or some other animal for leather, etc.), with regard to swine one may not raise or do business with them even if it is for non-consumption purposes (e.g., to make straps out of their hide).

Additionally, we find that the Torah has a particular aversion for swine. In the closing words to the book of Isaiah, the verse states:5 “. . .those who eat the flesh of the swine and the detestable thing and the rodent shall perish together, says G‑d.”

To understand the unique abhorrence of the swine is to understand why our nemesis Esau, the Edomites, is compared to a swine, the verse in Psalms6 referring to him as “the wild boar of the forest.”

There are two signs that characterize the kosher animal: 1) it chews its cud, 2) it has split hooves.

The swine has split hooves but does not chew its cud. When it lies down, it stretches out its split hooves as if to say, “See, I am kosher,” while trying to hide the fact that it does not chew its cud. So too, the Midrash7 explains, Esau—and his descendants after him—robbed and plundered, and then professed to be honorable.

What really irks the Torah is not so much the fact that the swine isn’t kosher—after all, there are many non-kosher animals; it is the fact that it symbolizes deception and hypocrisy that earned it its unique infamy.

In light of the above, while swine might make for wonderful and intelligent pets, they are just not a Jewish kind of pet.

Let me know if this helps.

Wishing you all the best,

Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin