the pearly acre

These animal sanctuaries near Toronto let you play with pigs and take them for a walk

If you have ever wanted to get kissed by a cow or pet a pig,  a farm visit at an animal sanctuary might be the escape from the city you are looking for.

Just north of Peterborough, The Pearly Acre offers one-hour visits with rescued and adopted potbelly pigs — Bullet, Piper, Ivy, Dexter, Cash, Rosie and Quincy. The tours were very popular in the summer and the sanctuary saw more than 100 visitors, said owner Sarah Heydon.

However, Heydon said she may put the tours on hold due to COVID-19 concerns, as the visits are moved indoors in the cold weather. She plans to be back in full swing for the spring.

The sanctuary in Douro, Ontario is about an hour and 45 minute drive from Toronto.

The farm focuses on education and in an Airbnb experience you will learn about each pig’s story. Heydon said the experience isn’t like a petting zoo.

“When you come into the pen to pet the pigs, it is way better if you know their background, you know their name and know why they are here,” she said.

Heydon got her first pot-bellied pig, Bullet, in 2017. She brought Bullet back to her home and started learning more about the pigs’ behaviour and needs.

“He learned how to open the frig, helped himself food, he drank my beer — it was unreal,” she said.

She kept getting more because pot-bellied pigs are often in need of homes.

Ninety-seven per cent of pigs are rehomed in their first year,” Heydon said.

Oftentimes people don’t realize that their city’s zoning laws don’t allow pigs. Also, pot-bellied pigs can grow up to 300 pounds.

Not far from The Pearly Acre, the Foster Farm Animal Sanctuary in Warkworth opened to one-hour Airbnb experiences in early October.

Sanctuary owners Morgan and Kevin Foster plan to run the experience through the winter. The Foster’s purchased their farm in 2017 with a dream to take care of animals.

“I have always been an animal lover,” she said.

It wasn’t difficult to find animals in need of homes.

“The first couple of days we were here, we took in a pig and chicken and it just continued to snowball from there,” Morgan said.

Now they have more than 50 animals including Walter the cow, chickens, sheep, cats, dogs. Just recently they took in seven goats from a petting zoo that closed.

the pearly acre

Walter the cow gets a kiss. Foster Farm Animal Sanctuary photo

While they always planned on opening to the public, Morgan worried about large crowds during the pandemic. The Airbnb experience allows them to have small group sizes (six people) and manage the timing.

Like Heydon, Morgan offers tours with information about where the animals came from. The guests can take a pig on a leash on trails through on the picturesque property.

The goal of the farm is to provide exceptional care and a forever home to unwanted animals.

“There is never a shortage of animals that need homes,” Morgan said.

Lead photo by

Sarah Heydon

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