Wild Hog in Martin County | Local News

Nearly 15 years ago, tourism officials in Brainerd started a way to promote the Lake District by commissioning colorfully painted ox statues from different groups.

The 30 statues of “Babe” oxen are still visible throughout the region. Some have been repainted and moved, notably last year when Babe the Waabigwan Ox was painted black with many multicolored flowers, inspired by local Ojibwe beadwork.

The statues, about 4 feet tall, do their job of grabbing attention and bringing smiles to visitors in the vacation area.

Statue promotions only really work if they represent something common and well-known in the area, like Paul Bunyan’s iconic Babe the Blue Ox in Brainerd.

Martin County in southern Minnesota doesn’t have a ton of tourists. It’s not really crowded – less than 20,000. Fairmont, with more than half the county’s population, is a charming town with beautiful lakes and historic buildings.

What Martin County has are pigs. Many, many pigs.

So it makes sense that the county arts council and local developers are putting up statues of pigs – herds of them. Artists, businesses and groups have already painted and placed nearly 40 of them in the county. The promotion is such a hit that they are trying to accommodate requests for more, expecting to make over 100.

There’s no more fitting place for pig statues than Martin County.

More pigs are raised in the county than in any other county in Minnesota. In fact, the county ranks 6th to 8th in the nation for pork production.

At any given time, there are about 100 pigs for every rural county resident.

With over 150 pig farms, farmers sell around 2 million pigs each year. (That produces 40 million pounds of bacon a year.)

For many people, pigs don’t quite have the appeal of an iconic character like Babe the Blue Ox. But the statues of brightly colored pigs, some wearing hats – with names like Garbo, Norm and Wilbur – are pretty darn cute.

There are plenty of adorable, cuddly piggies that have been featured in books and movies, including Wilbur and Babe.

Having grown up around a few pigs, I can attest that they are downright cute when they squeal little piglets.

But when they’re 250-pound growling pigs, “cute” doesn’t come to mind.

They are also notoriously stubborn. Whatever you do to try to get a pig to move in one direction, it will push to go in the opposite direction, just out of habit. There’s a reason the term “stubborn” means “stubbornly stupid.”

And they have a reputation for being vicious, which makes wild pigs especially dangerous.

In fact, they have occasionally killed and eaten an unlucky farmer who got knocked down in a pigsty.

Several years ago, in Oregon, a farmer did not return from feeding the pigs. Someone who went to see him discovered a gruesome scene: his remains, including his dentures, were strewn about the pig pen, according to a report in The Register-Guard of Eugene.

But there’s no reason to dwell on those nasty thoughts if you come across some of Martin County’s pig statues.

“Norm” and “Garbo” look like they want to snuggle up to you as you scratch behind their ears.

Tim Krohn can be reached at tkrohn@mankatofreepress.com or 507-720-1300.