Learned Pigs provided a popular form of entertainment throughout the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
The original Learned Pig caused a sensation in London during the 1780s. To the amazement of enraptured audiences, the “intellectual” swine would “by means of typographical cards … set down any capital or Surname, reckon the number of people present, tell by evoking on a Gentleman’s watch in company what is the Hour and Minutes; he likewise tells any Lady’s Thoughts in company, and distinguishes all sorts of colours.” In 1788 it was reported that the pig had died, however, later conflicting reports announced the pig’s return following the 1789 French Revolution, and his readiness to “discourse on the Feudal System, the Rights of Kings and the Destruction of the Bastille”.
In the 1790s another Learned Pig, the “Pig of Knowledge”, toured the USA. Its owner described his methods of training the pig by coaxing it, rather than torturing it, which many believed must be the only way to get these pigs to respond. Despite this, the owner was accused of employing witchcraft, with one incredulous spectator declaring that “his performances were the effects of the Black Art; that the Pig ought to be burnt, and the Man banished, as he had no doubt but…[his trainer] familiarly corresponded with the devil.” The same pig was later exhibited in London where he was advertised as having acquired his knowledge from “Souchanguyee, the Chinese Philosopher.”
An illusionist in the early part of the 19th century exhibited yet another Leaned Pig by the name of Toby. Toby could “discover a person’s thoughts”, a skill “never heard of before to be exhibited by an animal of the swine race” and around 1817 Toby published an “autobiography” entitled The life and adventures of Toby, the sapient pig: with his opinions on men and manners. Written by himself. Thereafter, Toby became the standard name for a Learned Pig.
[Source: Learned Pig]