In hindsight, March 16, 1983, was a very big day in North Lewisburg, Ohio, and the history of pork. King’s Chief, a 4-lb. piglet, was born to a solid sow named Gertie. “He was layin’ there underneath some other piglets,” fondly recalls Gertie’s owner, Bob Corbett. “I pulled him out and thought to myself, ‘Boy, oh, boy, what a pig!’ ”
With his thick bull neck, heavy leg bones and wrinkle-laden skin (the better to fill out with fat), Chief had potential. (He also had the luck not to be inadvertently crushed by Gertie, as was a sibling.) Properly raised, Corbett predicted, this little piggy could become the world’s biggest boar.
Manager and pig promptly went into training. “I did this out of ambition,” admits Corbett, 65. “It wasn’t no overnight deal.” A hog and grain farmer with a 170-acre spread, Corbett perused human body-building magazines and his father’s 1916 veterinary manual for diet tips. In no time, Chief, a black Berkshire boar with white spots, was pigging out on 13 pounds of fish meal, dehydrated turnips, steamed barley, oats, bran and cherry Jell-O twice a day, washed down with four to 10 cans of beer. Hog heaven. At the 1986 and 1987 Ohio State Fairs, he was named Buckeye Big Boar. Last June, after six years of overindulgence, Chief reached his top recorded weight of 1,322 lbs. This summer’s drought put him off his feed (“He took in just enough to navigate,” says Corbett). Still, at 4′ tall and 9′ long, he won the title of World’s Largest Male Hog at the Indiana State Fair. Chief also won a spot on David Letterman’s Late Night and a lot of cachet in his hometown. “He may not be the biggest-ever champ,” says Mayor Max Coates, “but he’s still famous.”
Fat though Chief may be, he may not be fat enough. Corbett has heard tell of a pig that weighs 1,338 lbs., and he’s out to beat that record. (Actually the Guinness record is held by the late Big Bill, who topped out at 2,552 in 1933. But he was a different breed of pig.) Corbett has visions of Chief’s tipping the scales at 1,400 lbs. by next summer. After that, he says, “Chief’ll be 7 years old and I’ll be tired.”