The Nicaraguan Piggy Bank

Have you ever wondered why the pig is associated with saving money? Some say the origin of the piggy bank was derived from the type of clay 15th century European potters used, called Pygg Clay. In the early 20th century, potters began to shape the clay in the form of pigs and people would save their loose coins in the pygg jars.

However, in Nicaragua, the piggy bank is literally a piglet. They call their pigs, the Bancos de Chanchitos, which means piggy banks. The Nicaraguans buy the piglets when they are 8 weeks old for about 800 cordobas ($30). Then, when they are 9 months old, they are ready to butcher for Christmas nacatamales and chicharrón, a dish generally made of fried pork rinds.

Earlier this year, we bought Marina one of Theresa’s piglets. The piglet is now 9 months old and ready to be butchered for nacatamales and chicharrón for the Christmas feast.
Raising piglets for Christmas dinner is a long tradition in Nicaragua.

The process starts with an hembra (female) in heat. Chela, Theresa’s huge hembra, is ready for Barracho the Boar.


I wanted to record the history of the Nicaraguan piggy bank. Theresa invited us over to watch.
IMG_0074The sniff out! Chela’s cycle is every 18-21 days. When she enters lunada, she is ready to be mated. They hire Barracho the Boar for 300 cordobas for 2 impregnations. If the first try doesn’t get Chela pregnant, the second time is free.

IMG_2246Yep! She’s ready.
IMG_2244He mounts. Barracho the Boar stays mounted for 3-4 minutes. Then, after he plants his seed, they both rest while he is still mounted for 10-12 more minutes. Making piggy banks is hard work.
IMG_22473 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days later, there is a litter of adorable piglets. The average litter depends on how many nipples the mother pig has. Chela’s 4th pregnancy produced 17 piglets. Not all of them survived. The typical number in a litter is 9-10 piglets.

IMG_3135Marina has a piggy bank now.
IMG_3936She’s saving her piggy for nacatamales in December. Today Marina asked, “What day do you want to butcher the pig?” December 22nd will be butcher day. I don’t have the heart to watch.

IMG_3938Am I next?

Chela is pregnant again. After 4 or 5 pregnancies, the tradition is to sell the mother pig for 6-8,000 cordobas. But, Theresa said that Chela is such a huge pig, that she would sell her for 12-13,000 cordobas when she is unable to become pregnant again. More money in the Nicaraguan piggy bank.

What’s in your piggy bank?

The Complete History of the Piggy Bank

18 thoughts on “The Nicaraguan Piggy Bank

  1. This is very disturbing! And Sad! I am from Nicargua and we never did stuff like this. I guess because my family was part of an elite class . I understand some people have no choice but meat options due to poverty and education plays a big role! But the fact of tortuous behavior on an innocent znimal is horrendous! what ever happened to just cutting the head off fast! And proper living conditions for these poor helpless animals! makes me so mad!

    • Muffy, I believe you are assuming things from my post that are not true. I find it hard to believe that you have never eaten nacatamales. Where do you think your pork comes from? If you are a Nicaraguan from an elite class, I think it may be a good idea for you to see how the majority of your fellow citizens live. The truth of the matter is that the pig farmers in Nicaragua understand how valuable their pigs are. They are treated humanely and killed humanely, too. Do you live in Nicaragua? I am puzzled by your response because unless you are sequestered behind high walls in Nicaragua, surely you are aware of how the majority of your fellow citizens live.

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