A Cheltenham man has become a lockdown celebrity for walking his pet mini pigs in the local park.

Billy, a mix of British pig breeds, and Franklyn (Frankie), a Scandinavian breed, are best friends and love a good walk and belly scratch, according to owner Josh Townsend, 31.

"They're officially mini pigs, which are a combination of breeds, they breed the smallest of the pigs for about a decade until they don't get much bigger," the IT manager told GloucestershireLive.

"There is a misunderstanding about micro pigs, the media represents them as tiny little things that don't get much bigger. But they'll get between 50-300 kilos.

"Strictly micro pigs, the ones you see on TV, don't exist, they're babies when you see them – you can get mini pigs which is as small as they get."

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Billy turned one in December 2020, and Franklyn will turn one on February 24, which Josh said they celebrated with a mini birthday party and little hats.

But looking after these guys is no small feat. Josh has multiple licences to look after the pigs as they are still "officially livestock" so require 24/7 location monitoring.

He had to fill in multiple applications to get a route approved to walk them in the park, which officers from Cheltenham Borough Council then go out and check before approving it.

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The pigs "couldn't have food from Tesco or Sainsbury's" and any vegetables they eat must come "straight from the farm", Josh explains, adding that they live off a diet of mostly pig pellets.

Although Billy and Franklyn love their walks and exercise, Josh carries hand sanitiser so if anyone wants to stroke them, they don't pass any of their germs onto the pigs.

Josh says that the pair even go in the car, with Billy in the back seat and Frankie in a big cage in the back of his Range Rover. He did add that "if they got much bigger" he'd be forced to get an animal trailer.

The most charming part of this unique family's story is the friendship between the piggy pair.

Josh said: "They're literally inseparable, they're best friends. Pigs are really social creatures and they need a lot of attention so you should never really just get one. They need each other.

"They have their own personalities, and they're herd animals, which means they have to have a hierarchy. One of them has to be the boss and it's not pleasant watching them work this out but they have to.

"Billy's the boss because he is much bigger, they basically have to fight and you think none of them are going to back down but they will. We integrated them slowly with pens next to each other and then onto similar grounds."

Although the pigs lived with Josh in a residential area in Cheltenham originally, due to coronavirus and working patterns they have been moved onto his dads land for the time being, where they have plenty of room to play and roam.

"They're really, really friendly," he said, "they love cuddles and they love having their belly rubbed".

Mini pigs are expected to live between five to 10 years according to the RSPCA, but they can live up to 25 years if looked after "really well".

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