Willie Nelson Relates to Animals, ‘Has a Heart for Hogs’

Country music icon Willie Nelson grew up during the Great Depression and began working as a child. Why did he have a “heart for hogs” after his time on a farm? And what other “streamlined” animal did he say made him feel strong by extension?

Animal lover Willie Nelson performs live on stage at the Luck Reunion
Willie Nelson | Jim Bennett/WireImage

Willie Nelson grew up around animals while working on a farm

In Me and Sister Bobbie — a co-memoir Nelson wrote with his late older sister, Bobbie Nelson — he shared stories about growing up on a farm in Texas. The Nelson siblings were raised by their grandparents during and after the Great Depression.

“We farmed to survive,” he explained. “I dug in.”

Nelson “got a kick out of planting and picking” and said, “Working the fields became something of a competition. I wanted to wind up with the biggest bag of cotton.”

But that wasn’t his only calling on the farm. He eventually developed unique connections with some of the animals.

Willie Nelson relates to animals and has a ‘heart for hogs’

While Nelson enjoyed planting and picking in the fields, he related to the animals around him most. “Still do,” he added. He noted how he had a “heart for hogs” and “loved watching them in the muddy pen.”

He once tried his hand at raising hogs when his music wasn’t paying the bills, though it didn’t go as expected. They all got loose once and he lost a minor fortune by the end of his endeavor. But he loved the animals, nonetheless.

According to him, hogs have different personalities, and he found that they were “as trainable as dogs.”

“You can teach them to sit, stand, shake your hand, and do all sorts of tricks,” he explained in Me and Sister Bobbie. “People don’t realize that.”

Willie Nelson loves a certain ‘strong animal’

But hogs weren’t the only animals that Nelson was drawn to on the farm. “Love horses, too,” he wrote. He didn’t have one as a kid, but he was sometimes lucky enough to borrow one from a neighbor for a while. He said riding came naturally because he felt he developed a “soul-to-soul connection” with horses.

“Sitting atop that streamlined, strong animal made me feel streamlined and strong by extension,” he explained.

And Nelson loves horses so much that he wrote an open letter demanding protection for the wild ones. “Wild horses, like other wild animals, were meant to be wild and free,” Nelson wrote (per Southern Living.)

“Historic family bands are broken as the horses are separated forever. Some are adopted or sold, and many thousands more end up living in crowded corrals or leased pastures, exposed to the elements. Some end up slaughtered for human consumption overseas,” the “Crazy” songwriter shared.

Furthermore, Nelson’s Luck Ranch is home to more than 70 horses he saved from slaughter. “My horses are probably the luckiest horses in the world,” he said (per ABC KSAT.) “They get hand-fed twice a day, and they were just ready to go to slaughter is probably the last thing they remembered, so they’re happy horses.”

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