The Pig That Nearly Oinked Its Way to War: A Tale of High Stakes and Low Snouts in Puget Sound

Imagine a pig nearly causing an international incident; sounds wild, right? Welcome to the charmingly quirky history of Puget Sound! As you cruise these serene waters, you’ll not only be surrounded by breathtaking landscapes but also immersed in tales as fascinating as the “Pig War.”   

Sailing through Puget Sound is like stepping into a living postcard, packed with stunning natural beauty, charming ports, delightful adventures, fascinating history, and so much more. But did you know that one downright bizarre historical event actually changed the United States border forever? Yep, true story. And it all started with a pig! 

Let’s rewind to the mid-19th century along the shores of San Juan Island. The tale kicks off with the Treaty of Oregon in June 1846, which aimed to draw the line between the United States and British North America. The border was supposed to run “along the forty-ninth parallel of north latitude to the middle of the channel which separates the continent from Vancouver Island, and thence southerly through the middle of the said channel, and of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, to the Pacific Ocean.” 

Sounds simple enough, right? Well, not quite. Turns out there were two channels: the Haro Strait on the west side of the San Juan Islands, and the Rosario Strait on the east. Cue the confusion! 

The Hudson’s Bay Company, stationed at Fort Victoria, claimed San Juan Island, setting up salmon-curing stations and the Belle Vue Sheep Farm. Meanwhile, American settlers, lured by tales of the island’s fertility, started staking their own claims, much to the Brits’ annoyance. 

Things really got spicy in 1859 when an American settler named Lyman Cutlar shot a pig from the Hudson’s Bay Company that was munching away in his garden. Who knew that one little piggy could spark an international spat? But that’s exactly what happened! The British wanted to boot the American settlers, and the Americans called in military backup. 

Enter Brigadier General William S. Harney, who sent 66 men led by Captain George E. Pickett (yep, the same guy who later made a name for himself at Gettysburg) to San Juan Island. The Brits weren’t thrilled about the American troops showing up, and tensions skyrocketed. 

British naval forces, under Captain Geoffrey Phipps Hornby, were told to get rid of the Americans but to avoid a full-blown fight. As reinforcements piled in on both sides, things were looking dicey. Thankfully, Rear Admiral Lambert Baynes saw the craziness of escalating a quarrel over a pig, and President James Buchanan sent General Winfield Scott to calm things down.  

Scott suggested a joint military occupation of the island until they could sort things out peacefully, and both nations agreed in November 1859. The joint until 1872, when the Treaty of Washington was signed, leading to arbitration that finally, after a year-long debate, drew the boundary line through Haro Strait in favor of the United States. 

By 1874, British and American troops had withdrawn, and peace reigned supreme. The Pig War, with its grand total of one casualty—a pig—became a memorable chapter in history, reminding us that even the quirkiest disputes can have huge consequences and that cooler heads (and good diplomacy) usually prevail.  

So, if you’re curious to explore where pigs sparked international drama and where nature’s beauty is unmatched, a Puget Sound and San Juan Islands River cruise should be your next adventure. It’s a place where history, humor, and breathtaking vistas come together in the most delightful way. Want to experience it firsthand? Let’s chat and start planning your unforgettable journey! 

Sara is the owner of Platinum Travel and specializes in creating luxury, customized, stress free vacations for people who want to see the world and all things Disney.

She also owns Autism Friendly Vacations where she helps families who have a member on the Autism spectrum get the vacation they deserve. Visit for more information.

You can reach her at 414-377-8611 or to start planning your vacation today.

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