Testimonial from Mr. B. Keyes, Florida
It was about 40 years ago when I received my first FlyPig. Some friends bought me one as a gift and my brother and I messed around with it until it was stored away in a box .
Several years later after multiple moves , I found myself dating my current bride of 32 years. Often we shared time on her front porch glider in the evenings with drinks and snacks. It must have been the time of year for houseflies because they were pretty obnoxious. I could sweep my hand across the table and catch one now and then. My future wife was quite impressed.
Suddenly, a lightbulb went off and I remembered the FlyPig. After a frantic search through multiple moving boxes, I found it! The next evening I brought it to her house and caught a fly. Before long the ears, eyes, and tail on the FlyPig were dancing merrily. She was blown away! I think I remember her saying, "Such talent and ingenuity in such a young and handsome man." Within a few days I proposed to her and she accepted. We've been happily married ever since. I have to give the FlyPig at least some of the credit for her quick acceptance.
Fast forward through more moves, two children, a career...I CAN'T FIND MY FLYPIG! I searched frantically on the internet for a FlyPig. I found some detailed instructions for making one and a place in California that, at least for a time, sold them - but I got no response. Then, HALLLELUJIAH! Clyde came to my rescue! I've purchased several from his site - some to keep in reserve so I never panic again if I need one, and multiple others to serve as gifts.
FLYPIG IS A CATALYST FOR MARRIAGE
FLYPIGS MADE IN CANADA
A visitor, James Robinson, recently gave me some information about flypigs that were made by the Algonquin Native Americans.
"My mother ,who grew up in upstate New York, has a flypig that belonged to my grandmother. No one is exactly sure of its age ,but the family story is that my great grandmother ( she was a Canadian Native American) gave it my grandmother, or one of her siblings, who passed it on to my mother. It has been in my family for over three generations. Flies were put inside as they were plentiful on the family cattle farm. The little pig is unpainted and made of a dark material, probably an acorn. It has a small piece of soft wood that is crammed in for the nose. My mom thinks this has been added and the original nose lost."
James Robinson, North Carolina
THE ONLY INSECT POWERED BOARD GAME ON PLANET EARTH !!!
There are many cultures in which children play games with insects but until now, there were no insect powered board games on this planet. Now at long last, everyone can enjoy an exciting adventure, with a rousing game of "Flypig Races." Each player has a flypig that is "locked and loaded" with a very active fly. The racing pigs are placed on the starting line and the action begins. The pig's moves along the race course are determined by the motion of the pig's ears and tail. If the pig moves one ear, he moves ahead one space. Motion of both ears allows a move of two spaces. Tail motion gives a move of three spaces. Watch out for the mud pit. A pig who falls into it must move both ears at the same time or his tail in order to escape. The first pig to reach the food box wins.
Any disputes over moves or between players is resolved by a judge hog. As the plaintiffs stand before him, the old judge signals his decision by moving his left or right ear. If the judge wiggles his tail, it indicates a draw or split decision. All judge decisions are binding and final. Every move and decision has been decided and powered by an insect. The board game also contains two simpler flypig games, "PIG WARS" and "PIG OUT," for younger players.
WHERE ELSE CAN YOU FIND SUCH ACTION AND DRAMA?
FLYPIG GAMES COPYRIGHT : CLYDE HOLLIFIELD 2010.
MODERN FLYPIG BOARD GAME
So you see, flypigs were not the only insect powered toys in Appalachia.
OTHER INSECT POWERED TOYS
When I was a kid in Appalachia, we played with all sorts of insects. Whenever we could we made them work for us and operate some toy. Here is a photo of the kind of beetle carts we made out of match sticks. Of course we first had to find a big bug that was strong enough to pull our cart. This one is a tumble bug (dung beetle) and is about an inch and a half long. We would make the beetle haul all sorts of twigs, sand, or toys. The match in the back of the cart is for a nighttime torch. Big grasshoppers are good draft insects, but hard to control. They are always kicking and spilling the load.
The ugly metal pig on the left is a mass produced toy from 1937. It led to the decline of authentic Appalachian flypigs. By comparison this windup monster required mining of the Earths metals, heavy industry, toxic paint and ultimate disposal of the junked pig. It would only flap its ears for 20 seconds on a winding, whereas the handmade flypig was an organic nut, required no metal or industry, was biodegradable, and would flap its ears, wiggle its tail, and roll its eyes all day long on a single housefly. Now, I ask you which one is better?
This is a French game invented by Joseph Michael in 1932 called, Le Cochon Qui Rit, which translates as "The Laughing Pig." The point of the game is to be the first player to assemble a little plastic pig from parts. A roll of he dice determines which parts you get each time.
The pigs are assembled exactly like flypigs right down to the little tail but are not movable or designed to have a fly inside. Having been invented in the '30s when the commercial ceramic pig above was also made and looking like nut fly pigs, it is tempting to conclude that le cochon was inspired by the flypig folk toys. For that reason, I have included le cochon in this website. The game is known all over Europe by many names all of which translate as "the laughing pig."
One thing I know for sure is that when people see a real flypig in action, they always laugh. Are flypigs the original laughing pig?
If you know the answer, please contact us.
The evidence we currently have shows that flypigs are hanging on by a thread in Appalachia and in Mexico. Here in the mountains of North Carolina and East Tennessee there are only a handful of people who remember these toys. Could it be that the flypig, part of American culture and folklore, practically disappeared before anyone documented it? Did the tiny toy on the fire mantle go unnoticed by early anthropologist and folklorist who were interested in more important things like songs and stories?
Many folk toys of larger size were recorded and saved. Still made in some numbers here are the whimmy diddles, corn shuck dolls, buzzer spinners, pecking chickens, and a number of others. Perhaps flypigs have nearly died out because it takes more skill to make one and only then, in late fall or early winter when pecans were imported from further south.
Which came first Mexican or Appalachian flypig? Did they both originate from a third source? Perhaps the pecan nut itself can tell us? Pecan trees are native to North America and range from the Chesapeake Bay to Mexico with the greatest concentration along the gulf coast. Pecans were an early cash crop for colonists. Could they have invented the flypig? Native Americans may have made something similar but it would not have been a European pig. Perhaps they invented flybears or flypossums. There is also the possibility that flypigs were originally made in Europe from a different type of nut.
MODERN PIG GAME FROM FRANCE
This flypig was made in the 1930s by Novelty Toy Crafters Company of Chicago. It was sold through magazine adds as a novelty gag gift. It is made of ceramic with hard rubber parts. The tail is removable for inserting a fly or small bug. It has the usual movable eyes and ears as well as a tongue.
This is an example of the many folk toys that were copied and made commercially.
COMMERCIALLY MADE FLYPIG TOY
We do not know the origin of the flypig but it certainly was part of early Appalachian culture and was most likely associated with Christmas when pecan nuts were available. The picture to the right is a very old Appalachian flypig that is made from a tiny pecan shell. It is less than an inch long. Typical of Flypigs from this area, it is totally unpainted with a tiny wood plug nose. I do not think these were ever made for the tourist trade and unfortunately, they have almost entirely died out without ever having been documented by folklorists. Growing up in Appalachia, I occasionally saw these old flypig toys.
Clyde Hollifield, webmaster
FLYPIGS MADE IN APPALACHIA
All the Mexican ones I have seen have been brightly painted like these two examples. One has a scene of two peasant farm workers and the other is signed "Mexico." Both of them have a very characteristic carved wooden snout. If you have any more information about Mexican made flypigs, please contact us.
I have come across several flypigs that were made in Mexico as souvenirs in the past. One person I asked old me they were at one time made in the states of Oaxca, Pubela, and Jalisco.
FLYPIGS MADE IN MEXICO.
Unlike our mythology and story page, everything on this page is completely true and factual. You can add information to this page by contacting us through our contact page above.
PHOTO COMING SOON
Photo by Kenton E.
September, 2015_______ This just in from J.K. in Bosie, Idaho.
"My boss had a flypig while growing up in New York City. She received her flypig sometime in the early 80s as a Christmas gift from her parents. It was a white pig and most likely ceramic (She knows it was not made of wood or a nut). She remembers trying to catch a fly in the window to put in the pig to see it work."
NOTE FROM WEDMASTER________
This white ceramic flypig would have been one of the commercialy
made ones that were sold from the 1930s until probably the late 1950s.
"I received a fly pig at Christmas from my grandmother in Spartanburg, SC around 1960. My pig was unadorned natural pecan shell with matching legs and movable eyes, ears, and tail, and a cute little cork for a nose. Only the eyes were painted. All I was told was that it was an old- timey toy made in the mountains (Appalachia). I have now made my own by following your directions. Thank you so much!
C.B. in Virginia
AVOID DANGEROUS METAL TOYS.
BUY ORGANIC PECAN FLYPIGS !!!!
latest report just in, Nov 9th, 2015, from Mrs M. of Klamath River, California.
"Interesting website. I had no idea that flypigs were made in the U.S. as they seemed ubiquitous at least in Mexican markets in their day. I remember going to Guadalajara, Guanajuato and San Miguel De Allende in central Mexico as a child in the late 60s and early 70s. These flypigs were one of the few things a child could afford to buy on their own with found "couch money" . I think they cost only centavos (less than a peso). We were entertained for hours trying to catch flies to put in them. My brother caught a few and made them work. I needed a better strategy. These two are some I came across at an auction in San Francisco last month."
FLYPIG, PECAN PIG, WOODEN PIG, APPLACHIAN FOLK TOY, NUT PIG, FLY OPERATED TOY, MEXICAN TOY PIG, INSECT INSIDE TOY PIG
NEW INFORMATION, DECEMBER 2016
December 15, 2015 Poetic flypig reflections from James Island, SC
"When I first saw Clyde's Flypigs, they stirred a familiar memory that I still cannot quite grasp. This is a toy of another time, long before I kept memories. There is something completely familiar, as if it were an old friend that I hadn't seen since we were young children. The Flypig is as much a toy as it is a joyous piece of art from an earlier, more innocent time. Perhaps from a dream, or perhaps, from a previous life."
Shadow puppets made of grass by
artist / puppeteer G. C. of james Island, SC.
HOMEMADE BUG CART