Major Cay is an uninhabited island in the Bahaman Exuma Cays. Uninhabited, that is, by people. On a pristine sandy beach on its northwest corner, there's a colony of around 20 pigs who retrieve food from passing boats and bathe with tourists.
Beyond the opportunity to have your photo taken in a real-life New Yorker cartoon, this phenomenon is both visually stunning and zoologically confounding.
Various theories persist as to how the happy pigs found themselves living a life of tropical luxury.
Some say sailors left the animals there to breed and one day provide a source of food for inhabitants of the island, and they never came back. Others claim a shipwreck dumped them there on the rocks, or that the pigs were introduced by the Bahaman government as a tourist attraction. If the latter were true, it was a wise move -- boat tours from the neighboring Fowl Clay and mainland Exuma run daily, and feeding the pigs is encouraged.
The level of mystery surrounding the swine's origins is somewhat peculiar, since the pigs first appeared as recently as 2001.
Major Cay, or "Pig Beach" as it's locally known, is an anomaly -- pigs do not normally live on beaches. In warm climates, pigs wallow in mud as a way of protecting their skin from UV rays. However, it seems that when there is tourist treat to be had, these animals will gladly risk the tropical Bahaman sun.
For years it was widely believed that pigs could not swim at all because they would cut their own throats with their sharp trotters, a myth perpetuated in Samuel Coleridge's 19th-century poem The Devil's Thoughts:
"Down the river did glide, with wind and with tide,
A pig with vast celerity;
And the Devil looked wise as he saw how the while
It cut its own throat. "There!" quoth he, with a smile,
"Goes England's commercial prosperity.""
But as Major Cay shows, pigs are actually very strong swimmers. Their island home is approximately one square mile in size and has three natural springs that provide fresh water for drinking. The beach is sheltered by neighboring islands from large waves caused by tropical storms, leaving tranquil waters for piggy paddling.