On June 15, 1859, Lyman Cutlar, an American farmer on San Juan Island near modern Seattle, killed a pig that was foraging in his vegetable patch. This wasn’t the first time the pig had wandered into his garden. Unfortunately, the pig belonged to the Hudson Bay Company who controlled part of the island and that made it a British pig! In June 1846 – fifteen years earlier, the US and Great Britain had signed a treaty stating that the border between British Canada and the United States would follow the 49th Parallel and through the middle of the channel that separates Vancouver Island from the mainland. However, this left San Juan Island and other small islands as disputed territory.
The death of the pig resulted in British troops being sent out to make sure Cutlar would made restitution. In reaction, US troops in the area under immediate command of Captain George Pickett (his troops would make a famous charge 4 years later in a much bigger war!) also mobilized – leading to a stand-off. US President James Buchanan send General Winfield Scott was sent to the island to negotiate a solution. He succeeded in diffusing the immediate threat, but final resolution would have to wait – Civil War had broken out among the no-longer United States. An international arbitration committee, headed by Kaiser Wilhem I of Germany, found in favor of the United States in 1872 and San Juan Island and its immediate neighbors became officially American territory – much to the chagrin on local Canadian settlers. So, there we have it – the “Pig War” between the US and UK in which the only shot fired, indeed the only casualty, was a farm animal.