PIGS can't fly but some can swim. However, not John Osman's.

The poor animal took fright at being transported from Cowes to the mainland and jumped overboard as the ferry passed Calshot Castle. A boat was lowered and the terrified animal thrashing around in the water was quickly rescued but so extensive were its injuries that it did not recover and died.

Its loss led to Osman suing the Isle of Wight and South of England Royal Mail Steamship Company at Southampton County Court in 1868.

The case rested on a condition under which the pig, valued £3, was being carried.

The defendants denied negligence, claiming Osman had signed a special agreement that his pigs were being conveyed at his own risk.

Cutting straight to the heart of the matter, Judge C J Gale asked the plaintiff's solicitor: "What is the agreement for? Surely, if it is a special one, then your client is bound by it. The agreement says the pigs are to be conveyed from Cowes to Southampton at the entire risk of the owner."

The solicitor Mr Guy rebuffed it, contending the company could not limit the risk in such a way.

Mr Leigh, acting for the ferry company, countered his opponent had been referring to the provisions of the Carriers Act but conceded it was doubtful they could have refused to take them.

The clearly exasperated judge responded: "This case had better be proved. Pigs are active animals and may jump overboard. Are the company supposed to tie their legs?"

Guy, no doubt seeing the case being lost, could only suggest the company should provide better craft.

The judge asked how high the pig had jumped to clear the bulwark.

"Three foot, inches," said Leigh, quipping: "The pig was obviously a lean one!"

The remark brought a smile from the judge, with Leigh adding the regulation height set by the Board of Trade stood at two feet, six inches.

"But that only applies to a human being and not a pig," remarked the judge, correcting him.

"A human being can jump higher than a pig" was Leigh's riposte.

Though he felt it was the ferry company's to provide a net or another deterrent to prevent a pig from jumping, the judge directed a nonsuit which meant Osman had not proved his case.