Five Additional Pig Breeds
By Caleb Regan
As promised in the March/April issue of Grit (“Grit’s Guide to Pigs”), here are five more breeds for you to consider adding to your property. The information came from Oklahoma State University, at www.ANSI.OKState.edu/breeds/swine.
Landrace pigs were originally bred in Denmark, and it was due in large part to this pig that Denmark had such a booming bacon-export business. In 1934, the U.S. Department of Agriculture received a shipment of (24, according to Carol Ekarius in her book, Storey’s Illustrated Breed Guide to Sheep Goats Cattle and Pigs) Landrace pigs from Denmark. Originally, the foundation for the American Landrace breed were pigs directly descended from the original imports, or those with a slight infusion of the Poland China breed. Shortly thereafter, 38 boars and gilts were imported from Norway carrying Norwegian, Danish and Swedish Landrace blood. These three variations of the Landrace are bred with the American Landrace today, broadening the breed’s genetic make-up.
Hair on an American Landrace must be white for registration, and dark white spots are seen as undesirable. Freckles on the skin are permitted, but black hairs are not.
FUNCTIONALITY: Meat, and sows are known for milk-producing and being prolific reproducers
APPEARANCE: White; long, straight back, with 16 or 17 pairs of ribs; muscular, even lean build; hams plump but trim; long rump; head long and narrow, while ears are flat, large, heavy and carried close to the face
SIZE: Large with long back
CONSERVATION STATUS: Population good
PLACE OF ORIGIN: United States (for the American Landrace), original Landrace from Denmark
KNOWN FOR: Milk production, good maternal proliferation
The Lacombe breed was originally conceptualized and bred at the Canadian Department of Agriculture Research Station in Lacombe, Alberta; hence the name. The foundation stock was formed by taking top Berkshire sows from Canada and mating them with imported Landrace-Chester White crossbred boars from the United States. It took 12 years of selective breeding to arrive at the desired genetic output that is present today. In 1954, all Lacombes that entered the breed were backcrossed with Berkshires, and any offspring with black hair were taken out of the gene pool.
In 1957, Lacombe boars were made available to the public, and the first sows a year later. At that time, they were estimated to contain 56 percent Landrace, 23 percent Berkshire and 21 percent Chester White blood.
Today, they are the fifth most popular breed in Canada, and they were designed to thrive in Canada – especially the central part of the country – although they are present in other countries. They have high fertility, and they are very hardy and docile.
FUNCTIONALITY: High quality meat, high fertility in both boars and sows, terminal sires
APPEARANCE: White; medium-sized; large, droopy ears; relatively short, strong legs
CONSERVATION STATUS: Population extremely low and typically not available to farmers as breeding stock
PLACE OF ORIGIN: Lacombe, Alberta, Canada
KNOWN FOR: Fast growth in both boars and sows, hardiness, docility, Canadian origin
These pigs hail from extreme northern China. They were introduced to the United States through an effort headed by three organizations: the USDA, the University of Illinois and Iowa State University.
The cold, dry climate of far northern China makes this breed tolerant of extremely cold temperatures and bad feeding conditions. Minzhu is believed to be mean “folk pig.” As a result, they have a tendency to be slow-growing and fatty, but the meat from the Minzhu is generally regarded to have a great taste.
The Minzhu, because of their feeding tolerance, will forage on poor feed and other roughages, and they are very disease resistant. They are recognizable by their long, coarse black hair and grow a dense, woolen underbelly hair in the winter, enabling sows to give birth (farrow) in an open shed at temperatures as low as 40 degrees with no problems. Litter rate averages 15 to 16 piglets.
FUNCTIONALITY: Good-tasting meat, maternal farm by-product and roughage cleanup
APPEARANCE: Long, coarse black hair with long bristles; dense woolen underbelly in the winter; large body size with narrow, level back and loin
SIZE: Large body size; sows grow to just under 3 feet tall
CONSERVATION STATUS: Healthy population, mostly in China
PLACE OF ORIGIN: Northern China
KNOWN FOR: Tasty meat; long, bristly hair; hardiness
The Saddleback came into existence by combining the gene pool of the Essex and Wessex breeds in England. Both the Essex and Wessex Saddleback pigs contributed to the development of the Hampshire prior to 1820, so the exact breed contributions are unknown. Foundation stock of the Hampshire was exported to the United States beginning in 1825 (introducing the American Hampshire).
The Saddleback and Hampshire breeds’ similarities begin with the appearance. Both are black with a white belt-like stripe – varying in width – that starts at about the front leg and runs down around the belly. The belt is seen as a mark of low heritability, but the size of it varies and has from the earliest existence of the breed. The white may extend almost the entire length of the body, or the opposite may be the case.
Saddlebacks are meat pigs that have excellent maternal characteristics. They are a large breed and are excellent milkers. They have been used to produce sows that are cross-bred with white pigs for commercial production.
FUNCTIONALITY: Meat, sows used for commercial reproduction
APPEARANCE: Black with white stripe of varying size, droopy ears
CONSERVATION STATUS: Healthy population in the United Kingdom
PLACE OF ORIGIN: England
BEST KNOWN FOR: Appearance with the white belt; sows have large litters
The history of the Welsh swine breed is somewhat unknown. These pigs have been present in Wales as early as records indicate. Special breed improvement began in the 1950s when it was realized they had desirable characteristics, such as the ability to thrive in farm setting, large litters, excellent mothering instincts and high-yielding carcasses. For breed improvement, Landrace blood was infused into the gene pool. Today, Welsh pigs are the third ranking breed in Britain, but there have only been a limited number of exports to other countries.
The Welsh pig has relatively short legs, and this makes the back and torso seem extremely long. Sows average around 10 pigs per farrow.
FUNCTIONALITY: Carcass yield, reproduction, cross-breeding with the Large White and British Landrace, two breeds not closely related
APPEARANCE: White, short legs making the back seem long, slightly dished face, muscular
SIZE: Short but medium body build
CONSERVATION STATUS: Healthy population
PLACE OF ORIGIN: Wales
BEST KNOWN FOR: High carcass yield, short legs
Caleb Reganand his wife, Gwen, live in rural Douglas County, Kansas, where they enjoy hunting, fishing, and raising and growing as much of their own food as they can. Caleb can’t imagine a better scenario than getting to work on a rural lifestyle magazine as a profession, and then living that same lifestyle right in the heartland of America. Connect with him on Google+.
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