Guide to Heritage Hog Breeds

Wallow around with these five heritage hog breeds.

| July/August 2011

  • Tamworth Boars
    A couple of Tamworth boars take a look over the sty door.
    R.P. Lawrence/Minden
  • Gloucestershire Old Spot
    This GOS looks perfectly content lounging in the hay.
    Janet Horton
  • Large Black Sow and Piglets
    Large Black sow and her piglets.
    courtesy American Livestock Breeds Conservancy
  • Hereford Pig
    The Hereford pig is an American original, and was promoted in the early days by Hereford cattlemen.
    courtesy American Livestock Breeds Conservancy
  • Red Wattle
    Once feared to be extinct, the Red Wattle is waddling back into the limelight thanks in large part to the culinary world.
    courtesy American Livestock Breeds Conservancy

  • Tamworth Boars
  • Gloucestershire Old Spot
  • Large Black Sow and Piglets
  • Hereford Pig
  • Red Wattle

Once an essential part of any diversified farm, pigs have played an important role in agriculture – providing meat, fat, leather, bristles and more – for millennia. Some experts say pigs were domesticated as early as 11,000 B.C., and you’d be better off asking the question of where domestication didn’t occur than asking where it did. On the farm, pigs were often extensively managed and expected to forage for acorns, glean fields after harvest, consume dairy and brewery waste, and eat windfall fruit from orchards.

Not so long ago, hundreds of pig breeds were kept busy in backyards and on homesteads across the country. However, as the pork industry moved toward ever leaner and longer carcasses, increased production efficiencies, and confinement operations, many historic breeds fell out of favor. Today, fewer pig breeds remain, and many are dwindling in number. However, plenty of these pig breeds are perfectly suited to the small holding or homestead.

In the spirit of summertime barbecues, or “pig-pickin’s” as they’re called in the South, let’s explore some historic hog breeds and the unique histories, flavors and personalities that are influencing the rebirth of the sustainable agriculture movement.

Gloucestershire Old Spot

Status: Critical

Noted for its distinctive white coat with black spots, the Gloucestershire Old Spot (GOS) pig looks like the Dalmatian of pig breeds. The breed (pronounced Glos-ter-sheer) originated in Gloucestershire, England, in the 1800s. They often were found on small farms where they were the “pig of all trades” used for cleaning excess whey from cheese making, harvesting windfall apples from the orchards, and gleaning the residue from the cider press. The breed’s reputation as an excellent grazer and forager earned it nicknames like “Cottage Pig” and “Orchard Pig.” 

Known for its meat with a flavor to savor, the pig became wildly popular in Great Britain during the first half of the 20th century. Gloucestershire Old Spots were imported into the United States, but their popularity never reached a level as high as the United Kingdom. After World War II and the shift to industrial food production, the breed lost popularity in both Britain and the United States.

8/24/2015 8:17:40 AM

We chose on a un-named one here the Guinea Hog They are good foragers very friendly if you take a little time also they don't normally get over 300 pounds , so easier to handle they are good moms and have a good fat amount all in all a great homestead pig that's very easy to keep I am sad to see the guinea hog not mentioned here.

1/15/2014 11:32:24 AM

My husband and I are talking about getting some pig to raise for meat. we were wondering what kind would make the best meat. we are looking a a mix Heritage 50% hampshire 25% duroc 25%? when breeding pigs what would be a good book to get to read and answer all the question?



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