- Berkshire – This original Berkshire was a reddish or sandy coloured hog, sometimes spotted. This would account for the sandy hair still sometimes seen in the white areas of some modern Berkshires. Later this basic stock was refined with a cross of Siamese and Chinese blood, bringing the colour pattern we see today along with the quality of more efficient gains. This was the only outside blood that has gone into the Berkshire breed within the time of recorded livestock history. For 200 years now the Berkshire bloodstream has been pure, as far as the records are known today.
Today it is primarily black in colour and is one of the smaller prick eared breeds. It is easily distinguished with its four white feet, white blaze and white tipped tail. It is an economical pig to keep, being early maturing and producing plenty of lean meat on small joints. The black bristle does not affect the colour of the skin so that the carcass dresses out completely 'white'.
As an excellent mother, the Berkshire is ideal for the smallholder. It is hardy, docile, economical and early maturing, and is often referred to by the Japanese as being 'the best pork in the world' (known in Japan as Kurobuta Pork).
Society website: http://www.berkshirepigs.org.uk
British Landrace - white in colour, with the characteristic heavy drooped ear that covers much of the face. The Landrace is very long, muscular and is known for producing high quality pork. The British Landrace has the same high prolificacy and docility that is common among Landrace swine.
The British Landrace is a very versatile breed, performing well under either indoor or outdoor systems of management. Sows have the ability to produce and rear large litters of piglets with very good daily gain and high lean meat content, in a superbly fleshed carcase, which is ideal for either fresh pork or bacon production.
Society website C/O: http://www.britishpigs.org.uk/breed_la.htm
British Lop – currently on the RBST endangered list – Britain’s rarest pig. A west country breed which originated around the Tavistock area either side of the Cornwall / Devon borders. For most of its history from the early years of the twentieth century, it remained a local breed undiscovered by farmers outside its native territory. It suited the locality well and was in strong demand there so there was little incentive for breeders to go shouting its merits beyond the far south west.
For larger production systems or for smallholders looking for an easily managed breed to produce good quality meat for the growing niche market, the Lop will do the job and do it better than most. It is indeed, the breed for every need - docile and easily managed, as well as an excellent mother pig. The pork and bacon from a well-finished Lop is a high quality product that attracts niche market opportunities.
Society website: http://www.britishloppig.org.uk
British Saddleback – The Saddleback has the striking colour marking of a white unbroken band on a black body. However, the colouring of the modern day Saddleback still varies widely as it apparently has through the entire existence of the breed. Littermate markings may range from a very wide white band that covers almost the entire body to the opposite extreme where there is little white. The ears of the breed are drooped.
The Saddleback originated from the amalgamation of the Essex and Wessex breeds in England. A strong point of the Saddleback breed in England is its reputation as a mother sow. The sows have large litters and are said to be excellent milkers. The breed is reputed to be hardy with good grazing characteristics suited to outdoor production systems. It has been used as a cross with white breeds to produce breeding sows for commercial swine production.
Society website: http://www.saddlebacks.org.uk
Duroc - A thick auburn winter coat and hard skin allows them to survive the cold and wet of the British winter. This coat moults out in summer to leave the pig looking almost bald, but as a consequence it can cope with hot dry summers equally well. All purebred Durocs are red in colour.
Its tenacity in looking after its young combined with its docility between times makes it an ideal candidate for an outdoor pig, either as a dam or sire line, and its succulence and heavy muscling makes it very suitable for anything from light pork to heavy hog production.
Society website C/O: http://www.britishpigs.org.uk/breed_du.htm
Gloucestershire Old Spot - the oldest spotted pedigree pig breed in the world, placid and easily managed.
The Gloucestershire Old Spots is a black and white breed that is predominantly white in colour. In recent years, selection has been towards less black and now only a spot or two are usually found. The breed also has a heavy drooped ear.
Gloucestershire Old Spots originated in the Berkeley Valley region of England and have now spread throughout the UK. The origin of the breed is unknown but is probably from the native stock of the area along with introductions of various breeds. The Old Spots are among the large size pigs in England. At one time, they were called the Orchard Pig because they were partially raised on windfall apples and whey - waste agricultural products of the area.
Gloucestershire Old Spots are said to be good foragers or grazers. This is not surprising considering the type of feeding practiced in the original home of the breed during its early development. The sows of the breed are known for large litters and high milk production. Prolificacy and milk production have been characteristics sought by practical producers everywhere.
Society website: http://www.oldspots.org.uk
Hampshire - The first Hampshires in the UK were imported from the USA in 1968 by the ‘Animal Breeding Research Organisation (ABRO). The Hampshire pig is a variety of saddleback that is mainly black with a white 'saddle' around its middle and has very erect ears.
Hampshires are known for being well-muscled and rapid growers and for exhibiting good carcass quality in their capacity as meat animals. When used for breeding, the sows have been praised for their capacity as mothers.
Society website C/O: http://www.britishpigs.org.uk/breed_hp.htm
Iron Age - not a true breed. They are a reconstruction of the type of pigs which would have been herded through the forests by our Iron Age ancestors. They were created in the early 1970's by crossing Tamworth sows with a European wild boar from London Zoo, for a scientific reconstruction project which was later copied as the BBC 'Living in the Past' series. The piglets are born striped nose to tail, just like wild piglets, but can be selected for temperament and be fully domesticated.
It is believed that the majority of the breeds we now know are descended from the European Wild Boar.
Kune Kune – a small Maori pig from New Zealand. They were kept by the Maoris as pets but were nevertheless eaten on special occasions. They were allowed to wander freely in Maori villages, scavenging for food around and inside the houses and it is probably this longstanding close association with man which has made them so friendly and docile. ‘Kune Kune’ means fat and round in Maori.
Kune Kunes arrived in Britain in 1992. They are between twenty four and thirty inches high, and one hundred and twenty to two hundred and forty pounds in weight. They are completely covered in hair which can be anything between short and straight, and long and curly. They come in a range of cream, ginger, brown, black and spotted. They have a medium to short snout, and either prick or flopped ears. They have short legs and a short round body. The most unusual feature of most Kune Kune pigs is a pair of tassels, called piri piri, under their chin like a goat. This is not unique to the Kunes but it is unusual. Temperament wise, they are delightful, being placid and very friendly. They thrive on human company.
Society website: http://www.britishkunekunesociety.org.uk/
Large Black - The Large Black was developed from the black pigs of Devon and Cornwall and the European pigs found in East Anglia. The Large Black was originally used for the production of pork in outdoor operations. Its coat colour makes it tolerant of many sun born illnesses and its hardiness and grazing ability make it an efficient meat producer. Large Blacks are also known for their mothering ability, milk capacity and prolificacy.
Large Blacks are large, just slightly smaller than Yorkshires, and always black. They have long heads and straight faces, with lop ears. Large Blacks have a good depth of body, fair length, and strong backs. The hair is fine and rather thick with the black pigmentation being quite heavy.
The heavy drooped ear is also a characteristic of the breed. In fact, the ears are so large they cover much of the face and seem to obstruct the view from the eyes. The breed is known for its very docile nature, and some have suggested that its obstructed vision contributes to its non-aggressive temperament. Whatever the cause, they seem to move more slowly and deliberately than other breeds.
Large Black sows are renowned as excellent mothers with exceptional milking ability. They are able to rear sizeable litters off simple rations and have a placid temperament.
Society website: http://www.largeblackpigs.co.uk
Large White - Large Whites are distinguished by their picturesque bearing, erect ears, slightly dished faces, white color, pink skins, and long deep sides. They have been valued for their bacon production since the inception of the breed. As their name suggests, they are characterized by large size.
The Large White is regarded as a rugged and hardy breed that can withstand variations in climate and other environmental factors. Their ability to cross with and improve other breeds has truly made them a factor nearly everywhere commercial swine are produced. They have been known for decades as a favorite market animal where high quality bacon and pork are sought. Their tendency to grow and not lay down excess fat has made them favorites, not only when swine are marketed at relatively light weights, but also when they are carried to heavier weights.
Large Whites are known for large litters, heavy milk production and for having excellent maternal instincts. They are not only lean and active, but are also quite sound in feet and legs. They carry their considerable length with ease and grace. Their extra height, or length of leg, helps them to remain active and have long useful lives in the breeding pen.
Society website C/O: http://www.britishpigs.org.uk/breed_lw.htm
Mangalitsa – a rare breed, curly coated pig. There are three Mangalitza breed lines in the UK - the 'Blonde', 'Swallow Bellied' and the 'Red'.
The homeland of the Mangalitza was the former Austria-Hungary. In the past century this swine breed extended into far reaches of Europe. The Mangalitza was much favoured as a bacon and lard producer.
The Mangalitza is robust, resistant to diseases and stress and of a balanced disposition. Powerful legs and strong hooves allow it to securely move about in any landscape. A simple, draft-free and rain-tight shelter suffices. Important is freedom to move about outside. The thick, bristly coat protects in all kinds of weather. Important is also a wallow in which the animal can cool itself off and care for its skin.
The Mangalitza is suited for extensive pork production. Its fodder should be diverse, but modest. The animals are good fodder utilises. The risk of over fattening is great with too rich fodder. The fresh meat tastes strong, is juicy, tender and doesn’t shrink in the frying pan. The meat is excellently suited for sausages, dry sausages and smoked sausages. More and more preferred are the suckling pigs for their good fresh meat qualities. Also perfect for the production of Parma ham.
Middle White - currently on the RBST endangered list. Originating in the Yorkshire, the Middle White has many of the same general characteristics as the Large White except for size and a much more dished face. It can offer a unique breed characteristic - a short nose that makes it ideally suited for grazing, as opposed to rooting. It is able to obtain a considerable part of its dietary requirements from grass alone.
It is earlier maturing than its large relative and hence, more valued when the object is to produce lightweight marketable pork in a relatively short time.
Despite their smaller size, the sows have been found to rear an average of 8.15 pigs per litter. They are good mothers and are known for their quiet nature.
Society website: http://www.middlewhite.co.uk
Oxford Sandy and Black - one of the oldest British pig breeds, it has existed for 200-300 years. A traditional farmers and cottagers pig, of the middle part of the country, especially around Oxfordshire.
The breed has many good qualities, particularly its excellent temperament and mothering abilities. Prolific and hardy it is particularly suited to outdoor systems, being good foragers and as they are a coloured pig with a good coat they are far less prone to sunburn.
The base colour should be a light sandy to rust with random black blotches (not spots) with a white blaze, feet and tassel. A medium to large pig with good length and a deep body, good quarters and fine shoulders, strong legs and feet and well set on, giving a free and active gait. A moderately strong head, straight or slightly dished with lop or semi-lop ears.
Society website: http://www.oxfordsandypigs.co.uk
Pietrain – originating in the village of Pietrain, Belgium. The breed became popular in its native country and was exported to other countries, especially Germany.
The breed is of medium size and is white with black spots. Around the black spots there are characteristic rings of light pigmentation that carries white hair. This, coupled with the fact that the black hair is not as deeply pigmented as on black breeds, or the black spots on some spotted breeds, leaves them with less than the most attractive coats. The breed is commonly referred to as being of piebald markings. The ears are carried erect.
Tamworth - Tamworths are very deep-sided hogs and are uniform in their depth of side. They carry a strong, uniform arch of back, and while not as wide of back as hogs of the thicker breeds, they do have a very muscular top and a long rump. The ham is muscular and firm although it lacks the size and bulk found in most other breeds.
The head of the Tamworth is rather striking as compared with that of many other hogs in that it is long and has a snout that is moderately long and quite straight. When seen from the side, the face usually has a very slight suggestion of a dish, but a short or turned up nose is unacceptable. The ears are of medium size and should be carried erect; a slouching or drooping ear is regarded as undesirable.
The Tamworth has a very practical red coat. The colour may vary from a golden red to a dark red. The sows are excellent mothers and do a good job of suckling their litters.
Society website: http://www.tamworthbreedersclub.co.uk
Vietnamese Potbelly - a dwarf swine breed which were developed in the 1960's. Most people who purchase these pigs want them as pets, but these pigs do not necessarily stay small, cute, or cuddly. As stated above, their average weight is close to 100 lb., and they do not like to be picked up or held. Unlike cats and dogs, pigs are prey not predators, so being lifted up or restrained causes them extreme alarm.
Welsh - The only native breed left in Wales, now critically low in number, this white, lop eared pig is not dissimilar to the British lop. They have shorter legs than most other popular breeds, but have very long bodies, especially considering the length of leg. They are also quite muscular and lean.
The breed attracted very little attention for years before it was realised the breed had some valuable characteristics. Among these were their ability to thrive under farm conditions, good sized litters, fine mothering instincts and desirable carcass.
Society website: http://www.pedigreewelsh.com/
Wild Boar – the ancestor to our domestic pigs, it is a large pig species covered in dark bristly hairs. It is a widespread species, common in broadleaf forests across much of Europe, Asia and North Africa.
Once extinct in Britain, and now after an absence of more than 300 years, wild boar are roaming and breeding in the British countryside once again. Sporadic escapes of captive wild boar have occurred since the 1970's. Early escapes occurred from Wildlife Parks but since the early 1990's more escapes have occurred from farms as wild boar farming has increased in popularity. By the mid 1990's a breeding population was rumoured to have established in areas of Kent and East Sussex.