DOMESTIC PIGS, AN INTRODUCTION

Domestic Pigs (Sus scrofa domesticus or just Sus domesticus) orignated from the Wild Boar/Pig (Sus scrofa). In reality, the domestic pig is just a subspecies of the wild pig, because they can still interbreed. However, humans have taken a lot of the “wildness” out of the wild pig. There are various sources of history detailing when pigs were first domesticated, but likely humans first started to keep and manage pigs as early as 13,000 BC in the eastern Mediteranean (areas of modern day Turkey around to Egypt).

There are few animals that can be used in its entirety (snout to tail) as pigs, nor in such a gastronomically pleasing array of fresh and preserved products. I have heard it said that one pig can feed a family for at least two years with no refrigeration required. Of course that family will need to eat other things as well, but this concept speaks volumes to the usefulness of a pig as an economical source of nutrition.

We can divide pigs into two major types: Meat and Lard. Meat types of pig (also known as Bacon types) were developed to have more lean meat with moderate marbling of fat. In contrast, the Lard types of pig were developed to have large deposits of fat that could be more easily butchered from the animal in large chunks. This made rendering more easy, but also resulted in less loss of good meat. Lard types still have lots of good meat as well. Additionally, there are a few breeds that are both meat and lard types.

When raised in a way that the pig is designed, which is not in an intensive pig farm or concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO), the meat and fat from pigs can be healthy and utterly delicious. Modern pig farming has focused on developing pigs that are fast growing with very lean, light-colored meat. Older breeds with more fat and slower growth, but are more efficient on pasture or in a savannah. When pigs are raised in this manner, the meat and lard are amazingly flavorful and nutrient dense.

I’ve tried to outline the available breeds in the U.S. (since that is where I am from) as well as notable breeds from around the world. But first, let’s start with pig terminology.

TERMINOLOGY

  • Pig/Swine: common name for the domesticated species, Sus scrofa domesticus. Sometimes used to refer to a young, immature individual.
  • Piglet: a young pig
  • Litter: all the piglets born at one birthing
  • Runt: the smallest piglet in a litter
  • Sucker: a piglet (either male or female) that is still suckling/nursing from its dam
  • Shoat: older term used to describe a young, growing pig.
  • Hog: can be used for a growing pig or a mature pig (depends on where you are from!)
  • Farrowing: period of time from birth to weaning
  • Boar: uncastrated male pig that is older than 6 months, suitable for breeding
  • Sire: the boar or father of a piglet
  • Barrow: castrated male pig (the term “hog” is sometimes used as well)
  • Rig: male pig with undescended testicle (may or may not be fertile)
  • Gilt/Maiden Sow: female pig which has not had a litter of piglets, usually up to 6 months
  • Sow: female pig that has already has had its first litter of piglets
  • Dam: the sow or mother of a piglet
  • Weaner: a piglet that has been separated from its mother (5-10 weeks of age), up to about 40 lbs/18 kg
  • Porker: a pig grown to “pork” weight (roughly 130 lbs/60 kg live weight depending on the breed) at 4-6 months of age
  • Baconer: a pig grown to “bacon” weight (roughly 175-220 lbs/80-100 kg live weight depending on the breed) at 8-10 months of age
  • Chopper: an older, mature pig that is used for sausages or other byproducts

 

BREEDS

American Landrace

American Landrace

American Landrace

American Landrace

1. American Landrace

  • Origin: USA. Developed by United States Department of Agriculture and Iowa State University from Danish Landrace hogs.
  • Type: Meat.
  • Flavor: Succulent, marbled, flavorful, pink meat.
  • Size: Large.
  • Color: White.
  • Temperament: Docile.
  • Notes: Well known as good mothers. Common maternal breed (i.e. used as a mother for many hybrid meat hogs).

 

Basque Pig

Basque Pig

Basque Pig

Basque Pig

2. Basque Pig

  • Origin: France. Basque  Country (region).
  • Type: Meat
  • Flavor: Succulent, flavorful, meat commonly made into cured products.
  • Size: Medium to Large.
  • Color: Black and White.
  • Temperament: Good-natured
  • Notes:  Endangered breed. Slow growing. Not well suited to confinement.

 

Berkshire

Berkshire

Berkshire

Berkshire

3. Berkshire

  • Origin: Britain. Berkshire (Berks County).
  • Type: Meat.
  • Flavor: Succulent, marbled, flavorful, pink-red meat.
  • Size: Medium.
  • Color: Black with a white snout and boots and tail.
  • Temperament: Good-natured.
  • Notes: Good mothers. Good foragers. Commonly used as a terminal sire (i.e. used as the male contributor for hybrid meat hogs).

 

Chester White

Chester White

Chester White piglet

Chester White piglet (http://colemanfarmshawaii.com/livestock/)

4. Chester White

  • Origin: USA. Chester County, Pennsylvania.
  • Type: Meat. Originally a dual-purpose meat and lard breed.
  • Flavor: Lean but well-marbled and flavorful.
  • Size: Medium to Large.
  • Color: White.
  • Temperament: Easy-going.
  • Notes:  Chester Whites are good mothers. They are hardy and perform well outdoors. Sows and boars are used for producing hybrids meat hogs.

 

Choctaw

Choctaw

Choctaw

Choctaw

5. Choctaw

  • Origin: USA. Kept by the Choctaw tribe in Mississippi and Alabama, but originating from pigs brought by early Spanish explorers.
  • Type: Lard.
  • Flavor: Very flavorful, but reportedly the “carcass isn’t marketable in the commodity system”.
  • Size: Small.
  • Color: Black, but may have some white or brown markings.
  • Temperament: Can be quite wild, but apparently tame down well.
  • Notes:  Almost extinct breed. Very hardy. Very good foragers. Choctaw hogs have fused toes forming a “hoof”, like the Mulefoot.

 

Cinta Senese Pig

Cinta Senese Pig

Cinta Senese Pig

Cinta Senese Pig

6. Cinta Senese Pig

  • Origin: Italy. Siena Province (Tuscany).
  • Type: Meat.
  • Flavor: Lean, fragrant meat. Delicious! On the Slow Food Italy Ark of Taste.
  • Size: Medium.
  • Color: Black with a white “belt”.
  • Temperament: Reportedly, can be rather wild.
  • Notes:  Endangered breed. “Cinta” means belt. Very hardy. Very good foragers.

 

Duroc

Duroc

Duroc

Duroc

7. Duroc

  • Origin: USA. New York and New Jersey.
  • Type: Meat.
  • Flavor: Flavorful, succulent, tasty, juicy, lean but well-marbled meat.
  • Size: Large.
  • Color: Red – skin and hair. Develop a thick coat in Winter.
  • Temperament: Docile, but can get tenacious when caring for their young.
  • Notes: Fast maturing. Very efficient feed to weight ratio. Common as a terminal sire (i.e. used as the male contributor for hybrid meat hogs).

 

Gloucester Old Spot

Gloucester Old Spot

Gloucester Old Spot

Gloucester Old Spot

8. Gloucester Old Spot

  • Origin: Britain. Gloucestershire (Gloucester County).
  • Type: Lard.
  • Flavor: Sweet, very flavorful, well-marbled meat.
  • Size: Medium to Large.
  • Color: Mostly white with a few black spots.
  • Temperament: Very good-natured and friendly.
  • Notes:  Very good foragers. Very hardy. Very good mothers. Originally raised on windfall apples.

 

Guinea Hog

Guinea Hog

Guinea Hog

Guinea Hog

9. Guinea Hog

  • Origin: Guinea (Africa) originally, but this is a southern USA landrace breed (meaning it was developed over time, adapting to its new environment in the hot and humid South).
  • Type: Lard.
  • Flavor: Delicious! On the Slow Food USA Ark of Taste.
  • Size: Small to Medium (adults: 150-250 lbs/68-114 kg).
  • Color: Black, occasionally red, and hairy.
  • Temperament: Sweet-natured, friendly.
  • Notes:  Endangered breed. Very good foragers. Do not do well in confinement.

 

Hampshire

Hampshire

Hampshire

Hampshire

10. Hampshire

  • Origin: USA. Kentucky.
  • Type: Meat.
  • Flavor: Mild and lean meat. Little back fat.
  • Size: Large.
  • Color: Black with a white belt encompassing their front legs.
  • Temperament: Docile.
  • Notes:  Fast growth. High feed to meat ratio. Hardy. Forage well. Common as a terminal sire (i.e. used as the male contributor for hybrid meat hogs).

 

Hereford

Hereford

Hereford

Hereford

11. Hereford

  • Origin: USA. Iowa and Nebraska.
  • Type: Meat.
  • Flavor: Mild and lean meat. Little back fat.
  • Size: Medium.
  • Color: Red with white points (similar to the Hereford cattle breed).
  • Temperament: Good-natured, gentle.
  • Notes: Very adaptable to various climates. Good mothers. Good foragers.

 

Ibérico or Alentejano (Iberian) Pigs

Ibérico or Alentejano (Iberian) Pig

Ibérico or Alentejano (Iberian) Pigs

Ibérico or Alentejano (Iberian) Pigs

12. Ibérico or Alentejano (Iberian) Pigs

  • Origin: Portugal and Spain.
  • Type: Meat.
  • Flavor: Delicious! Produces the famed Jamón ibérico or Iberian Ham which is very expensive and not widely available.
  • Size: Medium to Large.
  • Color: Black, Gray, or Red.
  • Temperament: Good-natured, but can be a bit “wild”.
  • Notes: Rare breed. Excellent foragers.

 

Kunekune

Kunekune

Kunekune

Kunekune

13. Kunekune

  • Origin: New Zealand, but originating from Asian breeds.
  • Type: Meat. Being a small pig, they produce select cuts of meat and a lot of sausage and bacon.
  • Flavor: Well-marbled, succulent, tasty meat
  • Size: Small.
  • Color: Wide range of colors, hairy.
  • Temperament: Good-natured. Friendly.
  • Notes:  Excellent foragers. Kunekune means “fat and round” in the Māori language. It is one of the “pet” breeds of pig.

 

Large Black

Large Black

Large Black

Large Black

14. Large Black

  • Origin: England. Devonshire (Devon County) and Cornwall County.
  • Type: Meat.
  • Flavor: Very tasty, juicy, lean but well-marbled meat. Little back fat.
  • Size: Large.
  • Color: Black.
  • Temperament: Good-natured. Docile.
  • Notes:  Endangered breed. A very good forager. Very good mother. Not common in the USA.

 

Mangalitsa

Mangalitsa

Mangalitsa

Mangalitsa

15. Mangalitsa

  • Origin: Hungary.
  • Type: Lard.
  • Flavor: Sweet, juicy dark meat. Well known for sausage and hams.
  • Size: Medium to Large
  • Color: Blonde, Black and White, or Red. Curly hair!
  • Temperament: No reliable information can be found.
  • Notes: Rare breed. There are actually three breeds that vary only in color: Blonde, Swallow-Bellied (black with a blond belly and feet), and the Red. Good forager.

 

Meishan Pig

Meishan Pig

Meishan Pig

Meishan Pig

16. Meishan Pig

  • Origin: China. Meishan Prefecture.
  • Type: Meat.
  • Flavor: Succulent, flavorful, with lots of fat.
  • Size: Small to Medium (adults average 130 lbs/60 kg).
  • Color: Black with wrinkles.
  • Temperament: Good-natured.
  • Notes:  Very prolific. Slow growing. Resistant to many diseases.

 

Mulefoot

Mulefoot

Mulefoot

Mulefoot

17. Mulefoot

  • Origin: USA. Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Arkansas. Developed from early Spanish explorers’ hogs.
  • Type: Lard.
  • Flavor: Succulent, marbled, red meat. Delicious! On the Slow Food USA Ark of Taste.
  • Size: Medium.
  • Color: Black with wattles.
  • Temperament: Good-natured. Docile.
  • Notes: Endangered breed. Very good foragers. Hardy. Mulefoot hogs have fused toes forming a “hoof”… hence the name.

 

Ossabaw Island Hog

Ossabaw Island Hog

Ossabaw Island Hog

Ossabaw Island Hog

18. Ossabaw Island Hog

  • Origin: USA. Ossabaw Island, Georgia. Descending from hogs brought by early Spanish explorers. This is a USA landrace breed (meaning it was developed over time, adapting to its new environment on the southern USA coastal island).
  • Type: Meat (really, this is a feral type).
  • Flavor: “Spicy”, red meat. Delicious! On the Slow Food USA Ark of Taste.
  • Size: Small (adults 100-250 lbs).
  • Color: Black or Black and White spotted with dense hair.
  • Temperament: Good-natured. Friendly.
  • Notes:  Endangered breed. This breed is over 400 years old, with no additional genetics. Able to tolerate salty conditions. Very good foragers with a “thrifty” gene that allows them to efficiently pack on weight. Slow growing. Can have a high fat content if inactive.

 

Pietrain

Pietrain

Pietrain

Pietrain

19. Pietrain

  • Origin: Belgium. Pietrain village.
  • Type: Meat.
  • Flavor: Very lean meat.
  • Size: Medium toLarge.
  • Color: White with Black or Gray Spots.
  • Temperament: No reliable information can be found.
  • Notes:  Unique double-muscling, but the gene that causes this excessive muscle production also make the Pietrain susceptible to many health problems, most notably Porcine Stress Syndrome (causes sudden death with stress).

 

Poland China

Poland China

Poland China

Poland China

20. Poland China

  • Origin: USA. Warren and Butler Counties, Ohio.
  • Type: Meat.
  • Flavor: Lean but well-marbled meat.
  • Size: Medium to Large.
  • Color: Black with a white snout and boots and tail.
  • Temperament: Docile.
  • Notes:  Fast-maturing, hardy, and rugged. Does not do well in confinement. Common as a terminal sire (i.e. used as the male contributor for hybrid meat hogs).

 

Red Wattle

Red Wattle

Red Wattle

Red Wattle

21. Red Wattle

  • Origin: New Caledonia (South Pacific Island) originally, but brought to the USA through New Orleans. The breed was developed from descendants of these feral pigs found in east Texas.
  • Type: Meat.
  • Flavor: Fine-textured, luscious meat. Delicious! On the Slow Food USA Ark of Taste.
  • Size: Medium to Large (600-1,500 lbs/270–680 kg).
  • Color: Red with wattles.
  • Temperament: Good-natured.
  • Notes:  Endangered species. Highly efficient foragers. Very hardy. Very adaptable to various climates.

 

Spotted Pigs

Spotted Pigs

Spotted Piglets

Spotted Piglets

22. Spotted

  • Origin: USA. Indiana. Cross of Indiana landrace, Poland China, and Gloucestershire Old Spot hogs.
  • Type: Meat.
  • Flavor: Tasty, lean meat.
  • Size: Large.
  • Color: White with black spots.
  • Temperament: Good-natured.
  • Notes:  Good feed to weight ratio. Very hardy. Do not do well in confinement. Used to be called the “Spotted Poland China” before 1960. Common as a terminal sire (i.e. used as the male contributor for hybrid meat hogs).

 

Tamworth

Tamworth

Tamworth

Tamworth 

23. Tamworth

  • Origin: Britain, probably Ireland. Named for village of Tamworth in Staffordshire, England.
  • Type: Meat
  • Flavor: Firm, moist, well-marbled but lean meat. One of the best bacon breeds.
  • Size: Medium.
  • Color: Red.
  • Temperament: Good-natured. Social.
  • Activity: Very active.
  • Notes:  Very good forager. Very hardy. Have disease resistance. Does not do well in confinement.

 

Vietnamese Potbelly

Vietnamese Potbelly

Vietnamese Potbelly

Vietnamese Potbelly 

24. Vietnamese Potbelly

  • Origin: Vietnam.
  • Type: Meat.
  • Flavor: Flavorful. Can have a lot of fat is allowed/desired – very good for bacon. Being a small pig, they produce select cuts of meat and a lot of sausage and bacon.
  • Size: Small. 70-150 lbs (32-68 kg), but can get well over 200 lbs (90 kg) depending on the genetics.
  • Color: Black or Black and White.
  • Temperament: Very good-natured.
  • Notes:  Common as pets in the United States.

 

Yorkshire

Yorkshire

Yorkshires can get very big!

Yorkshires can get very big! 

25. Yorkshire

  • Origin: England. Yorkshire (York County).
  • Type: Meat.
  • Flavor: Lean meat with little back fat.
  • Size: Large to Very Large.
  • Color: White. May have small, black spots.
  • Temperament: Good-natured.
  • Notes:  Also known as Large Whites in England. Very good foragers. Considered excellent mothers who wean large numbers of piglets. Many modern breeds have Yorkshire blood.

 

 

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