Cute and charismatic (and pretty tasty too), pigs can’t fail to be one of the best loved of British farm animals. They also have a long and fascinating history in the UK, and most of our native pigs are now rare — all the more reason to appreciate our native breeds. But though many of us might have heard of a Tamworth and an Oxford sandy and black, how many of us would be able to tell which is which? Here is our guide to the most popular, and rare, native pig breeds in Britain, including how to identify and key characteristics.
Gloucester Old Spot
The Gloucester Old Spot, first registered in 1914 and originally bred in Berkeley Vale in Gloucestershire, is a common white coloured pig with distinctive black spots. Known for their very gentle nature and character with good mothering abilities, the breed is hardy and easy to handle. Believed to have grazed in the cider and perry orchards of the South West, the breed was also known as ‘The Orchard Pig’. Now reared across Britain, the breed is widely respected for its good quality meat.
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Considered one of Britain’s oldest pig breeds, the Tamworth has a ginger coat, elongated snout and long legs. Known for producing fine bacon, the breed is good to rear in woodland locations and have a placid temperament and active character. Now considered as a vulnerable breed by the Rare Breed Survival Trust, the Tamworth’s numbers have fallen in recent years with less than 300 breeding sows registered in Britain.
This large pig has a distinctive black body with a white band around its middle and front legs. Sometimes featuring a white nose, hind legs and tail, the breed was created in the 20th century and produces fine pork and bacon.
The large white, originally bred in Yorkshire during the 19th century, is a large domestic pig with a lean body renowned for its bacon and little fat. Widely used in cross breeding, it is a very popular commercial breed, now bred worldwide.
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The large black pig was bred in Devon and is Britain’s only entirely black pig. Large sows can weigh an average of 300kg and boars can reach 350kg. Known for producing succulent and tasty meat, especially Parma ham, the breed can be grown to various weights for different food products.
The Welsh pig, native to the area it is named after, is a white medium sized pig with a long, lean body. Originating from the 1870’s, the Welsh pig is an excellent breed for cross breeding and rearing new offspring. The Welsh is particularly muscly and strong, with average weights of 200kg for sows and 250kg for boars. The meat sourced from a Welsh Pig includes lean pork chops and tender ham.
Named after its large ears, which hang over its face, the British Lop was originally bred in the South West of England for pork meat. With a long and large frame, the British Lop provides lean, tasty meat. However, in 1973 the Rare Breeds Survival Trust classed the breed as vulnerable.
The Berkshire is a medium sized pig with a black body and short white legs. Featuring a small snout and white patches on its face and tail, the Berkshire has a long heritage – it’s the oldest recorded breed in Britain. Producing litter sizes of an average of 10 piglets, the breed is known for its good maternal instincts and docile nature.
Oxford Sandy and Black
The Oxford Sandy and Black pig was established 300 years ago in Oxfordshire. With a rust coloured skin and black patches across its body, the pig is particularly attractive and stands out amongst the other British native breeds. Producing tender meat with strong flavour, meat from the Oxford Sandy and Black is often used in bacon, ham and pork products. After recovering from near extinction, the breed is now protected by rare breed associations and dedicated Oxford Sandy and Black breeders.