Our Rare Breed Pigs

The Rare Breeds Centre is the only such centre in Kent and is approved by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST).

What do you call a pig?

Swine, pig and hog are names used for pigs. A female is called a Sow and if she has not had piglets yet, she is called a Gilt. A male pig is called a Boar. The domestic pig traces its ancestry to the wild boar, an animal that was domesticated about 13,000 years ago in the Tigris River basin area.

This is a test - My name is Trevor.

How many piglets are there in a litter?

A litter is normally between 7 to 12 piglets. Sows farrow and produce litters about twice a year.

Why do pigs like mud?

Pigs like to cool off in mud. They don¹t have sweat glands and prefer cold to heat. But despite rolling in mud, pigs are clean animals.

All UK pig breeds are on the RBST watchlist and are highlighted in purple.

Gloucester Old Spot: Sometimes called the Orchard or Cottager’s pig, they were once kept in cider and Perry pear orchards and also on dairy farms. Lucky pigs. The breed hails from the southern shores of the river Severn in the south west and it is thought that the Gloucester Old Spot was derived from crossing the Gloucester pig with an unimproved sandy-coloured Berkshire. The first pedigree record of pig breeds began in 1885. No pedigree spotted breed was recorded before 1913, but the breed is believed to be much older than that. There must be at least one spot on its body for a pig to be accepted in the registry of the breed.

Saddleback: A minority breed, the British Saddleback was established as a breed in 1967 when two improved breeds with similar markings - the Essex and the Wessex, were amalgamated under a single breed umbrella. Even now, there remain two distinct strains within the breed. Non-farmers may know the breed from the TV series 'Jimmy's Farm', where Jimmy Dougherty set up his new farming enterprise based around 'Essex' pigs. Considered hardy pigs and good grazers, they also make good mothers.

Berkshire: Thought to be one of the oldest pig breeds, the Berkshire is classified 'at risk'. Our first Berkshire pigs were a gift from the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie. The breed we know today is believed to have originated in the Thames Valley near Wantage in 1790. Other histories said an earlier Berkshire breed became popular in the 17th century when discovered by Cromwell's troops near Reading during the Civil War. Whatever the history, earlier pigs were large and tawny with black spots. By the early 1800s it had developed and was well covered with short black hair, often with white hair on the legs, faces and tails tips. Today’s Berkshires are early-maturing pigs. In the middle of the 20th century, the Berkshire breed became almost extinct, but with the introduction of new blood from Australia, New Zealand and the USA, the breed has made a good recovery in recent years.

Tamworth: This ginger coloured pig with long legs and pricked ears originated on Sir Robert Peel's estate in Tamworth, Staffordshire where estate pigs were interbred with Irish Grazer pigs around 1812. Sometimes referred to as the 'aristocrat' of the pig world, it is the closest breed we have today to the original European swine who roamed the forests of Europe, due largely to the lack of interbreeding with non-European stock. The breed is on the 'at risk' category. Tamworths can be energetic but are far from difficult. Those who know the breed well regard it as a sweet, loving pig that likes to make a lot of noise.

British Lop: The British Lop is a West Country breed which originated around the Tavistock area as late as the 20th century and remained largely undiscovered until the Rare Breeds Survival Trust was established in 1973. It was listed as one of the six rare pig breeds recognised by the RBST thus increasing interest in the breed. Yet the Lop has a great deal going for it. Docile and easy to manage, it is generally thought to be the nicest natured of all pigs. It makes a wonderful mother and is hardy enough to live outdoors.

The Middle White: In 1852, Mr Joseph Tulley, a weaver from Keighley in Yorkshire presented his pigs at an agricultural show but his pigs were refused entry to the Large White class as they were considered too small. Tulley had crossed Large White sows with Small White boars. His pigs were however thought good enough to be classified as a new breed. The Middle White was born. It became a popular breed during the 19th and early 20th centuries and is a rare but distinctive pig. A short snout makes it ideal for grazing as opposed to rooting, where it obtains a considerable amount of its dietary requirements. The sow is a caring mother and the breed is generally placid and easy to handle. It is an ideal outdoor pig and does not need elaborate housing or fencing.

Large Black: The Large Black had its origins in the Old English Hog of the 16th and 17th centuries. The breed originated from an amalgamation between black pigs from south west England and those of East Anglia. Described as "of gigantic size" the breed became more compact over time. Their hardiness and ability to withstand sunburn made the Large Black suitable for a wide variety of climates. By 1935 they had been exported to well over 30 countries. However, by the 1960s it was almost extinct.

Mangalitza: Not a UK Rare Breed

Although we have two curly-haired blond Mangalitza pigs on the farm, this is not a UK rare breed. The breed was created in 1833 by the Hungarian Royal Archduke Josef and is easily recognised by its hairy coat. Unlike all popular breeds of hogs, which are 'meat-type', the Mangalitza is an extreme 'lard-type' breed.The curly-haired breed has been making a comeback in Europe in recent years, after it nearly died out by the 1980s because of the general demand for leaner pork.

Our two pigs are called Si and Dave after the Hairy Bikers television chefs, and they love food just as much.

Photos by Greg Allen

Sow and piglets

Gloucester Old Spot

In 2010, the pork produced from Gloucester Old Spot pigs became a protected food. It was the first 'species' in the world to be given Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) status by the European Union and its name now sits with other protected speciality foods such as Cornish clotted cream and Melton Mowbray pork pies.

Folklore has it that the spots on the Gloucester Old Spots back originate from bruises caused by falling fruit.

Saddleback pig

Cinderella, a six week old Saddleback pig developed a fear of walking in mud. This condition is called 'Mysophobia'. Her owners made Cinderella pig special rubber boots into which her trotters fitted to encourage her to walk in the mud.

Berkshire Pig

Berkshires are also bred in Japan where their meat is known as Kurobuta. Not so long ago, the authorities in Japan were surprised to discover that there was more of the prized Berkshire pork in Japanese shops than there were Berkshire pigs to supply them. DNA testing was introduced to discover which was the fraudulent pork and which was genuine Berkshire pork.

Tamworth basking

The most famous story about the Tamworth of recent years involved our Rare Breeds Centre. Butch and Sundance were two young Tamworth cross pigs. In 1998, on their way to slaughter in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, they escaped. They were on the run for a week and made headline news. They were caught but by then they had captured the hearts of the nation. Bought by the Daily Mail, Butch and Sundance were re-homed with us. Butch died in 2010 and Sundance in 2011 after leading long and happy lives here on the farm.

British Lop Pig at a Summer Fun Day.

Middle White Pig

There have been many famous pigs in British fiction. One of the most famous was Old Major, a prized Middle White boar who is a key character in George Orwell's novel 1984.

Large Black

Pepper, a Large Black pig was used to sleeping with a rabbit in a shed at his Margate home, but when someone left the shed door open he decided he'd had enough of the rabbit's company and set off to walk into town. He was cornered in the High Street by a police officer and spent the night at Margate Police Station headquarters.

Si and Dave the Mangalitza pigs

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Set on a beautiful 100 acre farm in Woodchurch near Ashford, Kent, the Rare Breeds Centre was founded by COT in 1992. COT provides homes and life skills opportunities on the farm and in other locations to people with learning disabilities

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Rare Breeds Survival Trust

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