Pepper and Pearl are nearly two years old.
If you are a student of matters porcine, then you will discover all sorts of theories as to the origin ofBritain’s only red coloured breed of pig, mostly concerning imports from exotic climes such as Barbados. But the truth is perhaps a little dull but much more worthy – the Tamworth is almost certainly the truest indigenous breed of these islands.
All native breeds are descended from the European wild boar, Sus Scrofa, and throughout all but the last 200 or 300 years, it was the domesticated version of this fine swine that provided pork and bacon to the British people. But the domesticated wild boar of 300 years ago left something to be desired as the industrial revolution meant that more efficient farming was necessary. And thus oriental pigs carried on merchant vessels to supply the crew with fresh meat were traded at some British ports and crossed with the slower maturing, less prolific native pigs of the day. The result was a rapid improvement.
The level of infusion of Chinese and other genes is reckoned to be quantifiable in the degree of how short and squashed the snout is. Using this simple if crude device, we can see that the Middle White is most influenced, (its antecedent the Small White even more so), and the Tamworth thus being the closest to the old British forest pig.
The ‘need’ for exotic theories was to account for the red coloured hair, unique among British breeds. Yet the wild boar has a good deal of red in its colouration and the red gene can be found to dominate in a number of out crosses so it is not so unusual.
The European DNA study of the inter-relationship between breeds found the Tamworth out on a limb compared to other breeds tested in the UK. This could indeed be seen to argue in favour of exotic predecessors but equally backs the belief that theTamworth is the purest British breed.
Biddy is our new Saddleback pig and she comes to us from East Sutton Prison, with her 11 piglets. Come and see them in the main pigsty in the farm yard. The British Saddleback is a striking animal being black with a white unbroken band over the shoulders and down to both front feet.The British Saddleback was one of Britain’s mainstream breeds up to the 1970s. Renowned as a top quality breeding animal, they were very popular for crossing with a white breed to produce ‘blue pigs’ -white pigs with irregular blue/grey markings – which were sold to swill feeders in commercial pork operations. They are now classified as a rare breed pig.