The most common breeds of pig used in Australian pork production are the Large White, Landrace and Duroc.
The Large White was developed in England in the late 1700's and has become well established as a major breed in most commercial pig breeding countries.
This breed has it origins in a small chinese pig crossed with white pigs from Yorkshire and nearby counties. This cross formed the basis of the Small White, Middle White and Large White breeds.
The Large White became popular in the 19th century after a pair were exhibited at the Windsor Royal Show in 1851. The breed was introduced into Australia late in the 19th century.
The Large White is now the most popular breed in Australia and used extensively in commercial, intensive operations.
The Large White is free from black hair, an attribute sort after in a commercial operation, and are a hardy breed. The sows are known for their large litters, great maternal instincts and excellent milk production. Large Whites are commonly used in crossbreeding and the most popular cross in one with the Landrace. This cross is commonly used as a sow line in many herds.
The Landrace originated in Denmark from a cross with native pigs and the Large White. The Danish spent years improving the breed under strict government control and did not allow export of any live animals until World Word II. The first Landrace exported went to Sweden and with further breeding from these pigs, the eventually reached England and Ireland.
The Landrace was purposely bred to adapt to intensive housing conditions.
The first Landrace arrived in Australia from Ireland in 1958. It is now the second most popular pig breed in this country.
The Landrace is also free of black hair. They have lop ears, excellent hams and long middles. A fault in the Landrace, nervous disorders such as porcine stress syndrome, still occur in some strains of the breed today.
The Landrace gained popularity as intensive housing became more common. The breed also improved carcass quality producing a larger eye muscle. The Landrace produces higher weaning weights but is not a prolific breeder and is a little fatter that the Large White.
The modern Duroc originated from crosses of two red breeds from the United States, the Jersey Red and the Duroc from New York, producing a much more compact animal that the rangy and very large Jersey Red.
The Duroc first arrived in Australia in 1922 but had a short lived popularity and became extinct here in the 1940's. Durocs were re-introduced from new bloodlines from New Zealand and Canada.
The Duroc is a very large pig with small lop ears. They are reddish in colour, varying from brassy gold to a deep burgundy.
It is generally the duroc boar that is used in commercial cross breeding programs with the Landrace / Large White sows. The Duroc produces a heavy carcass and this cross works well for bacon production.
For such a large breed, the litter size of the pure duroc sow is quite small and for this reason they are not used in commercial operations. A duroc cross sow will perform much better and are an ideal choice for outdoor herds.
They have such course black hair and tend to be fatter. The Hampshire crosses are ok as long as a pure white boar is used over the sow. Any colour in the boars background will quickly surface otherwise and you will have a lot of black piglets. A real problem with the Hampshire, as with the Saddleback, is that this coat pattern is very easy to produce in a crossbred pig and many animals presented as being these rare breeds are not. Check out the parentage of any rare breeds you buy.
Such an attractive pig, it is very easy to convince yourself you must have them. What you must know about the Berkshire is that they have a very different way of laying down fat than any other breed. They can be a very fat pig and their meat is also very marbled. They are not a pig suited to the general butcher trade, rather, they are more readily accepted in restaurants and sell well at Farmers Markets. They also have black hair and again that is an issue for the general market. Be prepared to do the hard sell if you decide Berkshires are your pig of choice. You really need to understand this breed to be able grown them well and place them in the market. Like all other black breeds though, you can use a pure white boar over them to produce white piglets and far less of the marbling that occurs in pure Berkshires.
English Large Black
The Large Black, also known as the Cornish or Lop Eared Black, originated in England. This breed will only do well in an outdoor environment. They are excellent foragers and make the best use of pasture of all the pig breeds. They have large litters with outstanding milk production.
The Large Blacks have very long, lop ears that actually obstruct their hearing and vision. As their name suggests, they are extremely large with a very wide body. They are a slow, docile pig and this can probably be attributed to their size and obstructed vision.
This breed has black skin and hair. Combined with the fact that they will not do well in an intensive environment and that they are one of the fatter pig breeds, they lost favour with the advent of intensive farming. They are also very slow growing.
The Large Black sow is an excellent choice in a free range cross breeding program, but unfortunately the very small genetic pool available has led to some inbreeding that has affected the fertility of this breed.
The Tamworth Pig is said to be descended from the wild hog resident in the Midland Counties of England and domesticated around 300 years ago.
According to the Rare Breeds Trust, "The Hawkesbury Agricultural College first imported Tamworths into Australia from England in the 1890s. The Australian Pig Breeder's Association (previously known as the Yorkshire and Berkshire Society) first listed Tamworths in their herd book in 1914. The most numbers of recorded Tamworths in Australia were recorded between 1950 and 1960, where numbers reached in the vicinity of 1000."
This breed is now classified as rare.
Tamworth pigs have a very long straight snout and narrow head with a lean body. They almost have a 'feral' pig appearance. Their coat varies in colour from gold to red and does moult in summer. Like most original breeds, the Tamworth is an excellent forager and requires an outdoor environment.
Tamworths are extremely hard on fencing and that long narrow snout is excellent for digging. Of all the breeds, this one will be the hardest on the environment.
This is another very slow growing, fat pig with course black hair. The Wessex saddleback is enjoying some popularity at the moment as it has featured on a few lifestyle programs on television. The reality is though that these pigs are very hard to sell to butchers. Dont get caught up in the hype or it may cost you dearly. Registered Saddlebacks are very expensive. They are best suited to the hobbyist looking for something that looks nice in the paddock and will keep the home freezer well stocked. If you are considering a commercial free range operation and plan to earn your income from pigs, this is not the breed for you. They would do ok in a crossbred program.
Wessex Saddleback, rare breed pigs, english large black, landrace, large white, hampshire, duroc, Saddlebacks