If you had a large, black pig, what name would you give it? Well, when the first breed society was developed in England, they decided to keep it simple and called them “Large Black” hogs. They became very popular on small farms because they were docile, easy to keep and got much of their nutrition from the grass and forage provided by nature. Originally there were two distinct breeds in England; one in the east and the other in the west. One had dense, long hair and the other had short, thin hair. Today’s pigs show both traits even within the same litter. The hogs were imported into the United States early in the twentieth century and did well on a number of farms. However, in the 1960s when the pork market started to favor leaner, lighter colored meat the marbled pork of the Large Black fell out of favor. By the 1990′s the Large Black pig had become critically endangered. Today it is listed as “Vulnerable” by England’s Rare Breeds Survival Trust and “Critical” by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.
Now, while we are proud of our efforts in the Americas to improve the breed, we are really amateurs compared to our friends in the U.K and Australia. So let’s hear from the pros:
From the British Pig Association: With its lop ears and long, deep body, the Large Black is Britain’s only all-black pig. Extremely docile, and very hardy, it is ideally suited to simple outdoor systems. These characteristics, coupled with its black skin, make the Large Black ideal for a wide range of climatic conditions. In fact, by 1935, pigs of this breed had been exported to well over 30 countries.
The breed originates from the Old English Hog established in the 16th and 17th centuries. Described by Parkinson in 1810: “They are distinguished by their gigantic size, they are the largest of the kind I have ever seen, and as perfect a make as possible in pigs; their heads are large, with very long ears hanging down on each side of the face, so they can scarcely see their way.” By the late 1880′s there were two distinct types of Large Black, one to be found in East Anglia and the other in Devon and Cornwall. However the founding of the Large Black Pig Society in 1889 led to an increase in the exchange of stock between breeders in the two regions.
In the early part of the 20th Century, Large Blacks were widely distributed throughout the country and were frequently crossed with Large Whites and Middle Whites to produce bacon and pork pigs. The Large Black breed was also very successful in the show ring at this time; at Smithfield in 1919, the Supreme Championship was awarded to a Large Black sow that subsequently sold for 700 guineas. The same year the breed outnumbered all other breeds at the Royal Show when 121 Large Black pigs were exhibited.
A change in demand by the meat trade and a developing prejudice against coloured pigs led to a severe decline in numbers throughout the 1960′s.Today Large Blacks can be found throughout the British Isles, mainly in small herds, some of which were established well before World War II. Large Black sows are renowned as excellent mothers with exceptional milking ability. They are able to rear sizeable litters off simple rations and a placid temperament ensures they can be contained behind a single strand of electric fencing.
Current demand for meat produced from traditional breeds of pigs raised extensively is now promoting a growth in the number of breeders keeping Large Blacks as this particular breed is much appreciated for its succulent taste and eating quality.
Currently the breed has 6 boar lines and 24 sow lines.
Large Black Hog, a rare heritage breed, is our heritage stock.