The Middle White was first
recognised as a breed in 1852 in most unusual circumstances. At the
Keighley Agricultural Show in West Yorkshire, Joseph Tuley, a weaver
by trade, exhibited several of his famous Large White sows along
with other pigs. The judges could not agree, as some of the animals
were not considered sufficiently large for the class, and “as the
merits of these pigs were so extraordinary, entirely forbidding
recourse to disqualification, a committee was summoned, whereupon
the judges declaring that, if removed from the Large White class the
pigs would not be eligible for the Small White class”, it was
decided to provide a third class and to call it the “Middle Breed”.
In this way the “Middle White breed was established.
The Small White had been developed for showing and derived from
crossing the local pigs with imported Chinese and Siamese pigs, from
which it inherited the dished face, so much the characteristic of
the Middle White.
In further establishing the Middle White breed, Tuley took a second
cross with a boar of the Small White breed and females from the best
type of Large White in his herd. The resulting progeny were as heavy
as the pure Large White, although in type and lightness of offal and
head they much resembled the best of the Small White breed. The
Small White breed became extinct in 1912.
Due to the “new” breed’s eating qualities, its early maturing and
its very easy management, the Middle White went from strength to
strength. When the National Pig Breeders Association was founded in
1884 the Middle White along with the Large White and Tamworth were
the three foundation breeds and their first Herd books were
published that same year.
The Middle White remained very popular with butchers everywhere,
particularly in London where the breed was known as “the London
Porker” as the carcases could be cut into the small joints favoured
in the first part of 20th Century.
The Second World war and meat rationing until 1954 led to a
concentration on the “bacon” pig and the specialist pork pig was
sidelined. Along with other “pork” breeds the numbers of Middle
Whites declined sharply during this period. Fortunately a number of
dedicated breeders ensured the continuation of the breed. In recent
years the demand for meat with good eating qualities has once again
led to Middle White pork appearing on the menus of top London
restaurants, with “glowing reports” regarding its outstanding
Middle White breeding stock has been exported world wide, and the
breed is particularly appreciated in Japan where they are known as
“Middle Yorks”. The Middle White has many assets. It is very easily
managed. It is docile and can make a contribution to cross breeding
programmes to improve eating quality.
The Middle White Pig Breeders Club established in 1990 has as its
Patron the well-known chef Antony Worrall Thompson whose enthusiasm
for the breed has led him to breed his own Middle White pigs.