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The History of the BPA:
The Foundation of Pedigree Pig Breeding


Sanders Spencer - the father of modern pedigree pig breedingThe National Pig Breeders Association was founded in 1884 at the instigation of Mr Sanders Spencer. In the early 1880ís he saw the need for effective organisation amongst pig breeders. In collaboration with many eminent exhibitors and breeders of the time he laid the foundations of the NPBA and was appointed Honorary Secretary and Editor at the inaugural meeting. Those breeders who launched the NPBA in 1884 adopted a basic principle: they dedicated the association to the improvement of the breed of swine in the UK.

This mood is reflected in the introduction to the association's first herd book published on May 1, 1885. "I do not consider it advisable to introduce any controversial matter as to the superiority or antiquity of the Berkshire, Black, Tamworth or Yorkshire breeds," wrote the association's hon. secretary. "Neither will I attempt to prove that benefits are to be derived from a careful record of the pedigrees of the animals in which we may be particularly interested . . . the great success which has attended the various herd and stud books has completely settled that question." However, there could be doubts among some breeders, he suggested, that no standard of points existed to give a correct description of the variety of pig of which they were "especial admirers".

There followed a scale of points covering the main characteristics of the pig from head to hams to hair. Various additional references were also made relating to the individual breeds allowing "the reader to add as many of these as he pleases to the general standard of points."

Interestingly, although the association was formed with three breeds, the herd book published just a year after the formation included Berkshires, Blacks and Small Whites in addition to the three founder breeds. It is also worth noting that all could not have been easy for that first editing committee which laboured to produce the 106-page volume The preface says it all: "It is well-known that great difficulties are generally encountered in the compilation of the First Volume of any Stud or Herd Book. From various causes, greater difficulties than usual have been met with in bringing out this small volume, for which a favourable reception is asked."

There followed a scale of points covering the main characteristics of the pig from head to hams to hair. Various additional references were also made relating to the individual breeds allowing "the reader to add as many of these as he pleases to the general standard of points."

Interestingly, although the association was formed with three breeds, the herd book published just a year after the formation included Berkshires, Blacks and Small Whites in addition to the three founder breeds. It is also worth noting that all could not have been easy for that first editing committee which laboured to produce the 106-page volume The preface says it all: "It is well-known that great difficulties are generally encountered in the compilation of the First Volume of any Stud or Herd Book. From various causes, greater difficulties than usual have been met with in bringing out this small volume, for which a favourable reception is asked."

  A Sanders Spencer Large White boar, 'Holywell Jimmy'

A Tamworth pig from Mr G Allender

The Famous Middle White sow 'Miss Emily', the first 'Pig of the Year'
 

The Three Founder Breeds:
TOP: A Sanders Spencer Large White boar, 'Holywell Jimmy' MIDDLE: A Tamworth pig from Mr G Allender BOTTOM: The famous Middle White sow 'Miss Emily', the first 'Pig of the Year'

The honorary secretary who drew up the list of standard points was one of the pioneers of modern pig breeding, Sanders Spencer of Holywell near Huntingdon. He founded the Holywell Herd of Large Whites in 1863 with the pigs being subsequently run in conjunction with a herd of animals from the same bloodline only with distinctive snouts and smaller dimensions - the Middle White. This Middle White line was founded on a sow called Busy Bee, a direct descendant of original Yorkshire stock.

One of the earliest exports to DenmarkBut it was the Large White that began to make the biggest strides in popularity - with Holywell stock playing a significant part in the improvement of Danish pigs towards the end of the last century. It was, according to reports of the time, not uncommon for shipments of 20 pigs or more to be sent from Holywell to Denmark.

And it was this surge of interest in upgrading the standards of pigs generally that led Alee Hobson, who was secretary of the association for 25 years, to write in the jubilee year (1934) issue of the NPBA Pig Breeders' Annual:
"Improvement is a term which needs to be used relatively; but when change in conformation has been carried out concurrently with the improvement in growth and the proportion of higher-priced cuts, there can be no question of the wisdom which prompted Sanders Spencer and other pioneers to establish the NPBA."

In those later years of the 19th century, pedigree pig breeding reflected a strong interest among the aristocracy. The first president of the association was the Earl of Ellesmere, who was followed by Lord Moreton MP, of Tortworth Court, Falfield. The vice-presidents in 1885 were James Howard MP of Clapham Park, Bedford and Sir W. Throckmorton, Buckland, Faringdon. Breeders, however, were scattered throughout the country with the first Herd Book showing addresses from Suffolk to Somerset, Lincolnshire to Cheshire, and London to Leeds. As for the actual number of members, by January 1885 the association list showed a total of 109 pedigree breeders forming the nucleus of an organisation that was to grow in strength and achievements as the years progressed.

 
 

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