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Our Unique Genetic Heritage

In the 19th Century the early pioneers of animal breeding began selecting from the indigenous pig populations in their respective areas. This resulted in a number of established breeds in different regions. Some of these breeds were crossed with imported pigs whilst others were developed purely from native stock but in all cases they were well established as fixed breeds before the end of Queen Victoria’s reign. The individual characteristics and histories of these breeds are described in their own breed leaflets. Here we look at the role these breeds play in today’s pig industry and some of the historical factors that resulted in their adopting the mantle of traditional breeds.
 

The Decline of Traditional Breeds

Most of the pedigree breeds that we still have today had a significant role in mainstream commercial production until the beginning of the 1930’s. Each breed had been developed with particular characteristics to suit a regional market or production system. During the 1930’s the popularity of the Middle White and the Berkshire breeds in Great Britain declined considerably. Until then they had been popular for crossing to produce both bacon and pork. For bacon production they were however replaced to a considerable extent by Large Whites either purebred or used on Wessex and Essex sows. During war time and afterwards up to 1952 the Wessex and Essex breeds strengthened their position considerably aided by the their reputation for hardiness and foraging. From 1952 onwards, however, they also lost ground to the Large White.  The following tables give a snapshot of sows registered and boars licensed in 1954.

Breed

Boars licensed

%

Large White

16,751

76 %

Landrace

2,032

9.%

Welsh

1,363

6.%

Wessex

701

3.%

Essex

488

2.%

Large Black

269

1.%

Middle White

67

0.3%

Berkshire

97

0.4%

Tamworth

72

0.3%

Gloucestershire Old Spots

44

0.2%

Long White Lop Eared

29

0.1%

Cumberland

3

 

Yorkshire Blue and White

3

 

Dorset Gold tip

2

 

Lincolnshire Curly Coat

2

 

Oxford Sandy & Black

1

 

 

21,924

 

Breed

Sows registered

%

Large White

25,289

59%

Landrace

1,719

4.%

Welsh

3,736

9%

Wessex

5,729

13%

Essex

3,716

9%

Large Black

1,926

5%

Middle White

208

0.5%

Berkshire

321

0.8%

Tamworth

163

0.4%

Total

42,807

 

ABOVE: Sows registered in 1954
RIGHT: Boards registered in 1954

 

 
 

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