White pigs (part three)

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Coloured pigs (part one)
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The English midlands in the eighteenth century was the heartland for slouch-eared, splodgy-coloured pigs. There was, for example, a large hefty spotted curly-coated Warwickshire pig, a red-and-black or brindle Shropshire pig (as well as a better-quality Shropshire white), wire- coated black-and-white spotted pigs brought across the border from Wales, blue-and-white Cheshire pigs, red-and-white pigs in Herefordshire, and a mixture of white, coloured and spotted Staffordshire pigs that were either large and slouch-eared or smaller and prick-eared.

Another pig was widespread in the Midlands - and in Yorkshire, Devon, Norfolk and elsewhere - by the 1780s. This was the Berkshire, and soon almost any good-quality pig was being crossed with the Berkshire to improve the local type.

Coloured pigs (part one)

British Saddlebacks, a very useful outdoor breed that is increasing in popularity.

For a long while the old Berkshire was not uniform enough to be called a breed. It could be almost any colour: black-and-white, black-and-sandy, reddish brown with black spots, and so on. Some had large lop ears falling over the eyes; some had prick ears. Most had shortish legs, large bones, a long body and a great propensity to make fat - a considerable merit at the time. The type probably originated around Wantage, now in Oxfordshire but then in Berkshire.

In the 1820s the Berkshire was described as having a long and crooked snout, the muzzle turning upwards; it had heavy hanging ears and a long body and was of great size. Then Lord Barrington and others started to improve it, by crossing it with the Asian pigs, and it eventually became prick- eared, shorter in the body, finer-boned but still quite a large breed. The colour remained varied: in 1847 it was black-and-white and sandy spotted, or sandy or whitish brown, spotted regularly with dark brown or black spots. Some animals had the white 'points' (possibly from the Siamese) that later became the breed's trademark. In due course the main colour was black. At one stage its face became very dished: show-ring breeders liked the snubby oriental look, and snubbiness also deterred rootling.

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