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Coloured pigs (part two)

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Coloured pigs (part two)
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The Berkshire became the favourite pig of the nineteenth century, widely used to improve other British pigs and to produce crossbreds for slaughter, but its popularity declined during the twentieth century until it became a rare breed.

Coloured pigs (part two)

This 'British Boar' was originally painted by Edwin Landseer in 1818. The boar belonged to С. C. Western Esq., MP for Essex.

Today the Berkshire is an attractive-looking prick-eared breed - said to have a good sense of humour - and has improved considerably to meet more modern tastes in recent years. Although it is black-haired (with touches of white on the legs, face and tail switch), its carcass 'dresses out' white, and the flesh is fine, with a high proportion of lean to fat; and it matures early. The sows make excellent easy-going mothers with plenty of milk for their litters, which average nine piglets.

Coloured pigs (part two)

Classic painting by William Shiels of a Berkshire (reproduced in David Low's series of livestock illustrations in 1842).This sow was bred in Warwickshire by Mr. Loud of Mackstockmill. Her colouring is not seen in today's Berkshire, except for the white socks and tassel.

Coloured pigs (part two)

Evolution of the Berkshire improved with Chinese blood. (left) The old lop-eared spotted type; (above) an 1845 cross between Chinese boar and old Berkshire sow — note the prick ears and the black, white and sandy spotted coat; and the 'Improved Berkshire', now black with white touches (ideally four white feet, a white spot between the eyes, and a few white hairs behind each shoulder), in this case developed by Mr. Sadler, of Bentham, near Cricklade (Wiltshire), from stock originally obtained from Lord Barrington (died 1829), the great improver of the old Berkshire.

Coloured pigs (part two)

Coloured pigs (part two)

Peasant pigs, one a Berkshire¬like pricked-eared black and the other a spotted lop (the latter not to be confused with the spaniel-like dog on the far right).

Closely related to the original Berkshire was the Tamworth, initially a red-and-black Staffordshire pig, which is said to have been one of the few British pigs (if not the only one) not to be crossed with Asian pigs in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. While the Berkshire breeders did their best to lose the redness of their breed, the Tamworth breeders did their best to retain it, and by the 1820s most Tamworths were a whole-coloured deep red or mahogany (skin as well as coat). The colour softened during the nineteenth century and is now a golden red, but the breed retained a long snout, upright ears, a long lean body that made superb bacon, and legs that apparently enabled it to jump over any barrier.

Coloured pigs (part two)

The Berkshire, now black with white points, was the most successful and widely used of the improved pigs in nineteenth-century Britain, and popular with the aristocracy. It is now a rare breed but is sometimes used as a sire on commercial sows to produce piglets for outdoor rearing.

The unusual colour of the Tamworth has led to endless speculation about its origins: an Indian jungle boar imported by Sir Francis Lawley; a West Indian boar crossed by Sir Robert Peel with an Irish Grazier sow; a much earlier red pig from Barbados crossed with local Wiltshire pigs; a West African Guinea hog (descended from Portuguese pigs), and so on. But such a colour does not require an exotic source, even though this is now Britain's only native red breed.

Coloured pigs (part two)

The adventurous golden red Tamworth is one of Britain's most striking pig breeds, with a distinct lack of Chinese influence.

The Tamworth is a talkative pig of considerable character and is another of the rare breeds: it reached a peak of popularity in the early 1950s, but numbers had dropped close to extinction by 1973. Today the numbers are increasing — and the breed received an unexpected boost to its popularity when the 'Tamworth Two' escaped pigs became nationally famous in the British media. Its fine meat has a distinctive flavour for bacon, pork and ham. Tamworth sows cross well with the commercial white breeds, but the traditional cross has always been with the Berkshire. It is an excellent outdoor pig, resistant to sunburn and thoroughly hardy.

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