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Coloured pigs (part two)

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Coloured pigs (part four)
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The Midlands spotted pigs included yet another favourite British breed: the Gloucestershire Old Spots or Orchard pig. The old Gloucester was of the typical Old English slouch-eared type, dirty yellowish-white in colour, and traditionally it had wattles (fleshy tassels) dangling from its jowls. The Old Spots type developed in the Berkeley Vale (probably through crossing with the old Berkshire), where it thrived on whey and windfalls. The breed had a vague history until a breed society was formed in 1913, when selected spotty pigs were taken into the herdbook. It was unpretentious but a good farmer's pig, producing heavy hams and good bacon, prolific, docile behind its lop ears, a grazer, and very hardy. The breed society marketed the breed magnificently, and there was a huge boom in spotted pigs, but the bubble burst in the 1940s and it became rare.

Coloured pigs (part four)

The striking Dorset Gold Tip was a light Tamworth-red with black markings and characteristic sun- glinting gold tips to its bristles.

In the early 1970s there were only thirteen registered Gloucestershire Old Spots boars and it is still a rare breed, though with higher numbers than other rare breeds. Today it is thoroughly hardy, a good grazing pig, very happy in a paddock with supplementary apples, roots and whey, and can be reared to produce both pork and bacon. The sows are noted for being docile and long-lived mothers. Because of butchers' prejudice against colour, the number and size of the target-like spots on the coat were reduced considerably, often to only one or two, but more spots are acceptable now.

Coloured pigs (part four)

Opposite Bottom: The attractively marked Oxford Sandy and Black is a popular choice for farm parks and children's farms.
Gloucestershire Old Spots sows and their litters in the days when the emphasis was on the spots.

In the south of England the coloured pigs tended to be black, or black with white belts. They are now represented by the Large Black and the British Saddleback, both of which are the result of merging West Country breeds with East Anglian ones.

Coloured pigs (part four)

The GOS, fondly known as the Orchard pig, is popular with smallholders and increasingly finding a role as a sire in commercial free- range herds.

The Large Black originated from the Old English type crossed with the copper-skinned black Neapolitan and with Asian pigs. In the days of big sailing ships, livestock was carried on board to supply the crew with food, and it is recounted that when a ship landed at Plymouth some little black Chinese pigs that had escaped the pork barrel were bought by local farmers, who bred them with their own big Cornish pigs (possibly French in origin) to create a black Devon. A similar story is told on the other side of the country: shipboard Chinese pigs landed on the east coast and were crossed with local pigs there to create, ultimately, a Small Black combining the Black Essex, the Black Suffolk and the slate-blue roly-poly improved Black Dorset, each with its own intriguing history.

Coloured pigs (part four)

America's Poland China is black with white points but was originally spotted. The 'Spotted Poland China' shown here from the 1940s resulted from the importation of a pair of GOS from England. In recent years the name of the Spotted Poland China has been shortened to 'Spotted Swine' or simply 'Spots'.

The Dorset pigs had been bred from a pair of Somerset pigs 'of a breed said to have been sent from Turkey' - possibly a mixture of Wild Boar and Neapolitan, subsequently crossed with Chinese. (The 'Turkey' pig was probably a Siamese imported from Tunkey, or Tonquin, now northern Vietnam.) Prize Dorsets, fed on cream and treacle, became so obese that pigmen placed wooden pillows under their snouts to avoid self-suffocation.

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