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Coloured pigs (part three)

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Stone handaxe
THIS small handaxe is one of the most beautiful in the British Museum. It is made from quartz with attractive amethyst banding, a difficult material from which to make tools because it is extremely hard. The toolmaker would have had to hit with considerable force and accuracy to remove flakes. Such a high degree of difficulty makes the thin, symmetrical shape of this piece a masterpiece of the toolmakers’ art.
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Coloured pigs (part five)
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The Improved Essex came from Squire Western of Felix Hall, the original importer of the black Neapolitan pigs from Italy. He crossed his imports on big Essex sows to create his Essex Half-black (black one end, white the other), and his tenants used the cross to create the Improved Essex as a small fat black pig giving top-quality pork.

Coloured pigs (part five)

Lord Western, the Essex squire and the original importer of Neapolitan pigs, created his own very inbred Neapolitan and used the breed to improve the local Essex pigs (described in the 1830s as having a 'roach back, long legs, sharp head and restless disposition'). He probably also incorporated black Sussex and Berkshire breeding to make his all-black 'Lord Western Essex' shown here. The new Black Essex went on to contribute to many other improved English breeds, including the Improved Essex created by Western's tenant farmer, Fisher Hobbs.

Large black or 'blue' pigs were found right across southern England from Cornwall through Sussex to Kent. At the very end of the nineteenth century all of them were brought together to form the Large Black, which also absorbed the Small Black of East Anglia. The Large Black was a very popular and very large bacon breed in the 1920s but is rare today. Its 'mealy' black colour protects it in hot climates, and it is thoroughly hardy in its own country as a handsome and gentle outdoor grazer.

Coloured pigs (part five)

These two nineteenth-century pigs, belonging to the Duchess of Hamilton at Easton Park, Suffolk, were described in the 1890s as 'Suffolk or Small Black'.

Some of the old Essex pigs were described as 'sheeted', meaning black with a white band over the shoulders that also extended to cover the forelegs. This pattern is now known as 'saddleback', and the Essex developed into a smart-looking saddleback breed with four white socks and a white tail tassel. It was good for both pork and bacon, and it was once suggested that it was a cross between Large White and Berkshire.

Coloured pigs (part five)

Grossly overweight Improved Dorsets, illustrated in 1874, with chin pillows to help them to breathe.

Coloured pigs (part five)

The Large Black (still known as the 'Cornwall' in parts of Europe) remains large and mealy black, with lop ears and deep full hams. It is a much finer and longer pig than it used to be but is now rare.

Coloured pigs (part five)

Coloured pigs (part five)

Described as a 'Somersetshire', this belted sow belonged to the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire (living in Eastbourne). The breed was said in 1908 to be 'the next suppliant for fame and a herd- book all to itself' but was the victim of jealousy between its breeders and those of the Large Black. The Somersetshire was blue-and-white, usually belted or 'sheeted', and was compared to the American Hampshire.

In the west of England there was another saddleback but with only two white feet — the Wessex Saddleback, probably developed by crossing dark spotted New Forest or Hampshire bacon pigs with the neighbouring massive black Sussex. The ears of the Wessex tended to pitch forward more than those of the Essex, which was an altogether finer and lighter pig. The Wessex's saddle was not as broad as that of the Essex, but the qualities of the two became similar and they were combined as the British Saddleback. It is still possible to discern the Essex and the Wessex within the combined breed. The breed is increasingly popular for outdoor systems and on organic pig farms.

Coloured pigs (part five)

An Essex in the show ring. Note the four white legs that distinguish the Essex from the Wessex, in which only the forelegs are white.

Coloured pigs (part five)

Royal Show champions in 1932 belonging to Mr. Holloway of West Lavington, Wiltshire.

Coloured pigs (part five)

Herd featured in 1921 sale particulars.

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