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White pigs (part three)
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The Large White is one of Britain's three main commercial breeds; the other two whites are the British Landrace and the Welsh. The lop-eared Landrace was introduced into the United Kingdom in 1949 from Sweden and deliberately bred for British conditions and markets. The sows are good, prolific and docile mothers and are often crossed with Large White.

The Welsh has had a varied history. It is claimed that pigs came into Wales in Viking times with the Celts who took refuge there (mass pig migrations are recorded in the Maginogion saga). Welsh pigs in later history were typical of the Old English lop-ears, usually yellowish, sometimes with black spotting; they and the Cornish pigs were described as 'wolf-shaped' in the eighteenth century. There were a few primitive brown pigs, similar to those in Scotland described in 1872 as 'an alligator mounted on stilts'.

White pigs (part three)

The common European Landrace pig of the Celtic type that later developed into several Landrace breeds in Europe.

Rather coarse Welsh pigs came over the English border in large numbers during the nineteenth century. In 1907 Youatt described them as chiefly white and 'very much of the razor-backed, coarse-haired, slow-maturing kind'. Then the improvers began to work on them and developed a lop-eared white Welsh pig. By 1946 it had become similar to the famous Danish Landrace; it was a large breed, long in the body, with a slightly dished face like the Large White but with the ears forward over the eyes and tending to meet towards the tips. It was a dual-purpose type, good for bacon or for pork. By 1949 the new breed was very low in numbers (only thirty-three registered boars) but it was boosted with Swedish Landrace blood, and by the early 1980s it had become Britain's third most numerous breed.

White pigs (part three)

The highly commercial modern Landrace is a typical lop- eared white European pig, quick to grow, quite long in the body, and with a lean carcass. Its lop ears and long snout are some of the features that distinguish the Landrace from the Large White. The British version evolved from Swedish pigs imported in the 1950s

The modern Welsh is essentially similar to the post-war breed. It is a long-bodied lean white lop-eared pig of the Landrace type. It is able to be reared outside as well as indoors, with a high-quality carcass. Its numbers are declining and it is classified by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust as 'vulnerable'. At one stage in its development, the Welsh Pig Society combined with the societies of the Old Glamorgan and the Long White Lop-Eared of south-west England.

The latter pig is an old and practical breed that did not stray far from its West Country roots, though today there are herds as far away as Scotland. Threatened with extinction by 1970, it rallied during the 1980s and is now a minor breed known as the British Lop. Britain's rarest pig breed, it has had its own breed society in Cornwall since 1918 and is still sometimes called the Cornish White or the Devon Lop. Tavistock was the main centre for its development. It is probably closely related to the old Welsh pigs and to the large White Ulster, and perhaps to the old Cumberland (extinct by 1960).

Well suited to the small-scale farms of the south-west, the Lop is thoroughly hardy and can be reared economically on stubble, pasture and woodland. It can be a porker; it also produces good streaky bacon and crosses well with the commercial white breeds for porkers and baconers. One of its drawbacks is that it is broadly similar in appearance to the British Landrace and the Welsh, and so some people interested in rare breeds tend to pass it by.

White pigs (part three)

The Old Cornish White, now known as the British Lop.

The now extinct Large White Ulster was Ireland's only truly commercial breed. It resembled a Large White but was finer and silkier, with long ears falling forwards over the eyes rather than being erect. It was a grazer and bacon breed with a short history: the herdbook was opened in 1908, but the last boar was licensed in 1956. Its thin skin, desired by bacon curers, unfortunately bruised too easily in transport.

White pigs (part three)

British Lop, a large West Country breed, sometimes mistaken for a Landrace but a very rare breed. It is long in the body, white in colour, with long thin lop ears inclining over the face, and long silky white hair. Its conformation is similar to that of the Large Black.

In the past Ireland had produced some interesting breeds or types, the best of which was the Irish Grazier, a term that covered a range of pigs with thin skins and coats of various colours or white, and of various types and sizes. They included a meatier, long-bodied, full-hammed type with erect ears. Many were exported to the United States in the 18 30s and contributed there to the Poland China and Chester White.

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