Pigs Watchlist





At Risk





British Saddleback

Gloucestershire Old Spots



British Lop

Large White




British Landrace

 Oxford Sandy and Black


    Large Black  Welsh


    Middle White    



The native pig of the British Isles was a large, rangy, lop-eared beast that was kept in pannage systems, or later in the backyard sty of rural cottages. In the late eighteenth century there was an influx of small, fat, prick-eared pigs of Asian origin. The mingling of these two types formed the basis for the creation of all the native British breeds, and these were the dominant breeds until the second half of the twentieth century. Although at this time numbers for the Wessex and Essex breeds (now combined as British Saddleback) and the Large Black were still reasonably healthy, others such as the Berkshire, Middle White and Tamworth numbers showed a considerable decline. This was probably due to demand for a different type of pig for bacon, and the recommendation of the Howitt report to the government in 1955, that British pig farming should focus on just three breeds of pig: Large White, Landrace and Welsh.

Native pig breeds which became extinct include the Cumberland, Lincolnshire Curly Coated, Ulster White, Dorset Gold Tip and Yorkshire Blue. They possessed special and distinctive characteristics which are now no longer available to us. Those native breeds, which have survived, are demonstrating their qualities already as new factors exert an influence in the marketplace. Increasing awareness of the importance of traditional values is focusing attention on the conservation of native breeds, while the non-intensive systems of management under which these breeds thrive are compatible with the standards of animal welfare, human health and protection of the environment that modern society demands.

Pig breeds are particularly susceptible to changes in the economic climate, and the population of individual breeds can fluctuate dramatically. The cost of feed and the selling price of breeding or finished stock are the main factors affecting the viability of a pig enterprise. Disease can also have a significant impact. Although specific pig diseases such as Swine Fever and Aujeskys have now been eradicated from mainland Britain, other diseases, such as FMD with the possibility of widespread culling, remain a threat to all our rare and native species.