Todays small farmers are looking for a heritage breed of pig that can be raised on pasture and produce a superior pork for a niche market. Heritage breeds are those that were perfected over a hundred years ago by farmers who bred for taste, hardiness, mothering ability, and efficiency. Most heritage breeds of hogs are very rare today and one of the most rare is the Large Black Hog.
With fewer than 300 registered breeding hogs living today, the Large Black is listed as endangered by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. It was once one of the most popular breeds of pigs in Europe until pork production moved indoors by huge commercial hog operations. With the organic and slow food movement, the Large Black is experiencing renewed interest and huge demand.
The History of Large Black Hogs
The Large Black is believed to have been developed in the late 1800’s from Chinese breeds brought to England. They are of the “bacon” type, or meat producer, instead of the “lard” type common of that day. They became known as the Devon or Cornwall pigs from their area of origin before becoming just the “Large Black.” By the 1900’s the Large Black Hogs were spread throughout Britain in outdoor pork production operations. The Large Black Hogs were imported into the U.S. in the 1950’s and again in the 1990’s where they were breed by a hand full of breeders for the exquisite and unique taste of the Large Black’s pork.
They were originally favored for many reasons including their hardiness, mothering ability, milk production and prolificacy. The Large Black is a very efficient pork producer because it can glean a large portion of it’s food from grazing. Unlike many breeds of hog, their black skin protects them from sunburn and enables them to live outdoors on open pastures.
The Large Black Hogs Breed Standard
The Large Black Hogs Hogs are aptly named large since they can reach weights upwards of 700 pounds or more. Their head is well proportioned of medium length with a long neck. The ears are large, thin and hang forward covering the eyes and most of the face. The chest is wide and deep with fine shoulders in line with the ribs. Their back is very long and strong with a broad loin. Ribs should be well sprung on a long deep body. The hams are very broad and full on well set, straight fat legs. The only acceptable color is solid black with fine straight black silky hair. The belly should have a straight underline with at least 12 evenly spaced teats starting well forward.
They are among the most docile and friendly breed of hogs alive today. They typically move slowly and it is believed their slow movement is due to their obstructed vision from their large forward hanging ears. They rely more on their sense of smell and hearing than anything. Its typical for a Large Black Hog to freeze when they hear you approach until they can determine if you are friend or foe. It helps to talk to your pigs so as not to alarm them when you first enter their area.
The pigs start out shy but soon gain confidence and readily accept people. They are not aggressive toward humans and typically will not take up for themselves if attacked by other animals. Sows and boars learn their name and follow their owners like a dog. Large Black Hogs are a favorite with the children and visitors to the farm. Mother sows are protective yet tolerant of your gentle handling of their young. Even the boars are docile yet you should never fully trust a breeding age male of any species.
Large Black Hogs Are The Breed For Today
In order to have a successful outdoor pig operation, you must match the breed of pig to your particular farm environment. Since the heritage breeds were developed for outdoor production, they most certainly give you the best results. The Large Black is well equipped for pasture with its protective black skin that does not burn in the sun. They are also hardy enough to live in the northern parts of the U.S. and Canada.
The Large Black is truly a grazing pig. A mature dry sow can meet nearly all her nutritional demands on good pasture with legumes and young growing vegetation. A growing pig can glean up to half of his requirements from pasture while producing a better tasting, healthier pork than one raised strictly on grain.
Though any heritage breed can be used for pasture pork production, the Large Black has the added advantage of being easy on your pastures. Large Black Hogs graze without rooting and without ringing their nose. As long as your pastures are palatable, the Large Black Hogs will graze the top and move on to the next paddock in the rotation. They can easily be trained to electric fencing and flourish in rotational grazing systems. They are a grazing pig but they are still a pig so they will certainly make a mud wallow near their water source. This is necessary to cool themselves in the heat since pigs dont sweat .
The only reason we raise hogs to begin with is for their pork, so just how does the taste of a Large Black compare to other breeds? The answer, exceptional! When processed at around 200 pounds, the pork is lean yet micro-marbled for a moist product on the grill or in the oven. The texture of the pork is extra tender due to the short muscle fibers which has earned it a place in some of the most exclusive restaurants in New York and Europe. The meat is slightly darker in color with an old world flavor. Large Black Hogs are also famous for their exceptional bacon.
The Large Black Hog is a heritage pig perfect for todays pasture pork production. This tender and moist pork with the old world flavor will become a staple on your customers plates. Its been said that the way to a mans heart is through his stomach but this pig will steal your heart long before it reaches your table.
Written by Kay Wolfe.