Professor Bamfield's Rare-Breed Pigs
Tamworth Pigs
oink oink in Africaan

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"Cats look down on you, dogs look up to you.
"Only a pig treats you as an equal." (Winston Churchill)

Gloucester Old SpotsThis site is about rare-breed pigs. It provides a range of information about pigs in general, pigs in history and society, and about breeds of pigs. Traditionally, many families kept a couple of pigs. Pigs get everywhere, even into micro-economic theory as the Corn-hog cycle. Pigs have their own patron saint, St Anthony.

We don't yet supply meat from rare breed pigs, but we hope to in 2009. We will certainly keep you informed.

Traditional pig breeds
Tamworth Pigs - photo credit CTPhil from Wikimedia commonsTraditional pigs with names like Tamworth, Berkshire, Gloucester Old Spot, Welsh, Middle White, or Saddleback were once the normal pig breeds in England.

Many of these are now endangered, with comparatively small numbers of breeding sows in existence.


Factory farming
Factory FarmingIntensive factory farming based on bulking up animals in cramped battery conditions had no use for these traditional breeds.

Inhumane factory conditions aimed at maximising the growth rate of animals made a cruel environment - as well as producing meat with poor eating qualities, lean, watery and tasteless.

Rare breeds are back
New legislation, concern for animal welfare and a growing interest in authentic product have recently led to a revival of interest in rare breeds. Rare breeds dislike being herded together in factory conditions, they like the open air, grow more slowly, and have superior eating qualities.

Gloucester Old Spot and Tamworth breeds seem to be particularly popular with the media and the work of Tony York and others in preserving, popularising, and promoting all the rare breeds is having a major effect. The curly coated Mangalitza pigs that Tony York imported from Austria and Hungary in 2006 have received a great deal of publicity as being linked to a revived breed, the 'Lincolnshire Curly Coat'. More about rare breeds .

Inhumane factory conditions aimed at maximising the growth rate of animals made a cruel environment - as well as producing meat with poor eating qualities, lean, watery and tasteless.

Tamworth Pigs

Tamworth PigThe noble Tamworth, whose origins go back to the forests of England and Wales, is able to live outside, and cope with English sunshine and the worst of British weather because of his disposition, his thick skin and ginger hair. It is not a slave. It cannot cope with being cooped up in a pen and is unsuitable for factory farming.

The white-coloured Landrace pig, the basis of most factory pigs in Denmark, Ireland, The Netherlands and the UK, cannot easily deal with living outdoors most of its life. The trend towards less-extensive pig rearing seen in many British farms today has tended to play to the strengths of traditional English and Welsh breeds.

Socrates on Pigs

Happy pig wallowing in the mudQuestion: More than 2,300 years ago, SOCRATES, speaking in the market place in Athens, asked his listeners:

"Would you rather be a troubled man (liable to unhappiness) or a happy pig?"

Answer: The answer he was looking for was, of course, 'a troubled man'. Congratulations if you got that right!

But note that Socrates asked about pigs. He did not ask his hearers whether they would prefer to be a happy horse, a happy donkey, a happy cow, or a happy sheep. Socrates and his hearers took it as axiomatic that pigs were happy. To the philosophers of ancient Greece and in most societies till about 1950 in our era, pigs were happy animals - a byword for pleasure and contentment. And then in the 1950s intensive pig farming started.

What noise do pigs make?
'Oink, Oink' is the sound of pigs to most people in the UK, Italy and Spain, but French pigs go 'Groin, Groin', Dutch pigs say 'Knor, Knor' and in Japan pigs say 'Buu, Buu'. More on this important topic can be found here.

Pigs in History
Throughout history pigs have mainly been cultivated for their meat (often by households) and have played an important economic role in many societies, particularly in Europe, North and South America, Africa and China/Asia-Pacific. In different societies, gods have been represented as pigs or boars, China celebrates Hai or the 'Year of the Pig' every twelfth year, and, to the Celtic people, pigs were thought to be the guardians of the Underworld. More on this can be found here and here.

What do pigs 'mean'?
Wot! Pigs cleverer than me?Pigs are intelligent animals that can be trained to perform tasks, for example searching for truffles. Pigs are cleverer than cats and dogs and horses, but less clever than porpoises.

A pig is a clean animal, highly intelligent, loyal, strong and courageous.

They do not have sweat glands, so, when it is hot, cool down by plunging themselves in water or coating themselves with mud.

Truffle huntingAlthough few children in the West see or ever meet a pig, pigs are often children's favourites in stories and cartoons, and the image of a friendly pig is widely used on postcards, mugs, and children's (and grown ups') toys. Go into many offices and schools and there will be pig magnets, pictures of pigs, pig mugs, pig pencil sharpeners, and plastic pig models. Pigs seem to have got anthropomorphism sewn up.

Their origins and meanings can be found here .

The Empress of Blandings
The most famous and important pig in English literature if not in the world is probably the Empress of Blandings. This enormous prize-winning Berkshire black sow was the creation of the humorist, P G Wodehouse, creator of Jeeves, Bertie Wooster and Psmith. The pig appeared in eight books and stories, including Summer Lightening and Pigs Have Wings.

Berkshire and PigletsLord Emsworth, the Ninth Earl, reared the Empress of Blandings at Blandings Castle in order to win top prizes in the Fat Pigs contest in the local agricultural show.

The Ninth earl and the Empress suffered a succession of perverse stockmen, self-important or wet guests at the Castle, his fearsome family (especially the domineering sisters), several secretaries in transit, Bertie Wooster, and Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe (who owned a competitor pig) that all let the Ninth Earl down, fall in love, out of love, burgle his property, attempt to kidnap the pig or fail to prevent others from kidnapping her, and generally disrupt the bucolic life the earl wanted to lead with his pig.

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