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Swine Breeds Endemic to the United Kingdom - The Saddleback

By Edited Dec 6, 2015 1 2

British Swine Breeds

The Saddleback

The saddleback pig is indigenous to Great Britain. The saddleback pig, like the belted Galloway cow, has a 'belt of white'. However in the case of the saddleback pig, an unbroken band of white runs over the shoulders and down the front legs to the feet. The belted pattern is quite common in certain genotypes of domestic swine.

Saddleback Pig

One breed that has saddleback colouring (and not surprisingly considering its parentage) is the Angeln Saddleback. This breed originated in Angeln, Germany and is found mainly in Schleswig-Holstein. It is a cross between a black and white Landrace and a Wessex Saddleback and has similar colouring to the British Saddleback. It is large and lop-eared. Unfortunately it is also rare. It was acknowledged as a new breed in 1937 and commanded a major share of the local market through the 1950s. However, it is now almost extinct as consumers have turned against such fatty meat.

Back in Great Britain, there was the Wessex and Essex Saddleback, each with its own herd book (1918). The Essex was more likely to be kept by 'gentlemen' while the Wessex was more commonly kept by farmers. Originally the Wessex was found at the junction of Hampshire and Dorset round the Isle of Purbeck. It could be regarded as the New Forest pig. From 1914 on, it was bred principally in the south and south-west of England.

Saddleback Pigs

The herd books of the two breeds were merged in 1967 and the animal was renamed the British Saddleback. The Breed Standard is under the jurisdiction of the British Pig Association (BPA).

The Wessex Saddleback was exported to Australia in 1931. Because it was so efficient at foraging and living outdoors, it was very popular for some time. Then meat fashions changed and dark-skinned breeds went out of favour.

The Saddleback is of medium size. The white belt varies in width and the rest of the animal is black apart from the hind feet, tip of the tail and snout which may be white. The hair is straight, fine and silky.

The modern Hampshire swine has similar colouring but prick ears. The ears of the Saddleback are lop and of medium size and carried forward. The head and neck are of medium length. The face is somewhat concave. There is no jowl. The body is deep and long as befits a good meat producer. The back is long and straight and the ribs well-sprung. The hams are full and fleshy right down to the hocks. The underline is straight. Teats should be evenly spaced and start well forward. Litters are usually large and sows have ample milk for large numbers of piglets. The legs are straight and strong and the feet are well-formed and of good size. The meat is succulent and moist.

The Saddleback is intelligent and calm. While sows will obviously be protective of their young, they enjoy a good scratch at appropriate times. Pigs are not dirty animals if they have the opportunity to be clean. They will establish a toilet area given sufficient room and will roll in mud, but not manure, to keep cool. They need to be able to shelter from the rain and sun. Electric fences can be quite useful to keep swine in their rightful place.

The Rare Breeds Trust of Australia has now classified the Saddleback as 'rare' whilst the Rare Breeds Survival Trust of the United Kingdom lists the British Saddleback in its 'minority' grouping.



Mar 17, 2011 4:43am
Interesting article. I live less than 10 miles from Jimmy's Farm, where Jimmy Doherty breeds Essex pigs. He has become quite a TV personality. You might be interested in his website:- http://www.jimmysfarm.com. You will see he has grown quite a large business off the back of the Essex!
Mar 17, 2011 5:03am
Thanks for the comment. I've just had a look at the website. Very interesting. When we get to England again, I'll have to try to get there. We had a lady on Oz TV (Maggie Beer)who had a cooking show. Her daughter, Saskia, has 'grown' a very lucrative business in smallgoods using the Berkshire.
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