Most hogs bred for consumption are the offspring of a combination of one of five dark breed
boars bred to one of three white breed sows. Dark breed boars enhance the meat quality of
their offspring. White breed females are used for their ability to produce many piglets
and because their maternal instincts allow more piglets to survive. There are many
combinations of breeds and genetic lines used to influence the characteristics each
producer looks for with regard to meat quality, farming method and the hog market.
Originating in Britain in the mid-1500’s, the Berkshire is a black pig that can have white on
the legs, ears, tail and face. Today, increased interest in heritage breeds has renewed demand
for the Berkshire. Also known as Kurobuta or “black pig” in Japan, the Berkshire is prized for
its juiciness, flavor and tenderness. It yields a pink-hued, heavily marbled meat whose high
fat content is suitable for long cooking times and high-temperature cooking.
The Chester White originated in Chester County, Pennsylvania in the early 1800’s when strains
of large, white pigs common to the Northeast United States were bred with a white boar imported
from Bedfordshire, England. Today, the Chester White is actively used in commercial crossbreeding
Duroc is the second most recorded breed in the United States. With red or black coloring and
droopy ears, the Duroc is known for quick growth and maturity, deep body, broad ham and shoulder,
and a quiet disposition. Shown in 1893 at the Chicago World's Fair, Durocs subsequently gained
wide popularity – becoming a main terminal sire choice of American farmers and forming the basis
for many mixed-breed commercial hogs. Durocs are known for sweet meat, marbling, amazing
shoulders and spareribs.
The Hampshire is possibly the oldest, early-American hog breed in existence today. Derived from
the "Old English Breed,” the original breeding stock was imported from Wessex, England in 1832.
Throughout the years, the Hampshire has become one of the most popular pigs in America. Black
with a white belt across the shoulders that covers the front legs and around the body, they have
erect ears and a curly tail. The Hampshire, a heavily muscled, lean meat breed, is the fourth
most recorded breed of pig in the United States.
Landrace are white with ears that droop and slant forward with the top edges nearly parallel
to the bridge of a straight nose. The fifth most recorded breed in the United States, they are
known for large litters of piglets. Descended from the Danish Landrace, the American Landrace
is known for its ability to cross well with other breeds. They produce a large and flavorful
ham and loin.
The Poland China is one of America’s oldest breeds. First bred in the Miami Valley, Ohio in
1816, they derive from many breeds including the Berkshire and the Hampshire. Poland China hogs
are typically black with white faces and feet, and a white tip on the tail. Known for their
large size, the Poland China is one of the most common breeds produced in the United States.
The Spotted Pig is the ancestor of the Poland China and Gloucester Old Spot breeds. It has
become extremely popular in the United States because of its high meat quality and ability
to gain weight quickly. The floppy eared Spotted Pig has black and white spots with no red
or brown tints.
Developed in England in the county of York, the Yorkshire is also known as the “English Large
White” and was first brought to Ohio around 1830. The most recorded breed of swine in the United
States, the Yorkshire is white in color with erect ears. They are very durable and muscular
with a high proportion of lean meat and low backfat.
Heritage breeds come from bloodlines going back hundreds of years when livestock was raised on
multi-use, open-pasture farms. Because of their environments and inherent genes, different breeds
became known for a variety of characteristics, including the rich and hearty taste of their
meat, distinct marbling, bacon flavors and creamy fat. Today, these breeds still carry excellent
qualities, but many are not suited for commercial farming. As a result, they are in danger of
being lost. As fewer heritage breed pigs are grown, their gene pool decreases, and some breeds
are now critically rare. In today’s commercial market, heritage breeds cannot compete with
commodity pigs. Courtesy of and copyrighted Cochon555
Named after the Native American tribe, the Choctaw is a domestic breed that descends from
Spanish stock brought to the Americas in the 1500’s. Small in size, the Choctaw weighs about
120 pounds at maturity and is black with occasional white markings. The ears are erect to
slightly droopy, they have fleshy wattles on each side of the neck and their toes are fused,
forming a single, mule-like hoof. They have long legs and are heavier in the forequarters than
in the rear, making them fast and athletic. These hogs require little care and are able to
forage for food, including roots, plants, acorns and berries. The breed is critically rare,
with a population estimated at a few hundred animals – almost all found in the few counties
of southeast Oklahoma that were formerly the Choctaw Nation.
Gloucestershire Old Spot
Gloucestershire Old Spots, originating in England, are excellent foragers and grazers. Their
love of windfall apples resulted in the nickname the “orchard pig.” They have a distinctive
blonde coat with black spots, floppy ears and a medium sized body. Gloucestershire Old Spot
pigs were imported to the United States during the 1900’s, and they have made genetic
contributions to several American breeds – especially the American Spot and the Chester White.
Favored for their higher fat ratio and flavorful meat, the Gloucestershire Old Spot is
critically rare, with fewer than 200 breeding animals in the United States.
The Guinea Hog is a small, black pig that originated in the United States. They are a descendent
of West African hogs brought to the United States in conjunction with the slave trade in the
early 1800’s. These superb foragers are also known as the Pineywoods Guinea, Guinea Forest
Hog, Acorn Eater and Yard Pig. Once the most numerous breed on homesteads in the Southeast,
today, with fewer than 200, the breed is critically rare. Guinea Hogs produce excellent
hams, bacon and lard.
The Hereford is a medium-sized hog breed unique to the United States. Developed in Iowa and
Nebraska during the 1920’s from Duroc, Chester White and Poland China bloodlines, they resemble
Hereford cows. These hogs have a reddish-brown coat with white trim, a white face and floppy
ears. Herefords are known for their ability to successfully pasture and for their quiet,
The Iberian pig – sometimes referred to as the “Black Foot” – is found in herds clustered
in the central and southern territory of the Iberian Peninsula, in Portugal and Spain. Known
for their black skin, little or no hair and lean body, this domesticated breed has adapted
to pastoral settings where they feed on acorns from four different types of oak. Their capacity
to accumulate fat under the skin and between muscle fiber, along with their diet from the
nutrient rich land, produces the typical white streaks that make Iberian hams prized for
making Jamon Serrano.
The Lacombe is a breed of domestic pig native to Canada. It is a medium-sized, long bodied,
white pig, with large drooping ears and short legs. The Lacombe yields consistent, high
quality meat. The development of the breed began in 1947 with crosses of Berkshire sows
to boars of Danish Landrace and Chester White ancestry.
As the name implies, the Large Black is large framed and solid black with floppy ears that
fall forward over the face. A native of England, they are best known for their foraging abilities
and are valued for their moist meat and extraordinary bacon. The Large Black is a critically
rare pig with approximately 300 breeding hogs in the United States.
The Large White descends from the old Yorkshire breed. Distinguished by erect ears and slightly
dished faces, the Large White is large and long bodied with fine white hair and pink skin.
Valued for their excellent hams and bacon, the Large White is a rugged, hardy breed that has
become a favorite for cross breeding because of its ability to improve other breeds.
Mangalitsa "Wooly Pig"
The Mangalitsa or Wooly Pig is a critically rare pig originating from Hungary. There are three
distinct types within the breed named for their coat color: the Blonde, the Red and the Swallow
Bellied (black with a white belly). Mangalitsa meat is well marbled and juicy. Their high-quality
lard-type fat is desirable because it has a healthier balance of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fatty acids
than seed oils.
The Mulefoot is an American breed named for its most distinctive feature – a solid, non-cloven
hoof that looks like the hoof of a mule. Solid black with pricked forward ears, the Mulefoot
is valued for ease of fattening and production of meat, lard and hams. The Mulefoot is critically
rare. As of 2006 there were fewer than 200 purebred hogs documented. Most of these originated in
the Holliday herd of Missouri, which is believed to be the last purebred herd in existence.
Ossabaw Island Hog
The Ossabaw descends from pigs brought to the United States by Spanish explorers. This
critically rare breed is feral and found on Ossabaw Island off the coast of Georgia near
Savannah. Isolated foragers able to store astounding amounts of body fat to survive during
seasons when there is little to eat, the Ossabaw is very hairy and is black, black with white
spots or blonde with black spots. Their snout is long and slightly dished and, although they
have heavy heads and shoulders, Ossabaw have incredible speed and agility – even when moving
through dense undergrowth.
The Red Wattle derives its name from its red coat and the fleshy wattles attached to each side
of the neck. With a slim nose and ears that stand upright with drooping tips, the Red Wattle is
known for hardiness, foraging, a gentle nature and rapid growth rate – in addition to flavorful
and tender lean meat. The history of the Red Wattle is unclear, but the breed as known today
originated in eastern Texas. Critically rare, there are fewer than 100 breeding animals left
in the United States.
The Swabian Hall breed was started by King William I of Württemberg, who imported ultra-fatty Chinese Meishan pigs in 1820 to crossbreed with the ultra-lean Russian Wild Boar that was indigenous to Germany at the time. His goal was to prefect the balance between fat and meat in a new breed of pig.
Swabian Hall in their purest form are only located in Baden-Wurttemberg Germany but American farmers have been raising a “close to original” version for 150 years. The all black Iowa Swabian Hall is becoming a popular heritage breed because of its near perfect balance of lard to lean and succulent flavor.
From England, the Tamworth is probably the most direct descendant of the native pig stock of
northern Europe. With a reddish coat, long snout, upright ears and strong legs, the Tamworth
is very rugged. Centuries of outdoor life have made the breed excellent foragers in hot and
cold climates. Traditionally considered a “bacon” breed, the Tamworth is also known for
muscular hams and high quality fat.