Breed selection is an important part of the decision-making process for new pig
owners, whether you intend to keep them as pets, for breeding, or to raise them
for the table or market. Your geographic location is important when determining
which breed to raise because different breeds do better in different climates.
Darker pigs are common in sunnier southern regions because their pigmentation
helps protect them from sunburn. If you live in a colder state, you may wish to
choose a breed with a shaggier coat that can help them stay warm in winter
A key factor in making this decision is which breeds are available in your area,
but it is also important to consider what you plan to do with your pigs. If you are
planning to establish a breeding program, you want to buy the best stock you can
find. Purebred pigs are pedigreed, carefully regulated, and expensive. If you are
just planning to fatten a pig or two for the table, crossbred pigs will do nicely, so
long as they are produced by a knowledgeable, responsible breeder with a
purposeful breeding plan.
Pet breeds
There are a number of breeds more suited to pet ownership than the larger meat
breeds. Many of these pigs are still raised as food breeds, but their smaller size
makes them better as pets. Because of their great similarity to humans, both in
physical attributes and in their social behavior, they can fit right into a human
household under the right circumstances. It is important to consider, though,
whether your household will fit right in with them. Are there members of your
family who would be incompatible with pigs? Do you have other pets that might
behave aggressively toward them?
Because pigs are such social animals, they can form strong bonds with people
and other animals. You should realize that this also means they often require
companionship, so you will need to consider whether you are able to provide
them the type of home they need. Do you have the space needed? Can you
devote the appropriate amount of time to your pet pig?
Miniature pigs can be either midgets, which means they are much smaller, but
proportionally identical to their larger counterparts, or dwarfs, which means they
are smaller and proportionally different, such as potbellies.
African Pygmy/Guinea Hog
The African pygmy, or Guinea hog, is a small black pig descended from larger
red hogs thought to have been imported to the Americas from Africa aboard
slave ships. One reason African pygmies make good pets is that they have long
life spans, sometimes reaching 25 years. An African pygmy is only 40 to 60
pounds, making this a manageable breed. They have kinked tails, straight backs,
and medium, pricked ears. Their shiny black coats are hairy rather than bristly,
which makes for better cuddling. Not a potbellied breed, African pygmies are
grazers and prefer lush, green grasses. This friendly, adaptable breed can be a
cute, cuddly companion for many years.
Juliani/Painted Miniature
Painted miniature pigs were imported to the United States from Europe. They
range from 15 to 60 pounds and have a small potbelly, a slightly swayed back,
and proportionally longer legs than true potbellies. They can be black, red,
white, silver, or a mixture of these colors. They are among the friendliest, most
playful miniature pigs and are considered extremely gentle. Also, they are so
small that they integrate more easily into an average home — some are even
kept in urban apartments.

This fine pig is a more recent addition to the family of pet pigs in the United
States. Imported from New Zealand, their name comes from the Maori word
“kune,” which means fat and round. Their most distinctive feature is probably
their wattles — tassels hanging from their lower jaw — known as pire pire in the
Maori language. Their ears may be erect or semi-lopped, and they come in a
wide range of colors: black and white, red, white, brown, and gold. A mid-sized
pet pig, they range from 90 to 120 pounds, have attractive pug noses, and may
have spotted or calico coats.
Kunekunes are efficient grazers, so during the summer months, they may sustain
themselves just by keeping your lawn well trimmed. In addition, they do not
usually root, so they will not spoil the appearance of your grass.
Vietnamese Potbellied
Developed from the “I” breed of Vietnam in the 1950s, potbellied pigs are
among the most common pet breeds in the United States. Keith Connell, who
saw their potential as zoo animals, first brought them into the United States
through Canada in 1985. As the name implies, the potbellied pig has an
exaggerated potbelly with a swayed back, erect ears, extremely short legs, and a
straight tail. Potbellies have wrinkled faces and a short snout, which gives them
a somewhat comical expression. When purchasing a potbellied pig, try to be sure
the short snout is not too exaggerated because this can cause respiratory
problems. Potbellies are usually black, white, or a piebald pattern of black and
They often are found in zoos because they have an appearance many people find
appealing, and they are friendly and even-tempered. In fact, because of their
docile disposition, they are a mainstay of the petting zoo; not only do children
love them, but they also seem to love children. This friendly manner and
sociable behavior has made them the most popular miniature breed in the world.
Potbellied pigs may be small, as little as 25 pounds, though most are between
100 and 250 pounds. If you are thinking about buying a potbelly, this is an
important consideration because though the young pig is a tiny animal, it may
grow to the size of a large adult human. If you are looking for a petite pig, it is a
good idea to look over the breeder’s adult animals. Too many have bought a tiny
pig only to realize that the adult pig is more than they can handle. This is a
growing problem in the United States, and as a result, it is increasingly common
to find pigs in animal shelters.
Yucatan/Mexican Hairless
Originating in Central and Latin America, the Yucatan is a gentle breed of pig
ranging from slate gray to black in color. Yucatans have straight backs, short
snouts, and medium-sized ears that are usually erect. Their skin and body
systems are probably the most similar to humans, which has made them the most
common pig used in laboratory testing. Yucatans can reach 200 pounds, though
some considerably smaller strains are bred.
Breeds for food production
Although all pig breeds are edible, most pig owners prefer to draw a relatively
firm line between pet breeds and food breeds. Not only is this important from an
emotional standpoint, but food breeds also tend to be larger and have other
characteristics that are more desirable for farmers, including their breeding
qualities, docility, efficiency of weight gain, and, of course, meat quality. The
food breeds raised for meat are divided into three categories: meat types, bacon
types, and lard types. Meat hogs tend to have large frames with leaner bodies
that provide a fine grade of muscle. Bacon hogs, on the other hand, tend to have
long bodies that provide larger sides of bacon with plenty of lean meat. The third
type of hog, the lard hog, has more or less disappeared in recent years, as the
demand for leaner pork has grown and the use of lard in cooking has decreased.
Eight breeds of pig provide most of the pork produced in North America, with
commercial breeders primarily concentrating on complicated crosses of three
breeds: the Duroc, Hampshire, and the Yorkshire. Crosses of these breeds in
succeeding generations, along with crosses to the Landrace, the large English
white, and a few other breeds, are used to produce large litters, the most efficient
feed-to-gain ratios, and other measures that are important for commercial pork
On the other hand, small farmers are usually better off focusing on raising
purebred pigs or simpler crosses. Instead of using complicated breeding schemes
to achieve super pigs, or pigs that have been created from multiple hybrid
crosses such as those used by commercial pork producers, it is better to focus on
one breed that produces large litters and has few losses before weaning. Look for
breeds with good mothering traits that produce plenty of milk for their young.
Consider hardier breeds that will thrive in a modified confinement setup instead
of living in a confinement system. You may wish to consider some of the breeds
that have slower weight gain, especially if you have a local restaurant market
with owners interested in trying more flavorful pork.

Berkshires were presumably “discovered” by Oliver Cromwell’s troops when
they were stationed at Reading, England, during the English Civil War in the
17th century. Berkshires have such flavorful meat that they fast became the most
popular breed among England’s upper classes; indeed, they kept a herd at
Windsor Castle within sight of the royal residence. Maintained as a distinct
breed, they are widely considered “England’s oldest pig.”
When imported Berkshires reached the United States in 1823, they had a sandy
or reddish coloring. However, they were quickly crossbred with other breeds,
which led to the color pattern we see today: black with white feet, snout, and tail,
identical to the Poland China pig. The Berkshire is a smaller hog, though, with
boars averaging 500 to 750 pounds and sows 450 to 650 pounds. In 1875, a
group of Illinois breeders and importers formed the American Berkshire
Association to ensure the continuation and preservation of the breed and its
conformation standards, including short, erect ears and a medium-dished face
with deep sides.
Berkshires offer a good growth rate and fair reproductive efficiency, though their
litter sizes tend to be relatively small. However, the quality of the Berkshire’s
meat has made it a favorite of gourmet cuisine, with its exceptional marbling and
flavor. The meat is prized in Japan, where they are bred in the Kagoshima
Chester White
The Chester White is an American hog breed that originated in Pennsylvania in
the early 19th century, based on a cross of the English Chester, Lincolnshire, and
Yorkshire breeds. Although only a medium-sized hog, the Chester White is
popular with breeders and packers because of its high quality of muscle tissue
and because its lighter color has an appealing appearance to consumers. In
addition, the Chester White has a high degree of cutability, meaning that a larger
percentage of its mass translates into marketable cuts of meat.
The biggest advantage of the Chester White lies in its exceptional breeding
abilities. A Chester sow breeds back quickly; that is to say, once she has
farrowed, she may breed again more quickly than is common in other breeds.
Chester White sows are known to farrow as many as three litters a year, and
these litters often contain ten or more pigs that reach market size. In addition, the
sow carries these strengths when bred with other types of pigs, which makes
them a popular choice in crossbreeding programs.
The Chester White has a medium frame, a slightly dished face, medium-sized
lop ears, and a thick white coat. In addition, the Chester White is an extremely
sound animal that is able to maintain its health in different conditions, so smaller
farmers with simpler facilities and outdoor pastures often find them a good

Durocs are a red hog that ranges from a tawny golden color to a deep mahogany.
Durocs have large lop ears that hang over their eyes, a curly tail, and a slightly
dished face. The average boar weighs about 900 pounds, and the average sow
reaches 750 pounds. They are considered a good meat breed because of the high
quality of their muscle tissue, large bodies, and relatively low fat content.
Considered a Northeastern breed, there is some dispute as to these hogs’ origin.
Some claim they descended from the pigs brought to the New World by de Soto
and Columbus, while others believe their ancestors were the African Guineas
that may have come along with the slave ships. As a distinct breed, they
originated in the early 19th century with a farmer named Isaac Frink of Saratoga
County, New York. As the story goes, Frink was visiting his neighbor Harry
Kelsey’s farm when he took a liking to some reddish hogs. He purchased a few
of them to start his own herd, and because the breed was unnamed, he decided to
call them Durocs after Kelsey’s famous Thoroughbred stallion. Later, they were
crossed with Jersey reds, producing a hog that has developed into one of today’s
most popular breeds.
The Duroc is among the most common breeds found in the United States. The
boars tend to be aggressive, and they often are used in crossbreeding programs,
especially with Hampshires or Yorkshires. The sows can produce large litters,
and the young pigs gain weight faster than almost any other breed. This, along
with their extreme hardiness, accounts for their popularity.
Like all breeds with names ending “-shire,” Hampshires are an English breed,
though the breed that is well known today was developed in Kentucky. With
erect ears, they are mostly black, except for a white band across their shoulders
and forelegs; because of this distinctive marking, they are also known as

Hampshires are somewhat smaller than other meat hogs, with sows reaching
about 650 pounds and boars reaching 800 pounds. They are low in lard, with
high-quality meat and a large loin eye area. The loin eye area of a pig is the large
muscle in the pig’s back that provides the meat for pork chops. A large loin eye
is highly desirable. In addition to their high meat quality, Hampshire sows are
exceptional mothers who remain fertile longer than most. Their breeding
potential and high-quality meat make them a popular pig. According to the
American Swine Registry, Hampshires are the No. 4 recorded breed in the
United States.

The Hereford is the most American of hogs because they are not bred in any
measurable quantity anywhere else. Their fans consider them the best-looking
pigs, and they certainly are distinctive, with their flashy red and white
coloration, like Hereford cattle. The Hereford has a slightly dished face,
medium-sized lop ears, and a deep red back with white trim around its legs,
head, and tail. John Schulte of Norway, Iowa, originated the breed in 1920 based
on a cross between the Chester White, Duroc, and Poland China breeds.
With boars averaging 800 pounds and sows averaging 600 pounds, Herefords do
not grow to be as large as other meat hogs, but they are quite popular for other
characteristics. Herefords develop rapidly and reach maturity at 200 to 250
pounds in just five or six months, and they are able to do so on less feed.
Herefords are adaptable to a variety of different climates, and because of their
quiet demeanors, they are a popular choice for youngsters engaging in 4-H club
and FFA projects. The sows make excellent mothers, producing and weaning
large litters. This, combined with their efficient feed use and rapid maturation
rates, also means Herefords can be profitable.
Poland China
Strangely, Poland China hogs are neither Polish nor Chinese. They originate in
the Butler County/Miami Valley region of Southeastern Ohio. The Poland China
is a large, black hog with white “points” — face, feet, and tail — and lop ears.
They tend to be long-bodied, lean, and muscular, making them an ideal meat
type, with average boars of about 900 pounds at maturity and sows of about 800
pounds. Big Bill, the largest hog ever recorded, was a Poland China of 2,552
pounds owned by Elias Buford Butler of Jackson, Tennessee, in the early 1930s.
Like Durocs, Poland Chinas are hardy animals that feed well. In addition, they
are exceptional breeders that are well suited to transportation because of their
quiet dispositions.
Spotted Poland China
Spotteds are actually so closely related to Poland Chinas that they almost could
be considered the same breed — the spotted looks just like a Poland China but
with spots. However, spotted breeders consider theirs a better pig, and since
1914, they have been organized under their own breeding association. As their
name implies, they have a spotted coloration, either white with black spots or
black with white spots, which they inherited from the Gloucestershire Old Spots
side of their family.
Most feel that spotteds offer only a moderate meat quality, though the sows are
known for their exceptional mothering ability. Not only do they produce a good
quantity of milk for their young, but they also give birth to large litters — one of
the largest of the colored breeds. Like Poland Chinas, they are good feeders; they
mature early and grow rapidly.

Landrace hogs originated in Denmark, which jealously guarded exportation of
these hogs for centuries. However, in the 20th century, importing these fine
animals became possible. They have a soft white coat with pink skin, long,
drooping ears, and flat backs. Although their legs tend to be short, they have a
long, lean body that makes them an ideal bacon type. In addition, their long
bodies have 16 or 17 pairs of ribs and thus produce more cuts of meat. The
typical pig has 14 pairs of ribs.
Landrace pigs tend to be quite docile, and they grow rapidly. One of their most
desirable characteristics is that Landrace sows produce unusually large litters, as
well as a great deal of milk with which to support their piglets. As a result,
Landrace sows often are used in crossbreeding programs, particularly with

Yorkshire Like the Landrace, the Yorkshire pig is a bacon type with white hair and pink
skin. It has a dished face with erect ears and a long, lean frame that supplies
ample, high-quality bacon. They were brought into the United States in the early
1800s, though it was not until the 1950s to 1970s that the breed really flourished.
Yorkshires are comparatively small, with mature boars averaging 600 to 800
pounds, and they tend to grow slowly. Nevertheless, it is a popular breed
commonly found in commercial pig farms across the United States.
Yorkshires breed well, with large litters and sows producing plenty of milk.
Yorkshires commonly are seen in the media — if you can think of a famous pig
from TV or film, it was probably a Yorkshire. For example, Arnold Ziffel, who
often upstaged Eva Gabor on TV’s Green Acres, along with Babe from the 1995
film of the same name, were Yorkshires.

Ossabaw Island
Feral Ossabaws inhabit the island in Georgia from which they draw their name.
In the 1500s, Spanish explorers often left small herds on islands in the Americas
to establish future sources of food, and the pigs of Ossabaw Island are thought to
be descended from one of those herds. Although some may see them as a pet
breed, Ossabaws are usually prized for their dark, unusually textured meat, as it
resembles that of the black Iberian pig.
Living in an isolated island environment has had some interesting effects on the
breed. One consequence of their isolated existence in a sparse environment is an
extremely high level of intelligence, which they require in order to exploit every
possible food source. In addition, Ossabaws carry a “thrifty gene” that permits
them to store fat effectively. The consequence is that domestic Ossabaws, which
have ready access to ample food supplies, often develop a form of diabetes. Due
to the breed’s problems with diabetes, the breed is rarely ever crossbred with
other pigs. Ossabaws should be between 14 to 20 inches tall and 25 to 90
pounds, which translates into an approximate maximum of 4.5 pounds per inch
of height.
Ossabaws come in a wide range of colors, but unless crossed with pigs of other
breeds, they never develop stripes. Generallly, they have solid or spotted coats,
sometimes resembling a calico pattern. Ossabaws may be red, gray, blue, and
even white, although this is quite rare.
Ossabaws today are critically endangered. They are currently found in a few
zoos on the mainland, but the pigs generally are not allowed to be removed from
Ossabaw Island because they are at risk of carrying porcine vesicular stomatitis
and because pseudorabies is found on the island. There are fears that the pigs on
the island could transmit these diseases to pigs on the mainland.

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