Herefords are a medium-size hog that is unique to the United States. The developers had specific goals for type, color pattern, conformation and other qualities in mind when they created the breed. It was developed during the 1920s from Duroc, Chester White, and Poland China bloodlines. Additional breeding and selection led to the identification of 100 animals from herds belonging to John Schulte of Norway, IA; A.J. Way of New Sharon, IA; Henry Weimers of Diller, NE; G.P. Rue of of Nickerson, NE; and P.W. Mitchell of Van Meter, IA. as foundation stock in 1934.
That same year the National Hereford Hog Record (now the National Hereford Hog Association) was formed to promote the new breed. Interestingly, the cattlemen of the Polled Hereford Cattle Registry were so taken with this new breed of swine and its color that they sponsored this new group. Within the first decade of its history, the association attracted 450 members. Most of those interested in the Hereford breed lived in Illinois, Iowa, and Indiana.
The Hereford began to decline in numbers during the 1960s with the shift away from the commercial use of purebred hogs and toward a three-way cross of the Duroc, Hampshire, and Yorkshire breeds.
The Hereford’s name was inspired by its strikingly beautiful color pattern of intense red with white trim that resembles the coloration of Hereford cattle. The breed description calls for hogs to be primarily red, with a white face and two or more white feet. The shade of red can vary though deep red is preferred.
Herefords are adaptable and thrive both in outdoor operations and under confinement systems. They also do well in a wide variety of climates. The hogs are known for their quiet and docile dispositions, making them an excellent choice for young people. The breed is appropriate for 4-H projects because it combines market conformation with a strikingly attractive appearance.
Breeders have emphasized early maturation, and Hereford hogs weigh 200 to 250 lbs. by five to six months of age. Herefords are easy to pasture but are also grain-efficient, reaching market weight on less feed than many other breeds. Mature boars weigh about 800 lbs. and mature sows about 600 lbs. The sows produce and wean large litters. They make excellent mothers as they are closely attentive to their bright red and white piglets.
Today, most Hereford hogs are found in the upper Midwest and Plains states. The characteristics of the Hereford make it a natural choice for new stewards for a variety of small-scale production systems. If the breed is given the opportunity under such systems, it will be able to earn its place in the future.
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