The Large Black pig is native to Cornwall, Devon, and Somerset in southwestern England. It is thought that they were developed from Chinese breeds that were brought to England in the late 1800s. Originally known as the Lop-Eared Black, the breed was selected for large size and efficiency of production on pasture and other forages. Their name was eventually changed to Large Black; they gained popularity rapidly during the latter half of the 1800s and were one of the most numerous English pig breeds in 1900. A Large Black Pig breed association was formed in England in 1898.
The Large Black was used for small-scale production of both pork and bacon. It was also valued for commercial crossing, primarily with the Large White (known as Yorkshire in the US). This cross yielded great hybrid vigor and was well regarded commercially.
The breed’s popularity peaked during the 1920s, and the Large Black was exported to several other countries, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Germany, New Zealand, South Africa, and the US. However, after World War II, the shift towards intensive husbandry of pigs led to the decline of outdoor breeds that couldn’t compete indoors. The Large Black nearly became extinct in the UK during the 1960s and remains one of the rarest British pig breeds. In 1973 the breed was put on Rare Breed Survival Trust’s critically endangered livestock list.
Large Black Hogs were brought to the US again in the 1950s and in the 1990s; they were favored and raised by a small number of breeders for the taste of their pork.
As its name implies, the Large Black is large-framed and solid black (the only acceptable color). The black coloration helps protect them from sunburn, allowing them to more easily live outdoors. Their large, thin lop ears fall forward over their faces, and while they impede sight, the ears protect their eyes from damage while the pigs are rooting and foraging. Large Blacks are best known for their foraging abilities, as they can obtain much of their own food from grazing.
They are also known for their maternal qualities. Sows can raise and wean large litters of piglets outdoors, and these survival characteristics give it genetic value. Mature boars weigh 700-800 lbs. and sows reach 600-700 lbs. as adults. It is important for breeders to monitor their size as obesity in females can result in cystic ovaries and may cause a decline in fertility. The size of the jowl is often a good indicator of obesity for the breed and can be used to monitor condition of the animals.
Because of the increased consumer interest in pasture-raised pork, Large Black hogs are being recognized as a great option for pastured management systems. According to the Large Black Pig Breeders Club in the UK, the number of breeders rose from 114 in 2004 to 144 in 2007. In the U.S. there are approximately 300 breeding Large Black hogs as of 2008.
They are among the most docile and friendly breed of hogs alive today. They typically move slowly, and it is believed their slow movement is due to their obstructed vision from their large forward hanging ears. They rely more on their sense of smell and hearing than anything. It is typical for a Large Black Hog to freeze when they hear someone/something approaching until they can determine if it is a friend or a foe, so it helps to talk to Large Black pigs so as not to alarm them when you first enter their area.
The pigs start out shy but soon gain confidence and readily accept people. They are not aggressive toward humans and typically will not take up for themselves if attacked by other animals. Sows and boars can learn their names and follow their owners like a dog. Large Black Hogs are a favorite with the children and visitors to the farm. Mother sows are protective yet tolerant of your gentle handling of their young. Even the boars are docile, yet you should never fully trust a breeding age male of any species.
Did you know:
Since we launched the Microgrants program in 2018, dollars have been awarded to help every one of the 11 species we serve. Almost one-third of the breeds on the CPL have received funding. Yet, only about 8% of microgrant projects can be funded each year. Click here to help us support more endangered breeds and hard-working farmers, ranchers, and shepherds with your gift today.