Our beautiful big Tamworth Sow, Roisin is next on the farm to have her babies and as this is also a first for us, we are pretty excited about the cute little ginger piglets due to arrive any day now. Her favorite thing to do at the moment is to bark (it’s talking but sounds sort of like a husky bark) when she sees me and then assume the position which just means she flops over to her side wanting me to rub her belly. She would literally lay like this for hours if I stayed next to side and cuddled with her. She’s adorable and quickly wormed her way into my heart doing this on a regular basis.
We really love this breed of pig, they are such wonderful mothers and excellent foragers. They don’t need much as they hardy and quite resistant to illness. A Mother will often build a nest in the forest to Farrow her young in, then come back a week or so later with a litter in tow. No heat lamp, no big shed, just a pig being a pig.
A Bit of Tamworth History
There are a few different versions going around regarding the origin of the Tamworth. One is that it is simply unknown as they are direct descendants to the European wild swine. Another story suggest that they were the original Irish Grazing pig and that Sir Robert Peel’s , liked them so much he brought them back from Ireland to his Drayton Manor Estate at Tamworth, Staffordshire of which they were later named after. Finally the most common version is that the Tamworth breed pig originated in Sir Robert Peel’s Drayton Manor Estate at Tamworth, Staffordshire, after the existing herd was interbred from 1812 with pigs from Ireland known as “Irish Grazers”, that Peel had seen in Ireland in 1809. Either way there seems to be a strong Irish ancestry linked with them and everyone agrees that the breed appears among the least interbred with non-European breeds, and therefore one of the closest to the original European forest swine.
They range in shades of Red from Strawberry Blonde to Dark Red but are usually referred to simply as Ginger. They are among some of the oldest breed of pigs in the world. They are not fit for commercial livestock operations as they won’t do well in confinement sheds and Farrowing crates. They are slow growers, have smaller litters than commercial breeds, which make them an excellent choice for the small or large hobby farm. Tamworths are actually considered a medium-sized porcine breed, with a full-grown Boar ranging from 250 to 370 kg (550 to 820 lb) and a full-grown Sow ranging from 200 to 300 kg (440 to 660 lb). Length ranges from 100 to 140 cm (39 to 55 in) and heights are around 50 to 65 cm (20 to 26 in). The curled adult tail is about 24 to 30 cm (9.4 to 12 in). They have a long neck and legs, deep sides, but narrow backs. A Tamworth ham is quite muscular and firm but not as large as commercial breeds. They are also known for having excellent foot structure and a good skeletal system. The Tamworth litter is typically smaller than commercial breeds. Unacceptable features according to breed aficionados are: curly hair, coarse mane, turned up nose, and dark spots on the coat. They are currently listed as Critically Rare (AUS), Threatened (US) and Vulnerable (UK) with Rare Breed Trust globally.
Bacon and Lard Pigs
Pigs have really only been classed into two types of swine, pigs bred for Bacon and pigs bred for Lard. Lard breeds were used to produce lard for cooking and machine lubrication. Lard breeds tend to be shorter, stockier and fatten up rather quickly on a diet of corn.
Bacon breeds also known as meat pigs, have longer, leaner, bodies as well as higher amounts of muscling. They are often fed on a diet high in protein and low in energy such as legumes, small grains, turnips, dairy products such as whey and excess milk as well as pasture. A broad generalization would class meat pigs as faster growing than lard pigs but that’s not necessarily true.
You can easily make a Bacon Pig overweight and fat through over feeding and you can just as easily make a Lard Pig skinny through extreme dieting. However that won’t change the way they grow muscle or their body’s conformation. Tamworths are at the extreme end of the bacon breeds being such long and lean animals, but Tams can still be quite fat if overfed.
Prior to World War II almost all breeds of pig were classified as Lard pigs except for Tamworths and Yorkshires. The industry changed however with the development of synthetics and petrochemicals and the demand for Lard decreased. So with the need for more meat pigs on the rise the most popular breeds of the time, including the Berkshire, Duroc, Hampshire, Poland China, and Yorkshire, received most of the industry’s attention. Leaving only three breeds of traditional lard type which still remain today, the Choctaw, Guinea Hog, and Mulefoot.
Pigs really do make lovely additions to the hobby farm, and can certainly pull their own weight when it comes to things like naturally ploughing a garden plot, providing tasty meat for the family and even a litter of piglets for selling.