Wiltshire's Sheep Pigs
It's been extinct for the last 30 years... but now the sheep pig is back and living in Wiltshire
The amazing sheep-pig
It was back in the 1970s that the last known pair of sheep-pigs, in this country, were sent to slaughter.
But 30 years on, the woolly pig is not only back from extinction but living in Wiltshire and it's all thanks to Tony York, the owner of Pig Paradise Farm on Salisbury Plain:
They're called sheep pigs because they look just like sheep pigs. In the winter, especially, they look just like sheep.
They're a distant relative of the Lincolnshire Curly Coat which was the only pig that we used to shear. Once a year they'd shear them and take their hair up to Chester to make men's sweaters.
But sadly, in 1972, we allowed them to become extinct. The market was for faster maturing breeds and that was that for the Curly Coats.
When I heard about it… it hurt me so much that I decided to acquire some of these amazing pigs to try and establish some herds in this country.
Back in the early 1900s we sold an awful lot of them to Hungary and to Austria where they were crossed with a very similar curly coated pig the '‘Mangalitza'.
Boris the Boar
I spent 10 years trying to get a connection and when we eventually got it we were allowed, in 2006, to bring in 17 pigs (three boars and 14 gilts) so that we would breed them ourselves over here.
It was horrendous. We had to go over twice. We flew over the first time to select the stock we wanted and spent three days over there selecting them.
Then we had to wait four weeks until we got clearance then we went back, in my own trailer, to collect them. It took three days there and three days back, over 2,400 miles, in the depths of winter when the Danube was frozen and we were up to our eyes in snow.
But when we got here they just got off the trailer as if they'd been nowhere at all and as if they'd lived here all their lives.
Although I don't tend to give the pigs names, because we have so many and I wouldn't remember them all, we did have a name for the boar we brought over. It was Boris Johnson because he had a lovely quiff, a blonde quiff, and he certainly liked the ladies. So there seemed to be a connection there.
The Pig that doesn't get sunburn
Overall though, they're not that much different from other pigs apart from the fact that they're very, very hardy. When it snows, over here, they actually love it. Summer isn't a problem either as their coats are never as thick in the summer because they moult. And, unlike normal commercial pigs, they don't have a problem with sunburn.
They can be brushed and shampooed for showing and we have actually sheared them but we only do it as their hair is ideal for tying fishing flies.
Learning to take a pig's temperature
As well as these extremely rare pigs, the Mangalitzas, we've also got all the recognised rare breeds. There are seven of them in total including the Oxford Sandy and Black, the Kune Kune and the German Micro Pig.
We also run one day pig keeping courses, usually on a Saturday. The plan originally was to hold them once every six months but now it's weekly. But for big events like Father's day, Mother's Day and Easter we have a double course, one on Saturday and one on Sunday, to meet the demand
We always start by asking if anyone would like to take a pig's temperature and, to my amazement, just about everyone in the room puts their hand up.
Taking a pig's temperature is important but the only advice we give them is to have a separate thermometer from the household one because it tastes horrible afterwards.
To find out more about Tony's Mangalitzas and the one day pig courses at Paradise Pig Farm click on the link below:
last updated: 23/06/2008 at 12:46
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