The Middle White Pig is called such due to its size. It was smaller than the Large White pig and bigger than the now extinct small white, whilst also looking very similar.
The Middle White was the main breed used for pork purposes in England in the 1930’s, though this changed after the world war and the introduction of Danish Bacon into UK markets. This is what caused farmers to try and breed larger, leaner breeds for meat production and ultimately to the decline in Middle White numbers.
The breed is now listed as endangered by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust and is reported to be even rarer than the Giant Panda! It is thought that the breed was developed through the crossing of the now extinct Cumberland pig, the large white breed and a Yorkshire breed.
Picture of the Cumberland pig - Credit: Solway Past and Present
So popular was the meat from the Middle White in London in the 1900’s, that it became known as “The London Porker”. It also gained popularity in Japan in the 1930’s, with the Japanese emperor only eating pork from Middle Whites and even erecting a statue in its honour.
A hardy and docile breed, the Middle White actually requires more shelter than other breeds.
They have an average litter size of approximately 9 piglets, with sows having excellent maternal instincts. They have a very gentle nature and do not tend to try and escape paddocks. They are probably best known for their upturned nose, while they also have large pricked ears.
A stocky breed, boars weigh up to 280kgs at full maturity, with sows topping in at an average of 200kgs. Also an early maturing breed, the Middle White produces and excellent carcass with 65-70kgs live weight at only 3-4 months old. It is not recommended to allow it to get any heavier, as the breed will only store fat. The breed also have an excellent killing out %, with one report of a 90% killing out percentage.
A breed only first recognized in 1884, the Middle White has outlasted the breed which was fundamental in its development, the Cumberland. Although still endangered and rarer than even the Giant Panda, the Middle White continues to strive and remains popular to this day.
Main Picture - Baylham House Rare Breeds Farm