The Wessex Saddleback pig is a rare breed which is thought to have originated from two indigenous breeds in the Sussex and Hampshire areas of England.
It is thought that in the 1840’s when Sussex pigs were allowed to roam the New Forest, that the Wessex Saddleback was formed. The National Pig Breeders Association’s Pig breeders annual from 1934 refers to the breed as having been formed by the crossing of two local bacon breeds, the old English Sheeted breed and the Black Breed of the New Forest.
The Wessex Saddleback breed society was eventually formed in the UK in 1918. Unlike most breeds, the Wessex Saddleback is free from Asian genetics. The breed was maintained in the UK by two families throughout the 20th Century.
Although the breed had some fantastic qualities, populations began to decline and by the 1970’s they were listed as one of the rarest breeds in the UK. This was due in part to the breed being crossed with the Essex breed to produce the British Saddleback breed in 1967. This led to the decline in popularity of both breeds.
The breed now no longer exists in the UK and is only found in parts of Australia and New Zealand, and by 2008 there were less than 100 registered breeding sows remaining. The breed is now listed as critically endangered by the Rare Breeds Trust of Australia.
An easy breed to maintain, the Wessex Saddleback breed are best suited to outdoor farming practices.
They can thrive on pastures with supplementary feeding and are a dual-purpose breed. Known for their good temperament and for being an early maturing breed, the Wessex Saddleback was primarily raised for bacon purposes.
The breed is medium in size and although they are early maturing, they also grow slowly. Their most significant characteristic is their colour, which is predominantly black with a white belt around the forepart of the trunk. Their body, head and neck are usually always black, with hind legs also black.
The breed have medium-sized ears, which are forward facing and tend to hang down over their face. The breed is an extremely hardy breed and it can be used in both fresh pork and bacon production. Meat from the Wessex Saddleback is used for cured meats, bacon, hams, fresh pork, fermented produce and in lard production.
A very adaptable breed, they can cope with extreme heat and cold weather. Sows are also very fertile and produce an abundance of milk for their young. They also tend to have large litters of piglets.
Unfortunately, the Wessex Saddleback is not extinct in its native country, though thanks to some Australian and New Zealand farmers it is not gone just yet.
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