10 Pig Breeds (and Their Characteristics)

The breeding of pigs' physical characteristics is complicated and doesn't always follow a fixed pattern. This has led to the creation of new breeds through all the different attempts to modify them.
10 Pig Breeds (and Their Characteristics)
Cesar Paul Gonzalez Gonzalez

Written and verified by the biologist Cesar Paul Gonzalez Gonzalez.

Last update: 15 November, 2022

Pigs are farm animals used as food in several regions around the world. After a long process of domestication, these days there are a large number of pig breeds that have been selected and bred to highlight certain characteristics of the original species (or other new ones).

The scientific name of this animal is Sus scrofa domesticus and it belongs to the Suidae family, which also includes peccaries and wild boars. Thanks to this subspecies having a body with a large amount of meat, production has benefited from genetic improvement techniques. Read on to learn about some of the most famous pig breeds in existence.

Origin of pig domestication

Although there’s still no certainty about their origin, it’s believed that pig domestication originated 13,000 years ago in the Middle East. However, it’s likely that China also carried it out at the same time. According to some DNA studies, the species that arrived in Europe wasn’t the same as the Asian ones, and by crossing them, they created the breeds we know about today.

In addition, the arrival of pigs on new continents such as America led to the reinforcement of the artificial selection of the species. This resulted in a wide distribution of these animals throughout the world, which was used to try to improve many of their traits. The selective crossing of specimens was the initial cause of the appearance of several breeds with distinctive traits.

Pig breeds

From the utilitarian approach, the most important qualities of pigs are size, proportion of fat, and amount of meat. The industry seeks to take advantage of these animals’ adaptive metabolism, which transforms plant-based food into quality meat. As a result, in each breed, the focus is on improving one or more aspects that can benefit their care and breeding.

When we talk about breeds, we’re actually referring to a group of animals that have the same characteristics. With this in mind, here are the best-known pig breeds and some of their particular traits.

1. Large white

This variant originates from the north of England and is the product of a cross between Chinese, Neapolitan and Yorkshire breeds. The most recognizable characteristics are its white color, its erect ears, and its large body, which gives it a strong constitution. In addition, the specimens usually raise their offspring well, adapt to limited resources and show high fertility.

2. Landrace

The origin of this breed is Danish and it’s characterized by its good feed conversion rate. This means that every pig takes advantage of the nutrients it consumes to grow healthy and strong. The body of these pigs is white and quite elongated, so they have more ribs than other breeds.

3. Piétrain

Of Belgian origin, these organisms are distinguished by their round bodies with a large amount of muscle. As for their qualities, these pigs stand out for having very little body fat. However, maintenance is difficult and it’s difficult to look after them, as their bones don’t support the weight of all their muscle well.

4. Tamworth

These animals are reddish in color, with a small body and long snout, and show excellent health throughout their rearing. The latter is important, as they are thus crossbred with other pigs to form other improved breeds. In fact, they’re known as one of the oldest lineages of domestic pigs. Take a look at the video below to find out more about them.

5. Duroc pig

This pig breed comes from the United States and is characterized by a red skin color that varies from strong to light. It’s a breed with few notable yields in production and, to top it off, adult specimens are known for being aggressive animals and with low milk secretion in females, which makes breeding and care difficult. Here’s a video we’ve selected for you:

6. Berkshire

This breed is of English origin and is recognized by its coarse appearance with small limbs. These pigs exhibit a black coat and skin that is distinguishable and very striking. In addition, they tend to be bait-loving animals, which makes them easy to feed. On top of that, they are known to be precocious, meaning they breed at a very young age. Here’s a great video about them.

7. Hampshire

This American breed originated in the United States, from where it was introduced to Europe around 1960. The most recognizable characteristic is its black color with a white stripe, which covers its shoulders and forelimbs. On the other hand, among its traits as far as maintenance is concerned, its low sensitivity to stress and easy adaptation to its environment stand out. We’ve especially selected this video for you to give you more of an idea about them.

8. Yorkshire

This type of pig is the most common in North American farms. The Yorkshire breed is noted for having excellent maternal and milking ability (on the part of the females), which facilitates the rearing of young stock. Take a look at the cute video below!

9. Casertana

The Casertana breed has a quite distant origin, as it was even represented in Roman sculptures. This type of pig is one of the heaviest on the list, as it produces large amounts of fat. In fact, at the age of one year, well-nourished specimens can exceed 150 kilograms (330 pounds) in weight. The color of these animals varies between gray, black and purple.

10. Chato Murciano

This type of pig originates from Murcia (Spain) and represents the last living breed native to the region. The Chato Murciano has a small head and snout and its body is completely black and white.

An impressive variety

As you can see, pigs are one of the animals that have been most affected by domestication. This process has always had the objective of improving food production by modifying the animals. Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t necessary to alter the DNA to change an organism, as it’s enough to select the crosses in order to favor the appearance of certain traits.

Beyond their productive value, all pig breeds stand out for their intelligence, personality, beauty and their ability to socialize with conspecifics and humans alike. We need to value them apart from their food qualities, because they are animals with feelings and are fascinating as far as genetic diversity is concerned.

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