The North Down Herd of Gloucester Old Spot Pigs
Our herd of rare breed pedigree Gloucester Old Spot pigs contains 15 adult pigs and several piglet litters. We have nine breeding sows; Effie, Priscilla, Eleanor, Maud, Emmeline, Edith, Pandora, Elspeth and Eliza. Then there are our two boars; Ernest the senior boar and younger lad, Paddy. Lastly there are the four retired grand old ladies, Edie, Estella, Portia and Prudence who are 10 and 11 years old. We've been breeding Old Spots in Devon for 16 years.
Our 144th litter arrived with the patter of tiny trotters in April 2018, thanks to Elspeth Pig. Meanwhile the older piglets and weaners are eating, sleeping a lot, and scuffling about in a higgledy-piggledy heap of spots, ears and tails. Litters are born throughout the year and so we usually have weaners for sale every month.
Our pigs enjoy being outdoors and are intelligent, sociable animals with very clean habits. They all love being given a pat or a hug. In hot weather we ensure they have wallows so that they can roll in the mud and use it as a sun screen. In the winter they spend more time asleep and make a cosy nest from straw in their arks. They are very good at digging using their immensely strong snouts as ploughs. One summer I found them excavating a dry stone wall between the orchard and my garden, hurling rocks around like beach balls. I deterred them from this exciting new game by nailing up a new strand of wire and they promptly made off with my bale of wire and my bucket of tools, carrying them away in their mouths by the handles. Try fencing when a pig is around and she will steal your hammer.
This old country breed produces meat that isn’t a bit like supermarket pork. It’s moist and sumptuous and you get proper crackling. All our pigs are born on the farm and reared outdoors where they can dig freely and graze on grass. We feed them on prime sow rolls which contain wheat, barley and minerals, and they also get swedes, and apples from our cider orchard. Gloucester Old Spot pork has gained international accreditation under the Traditional Specialty Guaranteed (TSG) classification of Protected Food Names and so joins the ranks of Parma Ham and Champagne as a prestigious protected food name.
Gloucester Old Spots were traditionally known as the Orchard or Cottage Pig because they were often reared in gardens and on small holdings. They are characterised by their large black spots and lop ears which flop forward covering their eyes. Folklore claims the large black spots are bruises caused by the apples falling onto them as they foraged the orchard floors for food. This rare breed nearly died out in the 1950s. Even today there are only about 700 breeding Gloucester Old Spot sows in the country.
We're very proud that our senior boar, Ernest Pig, has a novel dedicated to him by renowned and excellent author Laurie Graham. The book is 'The Grand Duchess of Nowhere'. You can follow him on Twitter @ErnestPig.