Thursday, February 25, 2010

Large Black Hog Piglets?

The Egyptian Sky Goddess Nut is often depicted as a sow.

Tonight I feed livestock by the light of the Waxing Gibbous moon.  And a Coleman Lantern.

Twenty-two days have passed, and I see no signs that our Large Black Hog gilt Prudence is in heat again, so I whisper to her, as I press my ear up against her warm, silky side, "Are there piglets in there?"  

Prudence blinks at me with jet eyes, lifts her snout into the air so she can take a good long look at me from behind those onyx ears breaking over each side of her steel head, whiskers shining in the moonlight.

The ever solid pig seems rather self-satisfied, sublimely content, and as full of secrets as the pitch black sky is of stars above our heads.

I'm thinking the answer may very well be "yes".  


So Big Pig

It's hard to believe that I brought this very Large Black Hog boar home in a dog kennel in the back of a pickup truck not that long ago.

Ever read Edna Ferber?  The main character in her novel So Big would ask her baby son, who was sitting on the ground in the garden rows she was hoeing, "How big is baby?" and he would answer, "Soooooooooo big!", which became a game they would play and the name she called him for the rest of his life, as I recall.  

Well, this wooly and gentle guy is no baby, but he certainly chats back at me when I speak to him, as he's sitting there as nice as you please on the red New Mexico dirt, and if I had it to do over, I would have dubbed him "So Big".  

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Motto of the Large Black Hog

Rikki-tikki's motto, and that of all mongooses, is "Run and find out."  The Adventures of Rikki Tikki Tavi, Rudyard Kipling
If I left this rake in the pig paddock for too long, I'm pretty certain there wouldn't be a shred of it left.

Inquiring snouts want to know.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Large Black Piglets

This is a very nice vid from Stackyard Nursery in Suffolk, England. It demonstrates how playful and docile these Large Black Hogs are.

The Flight of the Large Black Hog

I am amazed how fast these Large Black Hogs can run, leathery ears flapping up and down.

And sometimes just simply for the joy of it.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

It's All About the Pork


So, why do the large blacks taste so good?  I think it’s because they are a heritage breed, created when farmers bred for taste first and foremost.  After all, the breeder was his own primary customer.  When you don’t eat your own pork, you don’t really care what it tastes like.  Commercial hog farmers who sell thousands of pigs a year think only of raising the most “protein units” at the lowest cost and in the fastest time possible and that calls for a much different breed of pig.
The large black is a darker pork with a short muscle fiber that makes it more tender.  Also, studies have shown that the more high strung an animal’s temperament, the more likely his meat will be tainted (an off taste) from stress hormones.  This easy going breed can be led to the trailer and walked into the packing plant without getting all worked up.  A low stressed animal is always going to be healthier, easier to raise, and easier to handle.

Probably the biggest factor though is the fat.  Although they are not a lard pig, Large Black Hogs most certainly do have fat.  Their fat is micro-marbled throughout the meat which gives it the ability to self baste as it cooks, keeping it moist and flavorful on the grill or in the oven. The texture of the pork is extra tender due to the short muscle fibers which has earned it a place in some of the most exclusive restaurants in New York and Europe. The meat is slightly darker in color with an old world flavor. Large Black Hogs are also famous for their exceptional bacon.  As long as the pigs are grazed, their fat is a beneficial fat just like in pasture raised poultry.
While it may seem counterintuitive to eat a rare breed to save it, it’s one of the critical components of rescuing these breeds. Without a market for these animals, farmers have no incentive to raise them.
Most heritage breeds taste better than the commercial breeds, but for my money, I’d prefer a Large Black any day.  
 Learn more: 

It's All About the Pork (Large Black Hog Association)


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Large Black Hog Soccer Match 2

I bought this "Horse Ball" toy for my horses ages ago, and they never cared for it much.  But Large Black Hog Prudence does.
Sometimes I have to go fish it out from beneath the tangled branches of the pinon trees for her.  I got the idea of giving this horse toy to the hogs one day when I watched Tater batting his dinner bowl around with his cast iron head, having the time of his life.

Sometimes I tie a rope to the Hog Ball and drag it around so Prudence can chase after it.  Which she does.  With a tremendous amount of curly tailed hog glee.
But this afternoon, playing soccer makes Large Black Hog boar Tater tired.

Large Black Hog Soccer Match

I don't mean to brag or anything, but my Large Black Hogs have taught themselves to play soccer.

The Wonderful Life of This Large Black Hog

Large Black Hog Tater enjoying the 52 degree balmy weather.  

Gandar lurking in background.

Large Black Hogs–A Heritage Grazing Pig

Large Black Hog Association.  Todays small farmers are looking for a heritage breed of pig that can be raised on pasture and produce a superior pork for a niche market. Heritage breeds are those that were perfected over a hundred years ago by farmers who bred for taste, hardiness, mothering ability, and efficiency. Most heritage breeds of hogs are very rare today and one of the most rare is the Large Black Hog.

With fewer than 300 registered breeding hogs living today, the Large Black is listed as endangered by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. It was once one of the most popular breeds of pigs in Europe until pork production moved indoors by huge commercial hog operations. With the organic and slow food movement, the Large Black is experiencing renewed interest and huge demand.

The History of Large Black Hogs

The Large Black is believed to have been developed in the late 1800’s from Chinese breeds brought to England. They are of the “bacon” type, or meat producer, instead of the “lard” type common of that day. They became known as the Devon or Cornwall pigs from their area of origin before becoming just the “Large Black.” By the 1900’s the Large Black Hogs were spread throughout Britain in outdoor pork production operations. The Large Black Hogs were imported into the U.S. in the 1950’s and again in the 1990’s where they were breed by a hand full of breeders for the exquisite and unique taste of the Large Black’s pork.
They were originally favored for many reasons including their hardiness, mothering ability, milk production and prolificacy. The Large Black is a very efficient pork producer because it can glean a large portion of it’s food from grazing. Unlike many breeds of hog, their black skin protects them from sunburn and enables them to live outdoors on open pastures.

The Large Black Hogs Breed Standard

The Large Black Hogs Hogs are aptly named large since they can reach weights upwards of 700 pounds or more. Their head is well proportioned of medium length with a long neck. The ears are large, thin and hang forward covering the eyes and most of the face. The chest is wide and deep with fine shoulders in line with the ribs. Their back is very long and strong with a broad loin. Ribs should be well sprung on a long deep body. The hams are very broad and full on well set, straight fat legs. The only acceptable color is solid black with fine straight black silky hair. The belly should have a straight underline with at least 12 evenly spaced teats starting well forward.


They are among the most docile and friendly breed of hogs alive today. They typically move slowly and it is believed their slow movement is due to their obstructed vision from their large forward hanging ears. They rely more on their sense of smell and hearing than anything. Its typical for a Large Black Hog to freeze when they hear you approach until they can determine if you are friend or foe. It helps to talk to your pigs so as not to alarm them when you first enter their area.

The pigs start out shy but soon gain confidence and readily accept people. They are not aggressive toward humans and typically will not take up for themselves if attacked by other animals. Sows and boars learn their name and follow their owners like a dog. Large Black Hogs are a favorite with the children and visitors to the farm. Mother sows are protective yet tolerant of your gentle handling of their young. Even the boars are docile yet you should never fully trust a breeding age male of any species.

Large Black Hogs Are The Breed For Today

In order to have a successful outdoor pig operation, you must match the breed of pig to your particular farm environment. Since the heritage breeds were developed for outdoor production, they most certainly give you the best results. The Large Black is well equipped for pasture with its protective black skin that does not burn in the sun. They are also hardy enough to live in the northern parts of the U.S. and Canada.
The Large Black is truly a grazing pig. A mature dry sow can meet nearly all her nutritional demands on good pasture with legumes and young growing vegetation. A growing pig can glean up to half of his requirements from pasture while producing a better tasting, healthier pork than one raised strictly on grain.

Though any heritage breed can be used for pasture pork production, the Large Black has the added advantage of being easy on your pastures. Large Black Hogs graze without rooting and without ringing their nose. As long as your pastures are palatable, the Large Black Hogs will graze the top and move on to the next paddock in the rotation. They can easily be trained to electric fencing and flourish in rotational grazing systems. They are a grazing pig but they are still a pig so they will certainly make a mud wallow near their water source. This is necessary to cool themselves in the heat since pigs dont sweat .


The only reason we raise hogs to begin with is for their pork, so just how does the taste of a Large Black compare to other breeds? The answer, exceptional! When processed at around 200 pounds, the pork is lean yet micro-marbled for a moist product on the grill or in the oven. The texture of the pork is extra tender due to the short muscle fibers which has earned it a place in some of the most exclusive restaurants in New York and Europe. The meat is slightly darker in color with an old world flavor. Large Black Hogs are also famous for their exceptional bacon.


The Large Black Hog is a heritage pig perfect for todays pasture pork production. This tender and moist pork with the old world flavor will become a staple on your customers plates. Its been said that the way to a mans heart is through his stomach but this pig will steal your heart long before it reaches your table.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mother of the Stars

Sky Goddess Nut as a sow, 1085-760 BC.  This pendant amulet of fecundity, in blue-green-yellow faience, depicts the sky-goddess Nut as a sow. Third Intermediate Period (1085-760 BC).

“The sky goddess whose arched body formed the vault of heaven gave birth to the sun each dawn and swallowed him each dusk; conversely, she bore the myriad stars each evening and gobbled them up each dawn. It is not surprising that, as mother of the stars, she should have taken the form of a great sow, for the female pig’s habit of eating her own piglets must have been well known. Glazed composition amulets of a vast rooting sow, either walking alone or with up to seven piglets marching between her legs, first occur in Third Intermediate period burials. . . Such amulets were intended to endow their wearer with fecundity” (Andrews 1994:35).
There are many winter evenings when I am out feeding the chickens, horses, and Large Black Hogs by the light of the stars.  I love the jet black nights up here in the mountains, the milky way gleaming like alabaster.  Sometimes I have to simply make myself go back inside, as I'd much prefer to watch the stars.

Large Black Hog Prudence will one of these days grow into a "vast rooting sow", with piglets trailing along between her legs like a constellation of squeaking, grunting, snuffling, black-bristled stars.   As much as I am partial to the Sky Goddess Nut, I'm very glad that Large Black Hogs are not prone to gobbling up their young.

Monday, February 15, 2010

She Eats Like a Pig


Large Black Hog Prudence may be muy bonita in a moment of calm well after the breakfast hour, but I have never known a creature so serious about her chow.  (And I'm used to being surrounded by a herd of horses every morning, eager for theirs, but equine anticipation for breakfast is tame compared to this hog's.)

In the morning, when it's time for a little corn (in addition to all that free choice alfalfa she has access to), you wouldn't believe the sounds that come out of this pretty little gilt.  This hog's hair stands up along her spine in buzz saw fashion and she becomes electrified all the way to the tip of her tail, dancing on dainty hooves, concord grape colored ears trained in my direction, snout quivering, lips curling, reaching, searching, liquid eyes gleaming beneath jet black lashes, revving each snort and grunt and squeal to new, ear splitting heights.


 I call her, nearly every morning.  As if that's some kind of insult ...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Official Large Black Hog Greeter

Large Black Hog boar Tater isn't sure he wants to come out of his snug stall this late afternoon to say hello to me.

If it's a really really bitter cold evening with the stars just coming out, he will rush out in that silly long lope of his, ears flopping, let me give him a quick scratch on his cast iron head while he rumbles and grumbles a little bit, possibly the boar equivalent of purring, and then turns for the obligatory scratching of the Large Black Boar hind end, before skedaddling back to the deep straw of his house and the company of Dear Prudence, who has decided she really likes her comfort in the midst of all these snowstorms we've been having here in Northern New Mexico.

Out of these two, Tater is the official Large Black Hog greeter, come rain or snow.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Well, Large Black Hog Prudence followed me around while I was doing my twice daily "manure management" thing, reminding me with a series of increasingly loud grunts and escalating squeaks that she would be happy to eat up any eggs that I might just happen to have in my coverall pockets, and then stopped to take a look at her pretty self in the stock tank before having a good long drink of water.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Large Black Hog farmer wants to replicate renowned taste of the Spanish 'black-footed' pig

Far from the farm's cozy barn, four black pigs bed down on the forest floor.

In their waking hours, the hogs forage for most of their food — grass, roots, lichens and the acorns that Williams rancher Tobias Hatfield hopes will infuse their meat with unsurpassed flavor.

"We're trying to duplicate the famous Spanish, black-footed pig," Hatfield says.

So-called "black-footed" pigs yield "jamón ibérico," a dry-cured Spanish ham that is richer, more complex and slightly gamier than prosciutto or the more ordinary Spanish dry-cured ham called "jamón serrano." In Spain, the most prized black-footed pigs are allowed to roam oak forests and feed on acorns.

The hams require two to three years of curing before selling for $100 to $200 per pound. Hams were shipped to just a handful of U.S. distributors about a year ago, following a 12-year process to gain government approval to import them.

"It's some of my favorite ham in the world ... the Spanish hams in general are fantastic," says Tom Van Voorhees, cheese-shop manager at Rogue Creamery in Central Point, which carries a small selection of gourmet meats.

Gandar and Large Black Hog Standoff

She Eats Like a Pig

Large Black Hog Prudence enjoys the juniper and pinon.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Herd Instinct

Hogs, like horses, are herd animals. These Large Black Hogs really enjoy each other's company. I think it would be very hard on one to be alone. At night, they make up their bed, scooping the hay in their stall into a good sleeping spot with their snouts, then curl up together for the night. If there are several hogs, well, then, they sleep in kind of a pile when the weather is cold.

The Calm After the Boar Storm

The title of this post should probably be Boars for Dummies

My Large Black Hog Boar Tater has not been his usual gentlemanly self lately.  As I wrote about previously, he turned some of his big boar energy in my direction recently, bumping me with his snout and walking around and around me, almost wrapping himself around my legs like a large black cat, grumbling and growling.

I guess all that chanting sounds like romantic music to our gilt Prudence, but all that throaty rumbling was a little too assertive for my tastes, thank you very much, even if he was being friendly or playing a little boar game about who's in charge.  In fact, it got downright scary, although he never bit or hurt me.  I managed to be able to not lose my nerve when faced with this nearly 300 pound situation, and have been able to correct his behavior towards me without any hard feelings.  And to his credit, that big gentle fella has been minding his manners, despite his rather boarish state and single minded porcine pursuit of the one thing that I was not expecting for another couple of months, this being my first foray into hog breeding. 

Our Large Black Hog gilt Prudence went into full fledged heat just a few days ago.  Funny, while I have admittedly had a pretty steep learning curve with the boar half of this equation the last few weeks, I knew immediately that Prudence was in heat.  And I have observed this pair breeding, which is excellent news!  If they were successful, then the due date for piglets will be June 1.  (Three months.  Three weeks.  Three days later.)  But possibly that will not happen the first time around.   And I don't want to get ahead of myself here.

This explains Taters singing his Large Black Hog heart out (chant de coeur) and frothing at the mouth, intensely ... er ... interested in Prudence for at least two weeks, although she'd have none of him until just a few days ago. 

And once Tater was done.  Well, he was simply ... finished.  Like a storm that blows up out of nowhere and then dissipates almost as quickly.  As a native Oklahoman, I can say tornado weather, and you other folks from that part of the country will be nodding your heads and knowing exactly what I'm talking about.

No more chanting, chortling, growling, grumbling, roaring, rip snorting, huffa huffa, frothy mouthed, slack jawed dragon puffing.

At least, not until the next go round.  But the next one won't come at me from the middle of a calm blue day with nary a cloud in sight.  Because I now have a pig calendar hanging on the back of my kitchen door, and I will be able to forecast when the next big one may be brewing, and like any red blooded woman from Oklahoma who may have had to head to the storm cellar on occasion, I'll simply get out of the way.  And anyone who happens to take a gander at the calendar on my kitchen door will see a red line drawn through the last two weeks straight with "Crazy Tater Weather" scrawled above.

I'm sure there are more "Dummies" posts coming up, especially when I find I have a little momma on my hands.  She's on my calendar as well.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Myths, and Facts, about Heritage Pork


Large Black Hog Prudence plowing snow, undaunted by the cold.

Brian Wright, Large Black Hog Association Registrar and owner of Homegrown Acres, has written an excellent article about The Myths, and Facts, about Heritage Pork.  The myths in a nutshell are:

Myth 1:  Heritage pigs are all rare and endangered.
Myth 2:  All Heritage hogs are raised on pasture and treated humanely.
Myth 3:  Their meat is better due to marbling!
Myth 4:  Heritage breeds are all docile, easily managed hogs.

He encourages the prospective heritage pork buyer to "do your research and learn more about the specific animal and how it is treated before it makes it to your farm or your dinner plate,"  as (and these are my words) not all "heritage" pork is equal.  I've posted just a part of this excellent article here with a link to the rest of it below.
Google “Heritage Pork” and you will find a lot of blogs, news articles and websites that profess the wonders of “Heritage” breed pigs.  The claims about these pigs lead to a lot of wrong impressions and expectations. The truth is that heritage breed pigs are not all the same; they have widely different meat qualities; they are raised in many different settings. Just ordering “Heritage Pork” does not guarantee that you will get great, marbled pork from pigs that lived good lives. Perhaps some facts are necessary.

Myth 1:  ”Heritage pigs are all rare and endangered.”

First of all, “Heritage” pigs are just the old breeds that are present in early written records and still true to those descriptions. They are the ones that have not been crossbred out of existence.  Some breeds were mentioned many centuries ago; others showed up relatively recently in newspapers and records. The only thing they have in common is the name “Heritage”.   All this really means is that they can be traced back for some time as intact, singular breeds.

For example, Hampshires are heritage pigs.  But you can find Hampshires in very large numbers practically anywhere in the U.S. In fact, the American National Swine Registry notes that this is the third “most recorded breed” of pigs in the United States. The only reason they qualify for the label “heritage” is that we can trace them, as a distinct breed, back to 1827. Their ancestors in England have been “improved” into the Wessex Saddleback, but the Hampshires we have today are still true to their 1827 importation.

Myth 2:  ”All Heritage hogs are raised on pasture and treated humanely.”

Read the entire article here.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

One Stout Gilt

Ten inches of snow and still falling.  My percheron horse Toby manages to get out of the pasture and lead the rest of the horses into a small fenced area adjacent to the pig paddock.  This entails a lot of romping and crow hopping and equine high spirits.  My husband and I manage to chase everyone back to the pasture, with the exception of Toby, who is standing as far away from the pig paddock as possible, frozen like a statue, ears pricked forward, snorting, a little silly, and a little ... scared.   

My eyes follow his and I see the source of the big horse's reluctance to make his way through the gate back with the herd.  Large Black Hog gilt Prudence is standing at the fence line, her magnificent blueberry colored ears aimed straight at the 1700 pound Percheron, snout aloft, jet black tail curled, unleashing chirrups, yips, and barks into the frigid high mountain air, a force to be reckoned with.

I have to give the draft horse a swat on his ample hindquarters with a winter glove, and he skitters, just by the hair of his chinny chin chin, liquid eyes rolling, through the gate right next to the ever stout Prudence.

Lucky to not have been devoured ...

In Praise of Large Black Hog Ears


Blizzard Boar

Tater the Large Black Hog boar will always come say a quick hello right after I give the hogs their feed inside the barn, which is kind of surprising when you think of how hogs love their food, while wily Prudence remains behind and gobbles up as much as she can out of the trough before the So Big Pig returns. 

This evening, he is a complete gentleman.  I believe we are making progress.