Large Black Hogs

The American Livestock Breed Conservancy describes the Large Black Hog:

The Large Black pig is native to Cornwall, Devon, and Somerset in southwestern England. Originally known as the Lop Eared Black, the breed was selected for large size and efficiency of production on pasture and other forages. The Large Black gained popularity rapidly during the last half of the 1800s, and it was one of the most numerous of the English pig breeds in 1900. A breed association was formed in 1898.

The Large Black was used in small scale production of both pork and bacon. It was also ­valued for commercial crossing, primarily with the Large White breed (called Yorkshire in the United States). This cross yielded great hybrid vigor, and it was well regarded commercially.

The breed’s popularity peaked during the 1920s, and the Large Black was exported to ­several other ­countries, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Germany, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States. After World War II, however, the shift toward intensive husbandry of pigs led to the decline of outdoor breeds that were not competitive indoors. The Large Black nearly became extinct during the 1960s, and it remains one of the rarest British pig breeds. In 1973 the breed was put on Rare Breed Survival Trust’s critically endangered livestock list.

As its name implies, the breed is large framed and solid black. Lop ears fall forward over its face, and while they are an impediment to sight, they protect the eyes from damage while the pig is rooting and foraging. The Large Black is best known for its foraging abilities and its maternal qualities. Large Black sows are able to raise and wean large litters of piglets out of doors, and these survival characteristics give it genetic value. It is important to recognize that obesity in females can result in cystic ovaries and may cause a fall off in fertility. The size of the jowl is often a good indicator of obesity for the breed and can be used to monitor condition in the animals. Mature boars weigh 700-800 lbs (318-363 kg) and sows reach 600-700 lbs (272-318 kg) as an adult.

Because of the increased interest in pasture raised pork by consumers, Large Black hogs are beginning to be recognized as a great choice in pastured management systems. According to the Large Black Pig Breeders Club in the UK, the number of breeders rose from 114 in 2004 to 144 in 2007. In the US there are approximately 300 breeding Large Black hogs as of 2008.

Status: Critical

Breed Clubs and Associations:

The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, Box 477, Pittsboro, NC 27312, (919) 542-5704,,

North American Large Black Pig Registry, Ted Smith, 740 Lower Myrick Rd., Laurel, MS, 39443, (601) 426-2264, Fax (601) 428-2274,

Large Black Hog Association, Brian Wright, Registrar, 16081 FR 2175, Cassville, MO, 65625, (417) 847-9521,, 

Oklahoma State University Department of Animal Science provides us with this description of the Large Black Hog:

Also Known By: Cornwall, Devon, Lop-eared Black
The Large Black was developed from the black pigs of Devon and Cornwall and the European pigs found in East Anglia. The pigs of East Anglia were believed to have developed primarily from Chinese breeds brought into England in the late 1800's. Conversly, the breeds of Devon and Cornwall were most heavily influenced by European breeds, primarily those from France. After 1900, the Large Black became well-known outside of its native region and spread throughout Great Britian.

In the early part of this century the Large Black were used for the production of pork in outdoor operations. Its coat color makes it tolerant of many sun born illnesses and its hardiness and grazing ability make it an efficient meat producer. Large Blacks are also known for their mothering ability, milk capacity and prolificacy.
Early selection was toward the bacon type and now the breed is characterized by great length and depth of body. In 1899, a breed society was formed, so the breed can be considered as having been formed on or before that date. Formerly fed to enormous weights to produce carcasses with a large amount of fat, Large Blacks are now used for lean pork and bacon production. In England, they were often crossed with Large White and Middle White breeds. There were a few Canadian imports of Large Blacks in the 1920's, but the breed was never very numerous in North America.

A 1985 importation to the U.S. was made by Ag-World Exports, which felt that the ability of the Large Black to be productive in rough conditions would make it an economically attractive breed for U.S. farmers. The Large Black, quite distantly related to modern U.S. breeds, would also be useful in crossbreeding for increased hybrid vigor. There was a further importation of Large Black pigs to Cabbage Hill Farm, NY in 1998.

Large Blacks are large, just slightly smaller than Yorkshires, and always black. They have long heads and straight faces, with lop ears. Large Blacks have a good depth of body, fair length, and strong backs. The hair is fine and rather thick with the black pigmentation being quite heavy.

The heavy drooped ear is also a characteristic of the breed. In fact, the ears are so large they cover much of the face and seem to obstruct the view from the eyes. The breed is known for its very docile nature, and some have suggested that its obstructed vision contributes to its unaggressive temperament. Whatever the cause, they seem to move more slowly and deliberately than other breeds.

The breed is said to have high levels of hardiness and thriftiness, with light shoulders, and good sides and hams. While the mothering ability and litter size are good, the breed does not seem to be as early maturing as most other breeds. The heavy black pigmentation of the skin is a characteristic not favored by processors.
The Large Black is listed as Critically Endangered by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. There are a small number of herds in the US from the 1985 importation. Large Blacks are also found in South Africa and Australia.


Alderson, L. and R. Dowling. 1995. Rare Breeds. London: Bulfinch Press. 144 pp
Briggs, Hilton M. 1983. International Pig Breed Encyclopedia. Elanco Animal Health
Information provided from The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, Box 477, Pittsboro, NC 27312. Phone: (919) 542-5704
Mason, I.L. 1988. World Dictionary of Livestock Breeds. Wallingford: CAB International. 348 pp
Viki Mills, Large Black Pig Breeders Club. UK