Wessex Saddleback Pigs
Does it matter if they are Pure, of course it does.
The gaining popularity of the Wessex Saddleback pig is very pleasing to us at Morrigan Farm, we love this breed of pig and support others wanting to start their own breeding program.
But like most popular animals, the dollars can take over in the quest to breed and sell their livestock.
I regularly have people contact me regarding breeding and wanting pigs to start or complement their breeding program.
The first question I always ask is “what bloodlines do you require”, as it is helpful if planning to successfully breed your chosen pigs.
The answer most of the times is “I don’t know”, but they are pure.
A little history on the breed
Originally derived from the New Forest in the South of England, the Wessex Saddleback evolved as a foraging breed in natural woodland pasture. Its lack of adaptability to intensive farming resulted in its decline and subsequent extinction in its native England. However, pedigree animals were imported to Australia 80 years ago, and it is raised there outdoors all the year round under free range conditions. An Australian herd book was established, and the breed is supported by the Rare Breeds Trust of Australia.
Now the dilemma
The issue we face when breeding Saddlebacks, is trying to keep the genetic line different to eliminate too much inbreeding.
Inbreeding causes gestation problems and low birth rates, not much point putting time and money into a breeding pair if you end up with no surviving or very low survival rate.
I have seen some terrible examples of “Saddlebacks”, some with short pointy ears, white markings everywhere, and also some very fine looking pigs, but with their bloodlines unknown.
Are they Crossbreds ??
First cross Saddlebacks can display all the right features of the breed, the saddle is what most people first see and want, keep in mind that even out of the best of the parents, not all will have a full saddle.
It’s the other features that need to be looked at, the ears, stature and so on, and what I think is most important is the bloodlines they have descended from.
If you want to successfully breed and to preserve the saddleback pig as we know it, you will need to know the lineage of your chosen pigs.
The crossbreeds that look like saddlebacks, can tick all the boxes of the breed standards, but when it comes time for reproduction, the problems become clear.
These are the pigs I have seen a lot of in my travels, they then get labelled “saddleback cross”, and the piglets with good markings get sold as “pure”, and the circle continues until all resemblance of the saddleback has disappeared.
Something to think about before purchasing
I’m not saying that you need to purchase “registered pigs”, I prefer to sell ours with a recipe than a registration paper, and it doesn’t make them breed better or taste better.
All breeders have piglets available that aren’t suitable for registration, but they have proven and traceable bloodlines.
If the seller of your chosen pig, can’t provide the linage, you are dealing with an unknown linage, so how do they know they are pure.
And how do you choose a suitable mate for your pig, just blindly buying can work, but then you are going to have to sell the piglets, unless you eat a lot of pork.
Getting rid of your piglets can at times be hard to do, you will find everyone is after them or no one is interested.
The sale yards can be an option, black pigs generally get marked down, this includes well marked saddlebacks, anything that has lots of spots and varying colour’s get marked down even more, sometimes passed in.
I think it is easier to sell pure pigs with proven and traceable bloodlines, then you also have the option to register.
Research what you are wanting to do with your chosen breed, look at your markets, and make informed decisions and know what you are buying.
If the linage is unknown, be very careful with your goals.
Like most of the pure old breeds, the saddleback has a very small gene pool in Australia, this is a current list of what is in Australia.
The Bloodlines are
- Charlsun (Sir Charles)
The Last Word
Knowledge is the key to any breeding program, knowing your animals, their good and bad traits, gives you the advantage over the back yard breeders of just any pig. Morrigan farm is available for vists to see how we run our pigs and just to get to know this gentle breed of pig.