The entirety of the scholarly research work in this section of the site is copyright of and credited to Brian Codling of Rectory Reserve Mangalitza fame, whose generous permission to re-publish and use here, is gratefully acknowledged.
Now extinct, the Lincolnshire Curly Coated pig was bred from a diverse group of stock primarily to feed the Farm Workers and Cottagers of Lincolnshire during the cold winters of the 19th Century. The formation of the Breed Society in 1907 specified the breed characteristics and these unusual, hairy animals were highly regarded for the flavour of their, albeit fatty, bacon. After the Second World War, demand for lean bacon, intensive indoor pig farming and Government actions that intended to increase the economy of the industry, all contributed to this breed of swine being extinguished during the 1950’s and 60’s.
At that time, attributes such as low cholesterol or high content of beneficial fatty acids in the meat were not considered. Today, Curly Coated Rare Breed Pigs are being reintroduced to Lincolnshire by imports of Mangalitzas, from Austria and Hungary, reversing exports that had been made prior to the 1930’s. Raised outdoors, that provides natural nutrients and trace minerals and, with less stress to the pigs and their meat than with intensive methods, a market has rapidly developed in the country for their tasty cured meats, sausages and pates.
The Development of the Breed
The Lincolnshire Curly Coated Pig was evolved during the 18th. and 19th. Centuries. It was developed from a miscellaneous selection of native and imported breeds. The exact origins were complex and obscure and there was considerable variety across the County reflecting the different regional locales and terrains. The native pigs were hardy and lived on the marshes and woodlands, in the open, sometimes in herds of 100 or more. They were also popular with Cottagers. However, in the latter part of the eighteenth century, English farmers were intent on breeding better pigs and brought in European and Chinese stock. The aim was for bigger animals with greater proclivity for reproduction.
The first mention of the long hair of these animals was in 1805 when Lawrence observed that the White Lincoln had a curly and woolly coat.
Arthur Young carried out a general review of Lincolnshire Agriculture in 1813. Concerning pigs, he stated that ‘the common breed (in Lincolnshire) is lop-eared, long haired, coarse but improved by the black (Berkshire(?)) – which cross has been very profitable as size is not lost but feeding quality improved’.
This was be complemented by Youatt  (1847) who perceived two types extant: ‘the true Lincolnshire pigs are white, with long straight bodies, round carcasses, fine skins and few bristles; the heads are well formed and are of moderate size, and the ears erect pointing somewhat forward and curling slightly at the tips; the hair is long and fine but scanty. This breed was formerly considered as superior to any but the Berkshire in point of form and value, they being easily fattened and the flesh being tender and of a fine flavour; with care they will reach 45 or 50 stone; and many at a year and a half old, will weigh 25 or 30 stone. The old breed of this county are long-legged, narrow backed, ungainly animals, with thick skins covered with short thick hair; the head is large, the forehead wide and the ears set far apart. They are far from profitable animals being enormous eaters and fattening but poorly; few attain to a greater weight than 18 or 20 stone’.
Wilson, in his Cyclopedia, confirmed the presence of long haired, woolly swine in the County.
Sydney, in 1871, stated that the Lincolnshire and Yorkshire breeds were indistinguishable, presumably as large white pigs.
In 1885 Long wrote
The Lincolnshire, an enormous animal, was more remarkable for its quantity of bone and coarseness of flesh. It generally had plenty of hair, a long snout, and huge flopping ears. Its chief qualities were its hardihood and profligacy.
The first Lincolnshire Agricultural Society (LAS) Show to have awards for White Lincolnshire Breed of Pigs was 17th – 19th July 1895 at Grantham. The Class 77 for a boar (3 entries and won by Mr W Martin of Wainfleet) and Class 78 for a sow (also 3 entries and won by the Earl of Tattershall). In 1896 at Gainsborough, J W Rowland, Fishtoft, Boston won out of 3 entries for the boar. No sows were shown in that year.
A Report on the pigs exhibited at Windsor in 1889 pointed out that:
50 years ago the chief brands were Yorkshire, Lincolnshire & Norfolk breeds now known as Large White. The Large White is descended, practically increased, from the native pig of the country. The Old English breed was coarse boned, long in the neck, narrow in the back and low shouldered.
Saunders Spencer in 1910 was able to look back at the development of the Lincolnshire Curly Coat.
The pigs were now hardy, thrifty, quick growers and the sows were prolific and good milkers. He could observe the results of the last half a century of breeding. Back in the 1850’s the animal was kept for 12 –15 months and then fattened to a carcass of 600 lbs. of not the finest meat but of satisfying character. The system then was to keep a sow and have a litter in early summer and after weaning convert her for Pork. The breed was hardy and prolific and suitable for consumption in farmhouses and in ground-keepers’ or stewards’ houses in which hired hands were boarded with the farmer. By the turn of the century (@1900), this practice was no longer followed so the breed was considerably improved by selection of the best: perceived quality rather than quantity. By this time the fashion was to allow prize animals to grow for a great age and to an immense size.
Barton described the characteristics of the indigenous variety in Lincolnshire in 1912 as hardy, quick feeders and good breeders that could attain great weight. The pork was juicy with quite a good texture.
However, there was considerable diversity of type and character prior to the formation of the Breed Society (1907) and the consequent compilation of a Lincolnshire Curly Coat Herd Book. In Lincolnshire in 1907 there were 116,323 pigs out of an estimated porcine population in Great Britain of 2,637,000
The LAS Show Open Classes for Lincolnshire Curly Coats in 1911 called for Boars or Sows born between 1907 and 1909 that were registered with the Breed Society. The oldest would have been 4 years and weigh 700+ lbs. Photos from the Royal Agricultural Show and Lincoln Agricultural Show at the time, as well as those fine specimens depicted in the Herd Books, confirm the large size of Show Champions.
However, this is not to say that all Lincolnshire Curly Coated Pigs were of these dimensions.
Photographs of Cottagers’ animals, with humans as comparators, show pigs that were of similar build to Middle Whites rather than Large Whites. A firm of Agricultural Merchants in Lincoln, W S White & Co., depicted them in their advertising material prior to the First World War as of medium proportions with respect to the eight breeds of British Pigs.
The breed standard was only defined on the setting up of the Breeding Society. The Lincolnshire Curly Coated Pig Breeders Association was incorporated as a Limited Company (the Limited was omitted by Licence of the Board of Trade) in London on Twenty first March 1907. The Standard was laid down in the Herd Book (page XIII, Vol. 1) as white and coated with white curly or wavy hair. The Curly Coat was a good converter of food and at the Royal Show at Smithfield in 1908 it secured the premier position for average daily live weight gain of 1 lb. 1.6ozs. Prize specimens had an average weight after 161 days of 170 lbs. and after a year about 300 lbs. (22 stones). It was said that a breeding sow could attain a weight of 30 –35 stones in twelve months, 40 stones after 20 months and 60 stone after 3 years. The breed could be killed out for fat pork or bacon at anywhere between 8 and 40 stones with good results.
In order to improve quality and gain conformity, the 1907 Herd Book of The Lincolnshire Curly Coated Pig Breeders Association laid down a Scale of Points for the Breed Standard. This remained the standard until minor modifications were made after the Second World War.
Figure 1: The Breed Standard Point System for the Lincolnshire Curly Coat, 1907
Face & Neck: Medium Length, wide between eyes & ears 5
Ears: Medium Length & not too much over face 10
Jowl: Heavy 3
Chest: Wide & Deep 3
Shoulders: Wide 15
Back: Long & Level 10
Sides: Very deep & ribs well-sprung 10
Loin: Broad 5
Quarters: Long, wide & not drooping 5
Hams: Large & well filled to Hocks 15
Tail: Set high & thick 3
Legs: Short & straight 5
Belly & Flank: Thick & well-filled 3
Coat: Fair quantity of curly or wavy hair 8
Head: Narrow forehead
Nose: Dished or long
Coat: Coarse, straight or bristly
Colour of hair: Any other than white
The inter-war years
Animals from Lincolnshire were exported to Austria / Hungary, at intervals but over a considerable period of time, in order to help preserve their indigenous Curly Coated Pig. This first occurred in 1873 and continued intermittently in the first years of the 20th century prompting a debate on the pedigree of the native breed,. After the First World War, between 1920 and 1930, more than 200 breeding sows were sent in order to increase the bloodlines and the gene pool. During the 1920’s Lincolnshire Curly Coats won many of the top awards at the Budapest Show and acquired the Gold Medal in 1925. The breed was very similar to the Austro-Hungarian Mangalitzas but the coat was lighter, longer and looser. Subsequently the Hungarians’ claimed that the Lincolnshire imports were sensitive to their surroundings and to heart and lung ailments and were, therefore, briefly crossbred with Mangalitzas. However, in these ‘Lincolistas’ no variant, dominant characteristics were observed and by 1940 there were only purebred Mangalitzas recorded in Hungary. As frequently has happened in Pig Breeding, introgression occurred as new genes were subsumed into the extant herd. No further imports were made after the Second World War.
In passing, it is interesting to note that the above were not the first exports of Lincolnshire pigs to have occurred. Shipments to Pennsylvania, USA had been made prior to 1812. These were subsequently crossed with various other breeds to obtain the Chester White: still today a very popular pig in the USA.
Hence, in the decade following the First World War the Lincolnshire Curly Coat was in considerable demand. However, by 1923 the seeds of its downfall were already sown.
The Lincolnshire Curly Coated: This is an excellent bacon pig if it is not got too fat, as is very common tendency under any but expert management. The bacon pig does not require to be forced or richly fed. A plump pig of about ten score will make the best bacon, and a good pig of this weight should be ready at eight or nine months. An eight weeks old pig bought in May and fed through the summer, should be ready for killing about the following November….
In 1933, 60% of Bacon imports into the UK were from Denmark and the Government were keen that British quality should be improved. In 1934, the Jubilee issue of the Pig Breeders Annual contained a message from Walter Elliott the Minister of Agriculture:
I would like to emphasise what I consider to be one of the most urgent needs – attention to the quality of our home output of bacon. It must be our firm intention that the quality of our product shall be and shall remain ahead of that of our foreign competitors and therefore we must start at the right end – with the raw material, the pig. I am pleased to note that, during the past contract period: there has been a steady increase in the proportion of pigs in the higher grades. But there is still plenty of room for improvement and here the National Pig Breeders Association has a most important function to perform. From now on we are going to need all our resources in breeding stock of proved performance as well as all the assistance we can get in the dissemination among producers of the best methods of breeding and feeding for bacon. Only so will it be possible to hold and consolidate the position we have already gained.
Hence, from 1933-1939 Grading of Bacon increased under the Pig Marketing Board. Pork carcasses were judged under a voluntary scheme of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to which farmers were encouraged to participate.
An influential report in 1938 by Viscount Astor & B Seebohn Rowntree was particularly scathing:
The Lincolnshire Curly Coat is one of the clearest examples of a breed selected for a special meat requirement. The custom in Lincolnshire used to be that the foreman had to lodge the unmarried workers and the farmer had to supply the foreman with the necessary meat. As the men did not object to fat, a typical lard type of pig was developed that would grow rapidly to a good size. The breed is not suited for the production of good pork or bacon.
Decline Post World War II
A temporary reprieve came during the Second World War. In 1940 the UK Ministry of Food became sole purchaser of fat Pigs with an emphasis on the greatest possible weight. During the rationing period in the War years and thereafter a Small Pig Keepers Council was set up to encourage backyard pig keeping across the country to use kitchen waste and increase the number of pigs. The scheme set up between the National Pig Breeders Association and the Government allowed for slightly increased feed allowances for small registered producers and membership was 11,000 in 1953. When rationing ended the numbers dropped away.
In 1950, the Ministry, through an economic incentive payments scheme, discouraged production of heavy pigs and in 1953 Grading of carcasses was reintroduced.
A particularly crucial decision for the Lincolnshire Curly Coat was implemented in 1954. Sales were henceforth limited to be either through the Government Fatstock Marketing Corporation or by Auction. This discouraged the traditional Lincolnshire ‘cottager’ activity of ‘fattening pigs, trading pigs and killing pigs: down the garden path’. Pig keeping had been a communal activity in which the villagers would share in the work and receive bacon or sausages for their volunteer assistance. Breeding and trading pigs by Cottagers slowly stopped, as people were reluctant to take the animals to auction and even less keen to go to a Government Official for assessment and sale. At the same time, the movement of people from the country to the cities was accelerating. Hence, the Lincolnshire practice of keeping a family pig declined rapidly over the next few years.
With the end of rationing in 1955, the Government were concerned by the international competiveness of the UK pig industry compared to the cost of imports of pork or bacon. A committee was set up under the Chairmanship of Sir Harold Howitt to ‘advise in what ways pig production would best be developed particularly in regard of general breeding policy’. The Committee published its report in October 1955:
…we have formed the view that one of the main handicaps facing the British Pig Industry today is the diversity of the type of pig which is found throughout the country. The pig industry will in our view only make real progress when it concentrates on a few main types and if it were at any time found possible – on a single type of pig for commercial production. The Large White, the Landrace and the Welsh, therefore, became the foundations of the modern pig industry in Britain.
The curers supported the ‘white’ pigs as they objected to the perceived problems that coloured breeds caused when it came to removing pigment from the skin. The Lincolnshire Curly Coat with its long hair not only slowed down processing but increased turnaround and clean up intervals.
An Agricultural Marketing Reorganisation Committee report was published in 1956 and closely followed by a Government White Paper (November).
‘The Pig Producer must do everything possible to breed and feed animals capable of producing economically high quality carcasses and this is emphasized in the price structure for bacon pigs’.
Within a year, in October 1957, the Pig Industry Development Authority was set up.
The farming of pigs in the UK was completely dominated by intensive rearing of a small number of breeds that were judged to be the most cost effective. The pigs were bred and fattened under intensive conditions indoors. Too much exercise was frowned upon as it did not promote rapid weight gain. Profitability of pig production was considered to depend on two factors: number of pigs /sow which can be brought to maturity & the cost and management of feeding.
These developments hastened the demise of swine being bred in the villages but many Lincolnshire smallholders continued with their practice of fattening a pig to supply meat to the family over the winter. The Curly Coat was a good converter of any vegetable matter from the garden, orchard or kitchen and feed costs were, therefore, minimal for a ‘Cottager’ with a few acres. These relied on a small number of breeders to supply them with eight- week old weaners in the spring.
‘Most of John Crowder’s trade was ‘down the garden path’ to Cottagers to whom he took a new pig when they had killed their own pig at Christmas. These pigs were fed on a warm mixture of potatoes and a bit of meal.
These breeders set great store on the results of showing their pigs. Their reputations depended on their results particularly at the Lincoln Agricultural Society Show. Unfortunately, by the late 1950’s there were only three breeding sows registered with the breed society
‘At the Lincolnshire County Show in 1961, Curly Coated pigs were exhibited, but tragedy struck. The Veterinary officer who carried out the dentition test, considered the age stated of the pigs did not correspond with their teeth, and most of them were disqualified; that was the death blow. I did not see them out after that’.
However, the pressures were not limited to Lincolnshire and generally affected all the native breeds, with similar consequences. By 1972 the population of all traditional pigs had declined to dangerous levels for survival and the Lincolnshire Curly Coat had become extinct. A turning point was reached with the foundation of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust in 1973. The need to conserve the gene pool was recognized and no further breeds were allowed to fail. Indeed considerations of taste and food variety, resistance to parasites and illness, weight gain in low fertile environments, use of renewable resources, human health (eg Cholesterol levels) etc. have led to the realization of the value of these breeds and niche markets have been developed for specific animals. This includes the Lincolnshire Curly Coat look alike – the Mangalitza.
Development in the 21st. Century
In 2006, after some years work examining the Stud books in the countries concerned and overcoming the multitude of health and other concerns of the parties involved, it was possible to import eighteen Mangalitzas into the UK.
This fat type breed was developed in the Carpathian basin in the 19th. Century. The typical breeds of the 18th. Century had been the Bakonyi from the woods of the Transdanubian hills and, from the Hungarian Plains, the Reed-Hog, in the West, and the red coloured Szalontai, along the eastern Border. These breeds had the advantages of resistance to the weather and disease. However, they also suffered the characteristics of late maturity, slow growth and tough meat. As time passed, the half-wild herds, from the forests and grazing lands, were collected and taken to farmyards and smallholdings. This was as a result of the ploughing up of the forest and grazing lands to form arable areas and the wider growing of Maize. Such changes in the conditions of keep and feed in the 18th. Century, meant that by the 19th. Century there was an established demand for bacon that was fat but of good quality. The Bakonyi and Szalontai were fed maize and crossed with the Sumadia breed of Serbian origin. The breed thus changed and ‘fat type’ hogs were developed. Sows of the slow growing type were mated with the new boars. This produced quick growing pigs that put on weight faster than the old breeds. These animals developed to become the Austro- Hungarian Mangalitza.
Mangalitzas in the west (Austria, Switzerland and Germany) are usually ‘Swallow Bellied’ – black backed with normally a white or silver / grey underbelly. Further east a single blonde colour predominates whilst in Western parts of Hungary and the Balkans a red tinge is apparent. The Black variant, from which the Swallow Belly is said to have been developed, by crossing with the blonde, died out in the 1970’s. The last known herd was on the Serb islands on the River Danube.
The breed is robust, resistant to disease and stress and of an amiable, balanced disposition with strong maternal instincts. The thick, woolly coat protects in all types of weather and they only need a simple draft free and rain tight shelter. In hot weather, it is important that a wallow is available to cool the body and care for the skin. Powerful legs and strong hooves allow these pigs to securely move about in any landscape. The animals like to range freely outside, preferably in wooded regions, foraging for food. They are held in high regard for the quality of their bacon. This has a strong flavour, is juicy, tender and doesn’t shrink in the pan. The meat is excellently suited for sausages, salami and air-dried or smoked hams. At one time, in the second half of the nineteenth century, their ‘Charcuterie’ was in such demand across Europe that they were traded on the Vienna Stock Exchange. Over a hundred thousand animals a year were exported from Hungary.
Pressures on the mainland of Europe for the intensive rearing of large white and similar pigs for fresh meat were similar to those in the UK. This led to this free ranging type of animal being supplanted in large operations by the mid 1950’s. Today they are ‘listed’ by the Society for the Conservation of Endangered Livestock Breeders of Austria. In 2003 there were just 145 breeding Mangalitzas certified in Austria (39 boars and 106 sows spread across 46 breeders). In Hungary, the situation has been managed by preservation of stock at a small number of State farms. They have built up an export market of the red coated variety to Spain for the augmentation of ‘Serena’ ham production. Even so the total herd is said to be less than 5000 animals. In view of the ‘export’ demand, it has been rumoured that the breed lines have been supported, in recent years, by crossbreeding with Durocs to increase the pool of fecund animals.
The British Pig Association preserved samples of DNA from the 3 boars and 14 females that were imported in 2006. The bloodlines all appear to be breeding steadily and there are now (April 2012) approximately 400 animals in the UK. In Lincolnshire there are four established breeders with a total of 100 pigs. Of these, Rectory Reserve with its herd in the midst of the Lincolnshire Wolds at Fulletby near Horncastle is the largest with 2 unrelated boars, 6 breeding sows and approximately 60 young stock. Cooperation between breeders should, therefore, ensure viability of the breed within Lincolnshire for some years to come, without recourse to inbreeding.
Moreover, to ensure long-term economic viability, a ‘charcuterie’ market is being developed for Curly Coated products. This consists of not only plain and smoked sausages, but also pies, pates, salamis and air dried ham. These incorporate the best of traditional recipes, from the days of the Lincolnshire Curly Coat, but also utilize the experience of the Austro–Hungarian Mangalitza speciality chefs. Academic studies at the University of Hebrecen have shown that Mangalitzas are low in Cholestrol and higher in unsaturated fatty acids, such as Omega 3. This makes their products particularly attractive in meeting current demand trends for food.
It is hoped that, over time, some of the UK herd may be moved close to the ‘original’ Lincolnshire Curly Coat but, meanwhile, the ‘pig that thinks it’s a sheep’ can again be seen on the fens and wolds of Lincolnshire.
UPDATE: However, things have changed slightly since then and not for the better. From an email to me:
“Lincolnshire Curly Coats were first exported to Hungary in the 1890s, again in the early 19th century and then in the 1920’s. The reason that the Mangalitza was going extinct was because the Austro-hungarian Empire had fallen apart at the end of the first world war. Their troops returning from the trenches, to an anarchistic situation, were starving and ate everything they could find including most of the Mangalitzas. The new Hungarian Communist Government collected the remaining pigs and moved them to 4 communes and augmented the stock with Lincolnshire imports.
Moving back to the UK after the second World war, it was Government action in two regards that resulted in the demise of the Curly Coat . Popular taste was increasing the demand for imports of Danish Bacon and cheap Pork from intensive indoor factory farming of pigs in Scandinavia & Holland. The Labour Government wanted to save on imports to improve the balance of payments and passed legislation giving Grants to pig farmers who would use one of 3 ‘commercial’ pigs with rapid growth and large litters and which were raised indoors a la production line principles.
Today we deplore the conditions under which these pigs were kept and also, even though conditions have improved, there are continuing concerns over the amount of antibiotics and other ‘supplements’ which are added to the indoor pigs to keep them healthy. People are now rarely allowed into pig farms for the risk of them bringing disease to a pig unit. Swine flu transmitted from a human could result in possibly 10000 pigs having to be destroyed: units are deliberately built in modular style to prevent transmission of diseases.
Outdoor breeds take much longer to ‘finish’ (commercial pigs today finish in 4 to 5 months whilst one of ours can take 12 to 15 months depending on the weather – think on’t the extra cost of feed over this extended time). They also have smaller litters (6 or 7 instead of 14 to 18 on average). As with Chickens, the economics of intensively reared animals is very attractive in isolation to other considerations (see my comment on the future below).
The other factor in the 1950s was the ‘Markets’ bill. Lincolnshire Curly coats were sold by breeders like John Crowder who would take them to the Farm workers in the Spring and deliver them ‘down the Garden path’. After particular incidences of Swine Fever in the UK the Government ruled that piglets had to be checked by the Government Vet and sold at a registered Market with their ‘certificate of health’. No way were Crofters in the Fens going to make a trek to market just to buy a piglet and take it home particularly with the state of the Lincolnshire roads in the Spring.
These two factors resulted in the Curly Coat going extinct within about 10 years (for all practical purposes there were few left by the early 1960’s and the Lincolnshire Agricultural Society Show stopped the exhibit Class owing to lack of suitable entries. The silver salva for the best in class can still be found in the LAS Board room where it is used to pass round peppermints during meetings).
What of the future for Curly Coated Pigs in the UK? It would be great to think that factors that were not even considered in the 1950’s, such as the unsaturated make up of the fatty acids and the interstitial veining (like sirloin steak) would result in the premium value & flavour being realised. This is true amongst renowned Chefs and a minority of Food conscious members of the public. However, with the costs involved (see above) this is always going to be a niche food market. Unfortunately with a small number of animals in a herd the economics are even worse as ‘overheads’ have to spread over these pro rata. 5 years ago pig feed costs were much lower & we managed to set up 6 breeders in Lincolnshire (to lessen the risk of ‘wipe out’ in the event of a disease in one herd).
Today we and one other are still operating but the others have given up. The situation is similar in the rest of the UK. Numbers are declining and it will be interesting to see the results of this year’s British Pig Association Survey on the breed numbers. We have a limited gene pool in the UK & several lines are at risk. At Rectory Reserve we are not immune to the situation as we are selling less breeding stock and piglets and are having to bear the extra cost of fattening and taking the meat to market on a larger percentage of the herd. With the largest herd in the country (70 pigs) we currently lose money every year at a rate of £ per pig on a fully costed basis. It could be that there is not a viable economic model for the survival of this breed in the UK given the present environment.”
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