With its lop ears and long, deep body, the Large Black is now Britain’s only native all-black pig. Extremely docile, their placid temperament ensures they can be contained behind a single strand of electric fencing. See? You were wondering about the title, now weren’t you?
They’re very hardy, are capable of rearing sizeable litters off simple rations, thus a breed that’s ideally suited to simple outdoor systems. Coupled with its black skin (which stops the sun-burn problem, from which white or paler pigs suffer) which is fine and silky to the touch, the Large Black is ideal for a wide range of climatic conditions, so much so, that by 1935, pigs of this breed had been exported to more than 30 other countries.
The breed originates from the Old English Hog established in the 16th and 17th centuries and is still occasionally called the Devon, Cornwall Black or Boggu.
Described by Parkinson in 1810:
They are distinguished by their gigantic size, they are the largest of the kind I have ever seen, and as perfect a make as possible in pigs; their heads are large, with very long ears hanging down on each side of the face, so they can scarcely see their way.
By the late 1880’s there were two distinct types of Large Black, one to be found in East Anglia, long but with short legs and the other, reportedly even larger, a real land leviathan, in Devon and Cornwall. However the founding of the Large Black Pig Society in 1889 led to an increase in the exchange of stock between breeders in the two regions.
In the early part of the 20th Century, Large Blacks were widely distributed throughout the country and were frequently crossed with Large Whites and Middle Whites to produce bacon and pork pigs. The Large Black breed was also very successful in the show ring at this time; at Smithfield in 1919, the Supreme Championship was awarded to a Large Black sow that subsequently sold for 700 guineas. The same year the breed outnumbered all other breeds at the Royal Show when 121 Large Black pigs were exhibited. A herd book had been formed around 1900, like so many at this time.
A change in demand by the meat trade and a developing prejudice against coloured pigs led to a severe decline in numbers throughout the 1960’s. Today Large Blacks can be found throughout the British Isles, mainly in small herds, some of which were established well before World War II. Large Black sows are renowned as excellent mothers with exceptional milking ability. and the breed is much appreciated for its succulent taste and eating quality and especially for the taste & flavour when utilised in traditional cured hams and makes fine bacon.
It has a broad, medium-length head with long, thin, lop ears and a long, clean neck and fine shoulders. A long, strong back, wide quarters and fine hams. Deep bodied, with straight, quite fine boned legs and strong pasterns (the sloping part of a pig’s foot between the first joint and the trotters).