But the Choctaw Hog is named after the Choctaw Native American tribe; who, whilst they weren’t the only people in America to take advantage of this pig, were the ones with whom it’s been most closely associated and these same pigs are still a part of the Choctaw culture today (like other native groupings, their people are a sovereign nation within the US) in Oklahoma.
The Choctaw nation and their livestock were the first to be forcibly ‘migrated’ from the Deep South to the Oklahoma Territory in the early 19th century when the US government — under pressure from settlers who were wanting to take over their rich & resource-full land for their own expansion — passed the Indian Removal Act of 1830 which, overnight, extinguished any Indian title to their ancestral lands. Immediately state and local militias started moving the “Five Civilised Tribes” out of Mississippi and Alabama in 1830. Deracinated, uprooted, lock, stock, barrel; naturally, their favourite pigs came along.
This is a breed that once traveled along the Trail of Tears and then later kept white families in the midwest from going hungry during the Great Depression and since then, the Oklahoma variant has been the cheer-leader for the Choctaw.
Like the Mulefoot, it has a single, fused, hoof and, like them, they still occasionally throw up off-spring with traces of fleshy wattles on the side of their necks. Both are indicators pointing back to their common Spanish ancestry. The pigs require relatively little care and are traditionally allowed to run free on open range where they’ll forage for acorns, berries, invertebrates, roots and vegetables (and, again, like all pigs, whatever else they can find). With the aid of trained dogs, often the charmingly named Catahoula Leopard dog — another animal of probable Spanish origin — the hogs are periodically trailed, rounded up, earmarked, and sorted.
It’s obvious as soon as you look at pictures of them, that Choctaw hogs are built for survival. They’ve long legs and are heavier in the forequarters than in the rear, meaning they’re both fast and athletic. This conformation certainly has its advantages in the wild, but unlike the more domesticated breeds it won’t produce too much saleable meat.
“As hog breeding more favours the industrial organisation and breeding of white hogs for lean pork production these remnants of the Spanish strains that were adapted for extensive systems are becoming rarer and rarer.” Research from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine
The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy drives a further nail into their commercial coffin when they state that Choctaws do not have a very valuable “market carcass”.
Lacking any reasonable but necessary economic incentive, farmers and suppliers aren’t drawn to help in the Choctaw’s conservation and, unlike some of the other breeds I’ve written about, there’s no official Choctaw Hog registry. The animals are still extremely vulnerable to inbreeding and, according to Ryan Walker of the Livestock Conservancy says, even to natural disasters.
“They could potentially get wiped out by one tornado,” he says.
These fascinating, historically interesting and genetically diverse pigs need a Grá Moore and Sean Brock to champion their cause, start breeding them, cooking with and eating them…