Saving Endangered Hog Breeds

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2011: $151,215.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Alison Martin
The Livestock Conservancy

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Animals: swine


  • Animal Production: housing, animal protection and health, free-range, grazing management, livestock breeding, preventive practices, stocking rate
  • Crop Production: food product quality/safety
  • Education and Training: demonstration, mentoring, networking, workshop, technical assistance
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, marketing management, feasibility study, market study, value added
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures


    Rare breeds of pigs are a vital part of our agricultural resource and serve as a genetic reservoir for regional adaptations, biological fitness, maternal skills, foraging ability, lard production, and disease resistance. These fitness traits make heritage breed pigs a good choice for sustainable farms and pastured pork production, but at the outset of this project there was little information in the literature on the heritage breeds in North America or their pork. This project has extended our understanding of the current genetic status of heritage breeds, provided data on their growth and carcass characteristics, and yielded education and marketing tools for the benefit of farmers and breeders. This wholistic approach examines multiple issues important to successful pasture-based, independent, market-driven swine production and conservation. These results demonstrate how heritage pork production can be an economically viable enterprise for small and mid-scale farmers, whose success will increase endangered breed swine populations to that they are numerically and genetically secure.

    Project objectives:

    Objectives/Performance Targets:

      1. Quantify the genetic variability and genetic relationships within and among rare swine breeds using DNA and pedigree analysis.
      2. Assist swine breeders in the development of long-term breeding strategies to maintain genetic health.
      3. Develop educational materials for old-type swine management practices and modern health information, educate breeders about breeding stock selection of endangered swine breeds.
      4. Produce and disseminate Pork Carcass Percentage Datasheets for the following breeds: Guinea Hog, Gloucester Old Spots, Large Black, Mulefoot, Ossabaw Island, Red Wattle, Tamworth, and Hereford
      5. Define economic models (value chains) in the South for Heritage Pork products.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.