Like other livestock, different breeds are better used for different applications. Swine breeds are no different as some are better purposed for different cuts of meat and each breed has its own unique characteristics.
The American Yorkshire is the American version of the English Large White pig, which was developed in England around 1761. The American Yorkshire is the most recorded breed in the United States, known to be muscular with a high proportion of lean meat and is renowned for its mothering ability.
Some of the breed’s characteristics include:
- Upright ears with a long, clean neck and face
- Long and lean, well-shaped top and wide-based from front to back
- Seven prominent, well-spaced and functional teats on each side
- Good hip structure with long, developed muscle
- Hind legs that set down square with a flexible hock
The American Yorkshire’s meat is mostly used for bacon and ham
The breed originated in the English county of Berkshire but as of 2008 it was estimated only 300 breeding sows were left in existence.
Characteristics of Berkshire pigs include:
- Black with white points and pink skin
- Very deep-sided, uniform back arch with a muscular build
- Short snout, large jowl and erect ears
- Can be as heavy as 600 lbs when mature
Berkshire pigs are used for Berkshire pork, known for their high milk production and mothering ability.
Durocs are versatile in that they form the basis for many mixed-breed commercial hogs. They have many unique features including:
- Drooping ears with a long, clean face and neck
- Big, even toes and are wide-based from front to back
- Seven, prominent and functional teats on each side
- Excessively-muscled top
The meat produced by Durocs will appear dark red with good fat marbling. Because of its lean muscle composition, the breed is known to produce high quality meat.
Hampshire pigs originated in Kentucky and are distinguishable by their appearance. They are black with a white belt that encompasses the front legs. Other unique features of the breed include:
- Upright ears, a long level rump with a high tail
- At least 12, evenly spaced and prominent teats
This swine breed is well muscled, known for growing rapidly and having high carcass quality when used for meat. Males are used as terminal sires and sows are praised for their mothering instincts.
The Hereford swine breed originated in Iowa and Nebraska and is known for its red body and white face, similar to the Hereford cattle breed. Other features of this breed of swine include:
- Drooping ears and curly tail
- Can weigh up to 250 pounds in six months
- Mature sows can weigh up to 600 pounds; boars as much as 800 pounds
- Good foragers to the point where they can be used for tilling
- Hereford sows are considered average mothers with decent milk production.
This hog breed is the only British-originated pig to be all black in appearance. The black hair protects the animal from sunburn. They are considered good foragers and very good mothers. More characteristics about the Large Black breed include:
- Large, dropping ears that obscure the animal’s vision
- Sows are able to have litters with as many as 13 piglets
- Sows can weigh up to 700 pounds, but obesity can cause cystic ovaries and a loss of fertility
The lean meat, mixed with well-marbled fat make the Large Black a popular choice for bacon production.
The Large White is also known as the Yorkshire pig, which originated in England. The breed is quite versatile as it’s able to cross and improve other breeds of swine. Other Large White characteristics include:
- Erect ears and dished face
- White color, pink skin and long, deep sides
The Large White breed is known for large litters, heavy milk production and excellent mothering instincts. Most of the meat from the Large White pig is used for bacon.
The Mangalitsa is a Hungarian breed known to grow thick, woolly coats similar to sheep. However the hair is quite coarse and typically isn’t used by outside industries. The hog breed was bred almost exclusively for its lard because nearly 70% of its body weight is fat, which also makes it a favorable swine breed for bacon, sausage, salami or ham. The breed has even been considered the Kobe beef of pork products. Mangalitsas are known to be robust and resistant to some diseases and stress. Mangalitsa sows can have between five and seven piglets per litter.
Meishan is a swine breed that originated in China and is known for flavorful meat with lots of fat. Other unique features about Meishans include:
- Black in color with a wrinkled face and skin
- Adults can weigh up to 130 pounds and are resistant to some diseases
- The breed can reach puberty in as little as three months
- Sows are known to have as many as 16 piglets per litter and two litters per year
Tamworths originated in the United Kingdom and are also known by the names Tam or Sandy Black. Its red color, long, narrow body, elongated head, pointed and erect ears make it stand out compared to other hog breeds. The pig’s mix of fat and lean meat make it one of the best pig breeds for bacon.
Known as a potbelly pig, the hog originated in Vietnam. It will appear black, or a mix of black and white. Litter size can vary greatly with the breed, ranging from one to 12 piglets per litter and full growth can take nearly five years. The Vietnamese Potbelly breed is generally smaller in size, ranging around 200 pounds. The breed is able to produce high amounts of fat, making it good for bacon and other cuts of meat and sausage.