Cumberland Pig

The Cumberland pig is a breed of domestic pig that was developed in Northern areas of England. It was once used for the meat industry, specifically for use in local delicacies like Cumberland ham or sausage, but it went extinct in 1960 after leaner meat became popular. It is thought that the breed was developed the course of a few hundred years in Westmorland and Cumberland. It was a close relative of the Old Yorkshire pig and had a heavy build that helped it withstand the harsh weather in its native country.

During the nineteenth century, Cumberland pigs were crossbred with white breeds of Yorkshire pigs in order to improve the breed, but this resulted in the development of other breeds including large white and the middle white. In 1916, the Cumberland Pig Breeders’ Association was established and the breed hit a peak in popularity during the 1920’s, but during the twentieth century leaner meat became more popular. By 1955 the Advisory Committee on the Development of Pig Production in the United Kingdom called for breeders to focus on the landrace, Welsh, and large white breeds of pigs, which further caused a decline in population number. The exact year of extinction is recorded to be 1960, when the last remaining individual, a sow, died in Bothel, Cumbria.

An animal conservation center in Penrith recreated the Cumberland pig in 2008 by studying genetic samples of the breed and using selective breeding. Farmers who had once bred the original pig agreed that the new breed looked similar to the old Cumberland. Although it is hoped that this new breed can once again produce meat for local delicacies, the Rare Breeds Survival Trust noted that they would not accept it as the original Cumberland breed.

Image Caption: Cumberland boar, late 19th century. Credit: Sanders Spencer/Wikipedia