The Iberian pig, also known as the black Iberian pig, is a breed of domestic pig that originated on the Iberian Peninsula in areas including Spain and Portugal. It is thought that this breed can be traced back to the Neolithic era, when animal domestication first began, but the most accepted theory pertaining to the origin of this breed states that domesticated pigs were brought over by the Phoenicians and allowed to breed with wild boars, producing what is thought to be the ancestors of the breed.
The Iberian pig was once very popular, but it experienced a population decline beginning in the 1960’s due to the increase in popularity for more efficiently raised pigs and the African swine flu. Despite this, the population has been able to recover in recent years due to the increased desire for quality meat products. However, the diversity it once held across its range has decreased because of the need to breed it with the Duroc pig and many ancient strains have disappeared.
The Iberian pig can be black or red in color, with black pigs ranging from dark black to grey in color, and it has little to no hair along its body. Traditionally, this breed has a healthy appetite and a tendency to become obese, gaining large amounts of epidermal and intramuscular fat. This tendency, coupled with a traditional diet of acorns, allows the breed to produce high quality, flavorful meat.
It is best to raise Iberian pigs in a free range environment with at least one hectare of sparse oak forest, or dehesa. This type of habitat provides the pigs with food from four species of oak tree, with the bulk of its diet consisting of acorns from the holm oak. The other types of oak trees important to this breed are the gall oak, crock oak, and Spanish oak. In Spain, this breed produces a special meat product known as Secreto Iberico, a cut of meat that is taken from the back, front of the leg, and back of the leg and features a lean yet savory dish.
Image Caption: Black pig being raised in the countryside near Évora, Alentejo, Portugal. Credit: Xyzt1234/Wikipedia