Large Black

The large black, also known as the Cornwall black or the Devon black, is a breed of domestic pig that was developed in Great Britain. The breed was a result of crossing black colored pigs from the southwestern areas of Cornwall and Devon and the eastern areas of Suffolk, Kent, and Essex. The pigs taken from Devon were chosen for their physical traits, but selective breeding changed their constitution and confirmation, giving them a standard size and appearance. This breed grew in popularity during the nineteenth century and a breed society known as the Large Black Pig Society was formed at the end of the century.

Popularity of the large black pig increased greatly during the 1920’s, but during World War II the breed lost favor due to the need for pigs that could be raised in intensive, indoor facilities. By 1949 the breed association for the large black pig was merged with the National Pig Breeders Association and by 1955, a report was released that stated that the diversity of pig breeds in the UK was hindering competition with other countries in the meat market. Because of this, breeders were encouraged to focus on the large white pig, the landrace, and the Welsh pig. After this, all other pig breeds in the UK suffered population losses, so much so that by 1973 the newly founded Rare Breeds Survival Trust could list many as extinct and many others as critically low.

The large black pig is long in shape and reaches a varying weight depending upon the sex, with boars reaching an average weight between seven hundred and eight hundred pounds and sow reaching a weight of up to seven hundred pounds. This breed was once smaller, with sows reaching weights of only five hundred pounds in the early twentieth century. It is the only black breed of pig in Britain and this skin color helps protect it against sunburn. It is known for its large ears, which can grow so long that they cover the eyes. Because it is so docile, the large black pig can be easily held within a fenced area.

The large black pig traditionally lived outside, so it is best placed in pastured areas where it can graze and forage on its own. This breed remains fertile for long periods of time and sows are known for their excellent mothering skills. Sows typically give birth to a litter of eight to ten piglets, although litters of thirteen piglets are not uncommon.

Traditionally, the large black was used for its meat, specifically its lean bacon, but today it is often crossed with other breeds to create hybrids that are more popular in the current meat market. This breed was classified as vulnerable by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust in 2011 and as of 2008 the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy listed the breed as critical. It is estimated to have a population of less than 2,000 individuals throughout the world.

Image Caption: A herd of Large Black swine. Credit: Amanda Slater/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)