Ossabaw Island Hog

The Ossabaw Island hog, also known as the Ossabaw Island, is a breed of pig that developed from a herd of feral pigs on Ossabaw Island, Georgia in the United States. The original population of hogs was brought to the island by the Spaniards during the sixteenth century for the purpose of later consumption, which was a typical practice during Spanish exploration at that time. The pigs became isolated on the island for hundreds of years and had little interaction with domestic pig breeds or humans, leaving them to roam free. It is thought the Ossabaw Island breed is the only pig breed in America that is descended from Iberian pigs introduced by the Spaniards.

Because the Ossabaw Island hog has been isolated in a small area for so long, it has adapted to living in harsh conditions. It is small, reaching a length of only twenty inches and a weight of less than two hundred pounds, although individuals taken off the island and placed on farms can grow larger after a few generations of breeding. This breed can hold a variety of colors, but black and spotted are the most common colors. It has a long nose, erect ears, and a heavy, coarse coat.

Because of the harsh environment in which the Ossabaw Island hog must live, it stores fat in a more sparing manner than domestic pigs, although it will gain fat more quickly in domestic environments causing it to reach a state of pre-diabetes faster than domestic pigs. This breed is capable of retaining water despite its salty diet and will consume a variety of foods including tubers, roots, small mammals, and some reptiles. It is used in scientific research and the production of artisan cured meat, whole pig roasts, and pork.

Like other feral pig breeds, the Ossabaw Island hog is known to have a negative impact on the wildlife around it, especially endangered species like the snowy plover and the loggerhead sea turtle. It will destroy and raid the nests of both of these species, further hindering the conservation efforts designed to help them. This breed will also destroy plant life by consuming or trampling it as it moves across the island. Because of its destructive habits, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources has advocated the eradication of all feral pigs on the island by means of trapping, public hunting, and shooting.

The mainland and island populations of the Ossabaw Island pig are both considered vulnerable by many organizations including the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, which lists it as critical. Individuals on Ossabaw Island are maintained using the methods outlined by the Department of Natural Resources and no new pigs can be brought to the mainland due to pseudorabies and vesicular stomatitis, so it is not known how long the breed can avoid extinction.

Image Caption: An Ossabaw Island Hog. Credit: Cliff/Wikipedia (CC BY 2.0)