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Importation: Early

Wessex Saddleback Pigs

A Rare Breed of British Origin

Wessex saddleback boar Avonstour Bro bred by John Earney (Photo by Karen Nicoll)
Wessex saddleback boar, Avonstour Bro, bred by John Earney   (Photo by Karen Nicoll)

      The Wessex Saddleback is a striking looking black pig with a white belt, which includes the front legs, around the body. (Historically, the Wessex developed almost alongside the Essex Saddleback, which differed only in having white hind feet and tail tip.) The ears are lopped forward.

      The Wessex is both prolific and hardy, and does well as an outdoor pig – being bred originally as a specialist bacon producer.

      A Wessex Saddleback breed society was formed in Britain in 1918, but the breed (or a very similar one) may have been imported into New Zealand prior to this date. Sometime before 1905 a Mr Hardcastle described black pigs with a white stripe over the shoulder as being plentiful among the wild pigs of Canterbury, and a Mr Forster of Oxford is recorded as having imported white-shouldered pigs from England around the end of the nineteenth century.

Saddlebacks in Southland (Photo by Auriol Nicholson)
Free-range Saddlebacks in Southland   (Owned and photographed by Auriol Nicholson)

      In Great Britain, the Wessex and the Essex breeds were amalgamated in 1967, and became the British Saddleback.

      Although the Wessex Saddleback was a popular pig in New Zealand for many years, like so many outdoor and black breeds, it lost favour with the change in rearing methods and market demands, and had become rare in this country by the 1980s.

      A Rare Breeders group called SOWS (“Save Our Wessex Saddlebacks”) was set up in the 1990s, with the specific purpose of saving and promoting this breed in New Zealand.

      Although this group is no longer active, the breed is by no means numerous, there being little over a hundred registered animals of this breed in this country.

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