Other common names: Local Black Pig, Ashanti Dwarf Pig, Ashanti Black Forest Pig, West African Dwarf Pig, Nigerian Black Hairy Pig
Domestic pigs are not native to West Africa and how this pig breed arrived on the continent is still a matter of debate. Either it is a descendant of the wild pigs first domesticated in Egypt almost 9,000 years ago, or it is a descendant of the Iberian pigs brought to the continent by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century (native African warthogs and bush pigs belong to a different genus and cannot interbreed with domestic pigs).
This is a very hardy pig breed that typically subsists by scavenging. They are more active than introduced breeds an much less susceptible to heat stroke. They are better at scavenging and rooting and are resistant to the majority of local diseases and parasites. However, they are much more prone to put on fat than modern breeds. They also tend to grow slower, but this may be associated with their known heat resistance. This breed of pig is also very unusual in that it can digest much more fibrous matter than other pig breeds. So it can consume just about any root vegetable and plant matter.
Typically the Ashanti Black Pig produces a litter of 5 to 7 piglets and mortality is high so that there are typically 4 piglets at weaning.
Both in Ghana and Nigeria the native dwarf pigs are being extensively bred with 'exotic' European breeds (most notably the Landrace) to produce animals with the longer bodies and higher growth rates of the exotic breeds, but which retain the disease resistance and temperament of the native breeds. Because of this the pure Ashanti Black pig or Nigerian Black Hairy pig is becoming increasingly rare and there is a major initiative by the respective countries' breeding stations to preserve the breed because of its potentially advantageous genetics.
The Ashanti Pig is one of only two known 'native' West African breeds, the other being the red Guinea Hog, which is now extinct.
Appearance / health:
The Ashanti Dwarf pig is a small, rough-coated animal that has a long and narrow head with a prolonged snout. Along the tail is a belt of longer-raised bristles. The coat is typically black and hairy (even hairier in the Nigerian breed), though red-coated, brown-coated and even white individuals do occur. They often have paler underbellies, which is a feature of pig breeds seen in Egyptian tombs. Like all 'indigenous' pig breeds they are characterized by medium, semi-erect and swept back ears and their straight tails. They are also notable in that they can survive in the dry season without much food or water. This is a small pig, growing to no more than 50cm at the withers.
Like all native breeds, the Ashanti Black Pig is generally resistant to the main local diseases. It is also very resistant to heat and heat stroke. It should be noted that where pigs are left to scavenge on their own under traditional management systems the pigs scavenge for food at backyards and they drink muddy, parasite infested water under ditches. Consequently they ingest many parasites and such internal parasites as lungworms (Metastongylus species), intestinal round worms (Ascaris lumbricoides), nodular worms (Oesophagostomum spp.) and kidney worms (Strephenurus dentatus) are common in these pigs. Under more intensive production systems a regular worming regimen will take care of these problems.
Behavior / temperament:
Ashanti Black pigs are known as active animals and given the opportunity they will forage widely. And though piglet mortality is high, this is more to do with poor diet than the pig's innate mothering abilities. Like many West African breeds the pigs have been bred to be both docile and very easy to manage. This would make an excellent pet breed, but is not available outside West Africa.
Housing / diet:
Under traditional management systems, unless they are reared in urban locations, pigs are typically housed (this is to prevent them from destroying crops). They are typically either fed cassava especially grown for them, the residues from beer brewing (typically based on millet) or the leftovers from tree crop processing (baobab, banana and oil palm in the main).
native pig breed, disease tolerant
Ashanti Black Pig Management in West Africa
If you go to just about any village in Ghana or Nigeria, particularly during the dry season you will commonly see this native pig breed rooting around outside the houses. They are known as the Ashanti Black pig in Ghana (centre of the ancient Ashanti kingdom), but are known as the Nigerian Black Hairy Pig in Nigeria, though they are the same breed.
Typically they are found closer to the coastal areas, where more of the population is Christian, though they are traditionally tolerate even in predominantly Moslem areas. However, the view of pigs in West Africa is very confuse. Wild or 'bush' pigs are traditionally eaten as bushmeat by many communities and many traditional farmers rely on pigs for their meat. However, because they scavenge and their diet is so similar to that of humans they are often viewed with distain.
This has made the 'native' pig a much under-rated and under-valued resource in West Africa. This breed is very heat-tolerant and can eat vegetation that is much more fibrous than just about any other breed of pig. They are resistant to many of the prevalent diseases and are very easy to manage.
They are characterized by their long snouts, erect ears, black skin and short black hair. Indeed, they look more like a wild boar or an European Iron-age pig than a modern pig. Some believe that they are descended from the black Iberian pigs that the Portuguese introduced to Africa. And there certainly is Iberian influence in their genetics. But their appearance (they look more like wild boar and often have pale bellies) makes me think that they owe more of their genetics to the original pigs domesticated by the Egyptians some 9000 years ago and which were introduced to West Africa via Sudan.
Whatever their origins, these are calm but small swine, superbly adapted to the harsh conditions of West Africa. Because they are traditionally under-valued not many people know that this breed even exists. Though this attitude is slowly changing and there are moves in both Ghana and Nigeria to preserve and to improve the breed by outcrossing with larger European breeds in the hope of producing a heat and disease tolerant pig with better growth characteristics.
Under traditional management, because the pigs are reared in close proximity with humans they tend to be very calm and not in the least frightened by people. In per-urban areas they are typically left to their own devices all year round and only gathered when it is time for slaughter.
In rural areas, because they can be destructive to crops the pigs are typically kept indoors or in an enclosure during the rainy season and are fed harvested plant matter. They are allowed to roam freely during the rainy season. Often they are fed on the leftovers of the local brewing industry (typically millet groats) and in some places cassava is specially grown for them. They are also used to clear forest margins and the remains of crops after harvesting. This relatively low protein diet during the rainy season may explain why piglet mortality under traditional management is quite high.
Litter sizes are typically small (about 6 is typical) and growth rates are low. But the low management means that they are an excellent source of meat for many village communities. The meat is also lean and very low fat. The are also very heat tolerant and because of this the breed deserves to be more widely known. Indeed it is quite a small breed, standing some 50cm at the shoulder (for the pure-bred). They are very tame and the size and temperament would make them an excellent pet breed, if they were available outside West Africa.
My wife is very fond of them and we've always owned a few when we have lived in Nigeria..
From DLlE Sep 15 2012 5:45AM