Iron-age Pig

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The basics:
The Iron-age pig was first produced in the UK in the 1980s by experimental archaeologists who were working for a BBC series on the Iron Age. They wanted to create a pig that looked like those that appeared on drawings and carvings of Iron Age pigs from 2,400 years ago. To achieve this appearance, the archeologists crossed a wild boar with a Tamworth sow. This crossing produced a pig that had the piglet characteristics of the wild boar but which was not as aggressive and easier to manage than the wild boar.

Today the Iron-age pig is used by smallholders throughout Europe, and there is a small but important market for the meat in the speciality meat market. Britannic Rare Breeds maintains a list of suppliers. The cross ended up with the growth characteristics of the Tamworth Pig, but with the meat flavor and leanness of the Wild Boar. Compared with commercial pig breeds, Iron-age Pigs are slower growing and can take 18 months to come up to weight.

Appearance / health:
Iron Age Pigs have longer hair than most other pigs (a result of their Tamworth and Wild Boar heritage) and coloration varies from ginger (from the Tamworth) to almost black (from the Wild Boar). The piglets are very pretty and have the ginger and tan banding of wild boar piglets (this helps them blend into the undergrowth). They are intelligent and can be inquisitive. Sows are frequently prolific and are good mothers. The piglets are very vigorous (but litter sizes are smaller than for modern commercial breeds) and 100% survivability is not uncommon. Typical mature weight will be 390 lbs (160kg) with the boar being larger than the sow.

Being a cross-breed with the wild pig, Iron Age pigs are typically vigorous and healthy. But they are swine and though not as sensitive as intensively-raised breeds they can stressed by travel, vaccinations, extreme temperatures, and new surroundings. Stress often makes them susceptible to respiratory illnesses. Pigs commonly suffer from mad itch (or pseudo rabies), dysentery, and parasites (lice, ticks, and ascarid worms) and it is parasites that cause the main problems for Iron Age pigs, particularly if they are kept in their preferred woodland environments.

Healthy pigs have shiny hair, bright eyes, strong appetites, and high energy. Their normal temperature is 102.5F. Deviations from the normal temperature and other signs of poor health including diarrhea and coughing should promptly be brought to the attention of a veterinarian.

Behavior / temperament:
The behaviour of iron age pigs is a blend of that of the Tamworth and the Wild Boar. They are nowhere near as aggressive as the wild boar, but neither are they as tame and approachable as the Tamworth. Tamworths are intelligent and sociable but the wild boar is much less so. How your Iron Age pig reacts will depend on its particular blend of genetics. Some will roam and forage like a wild pig and will tend to shy away from humans. Others will be sociably and will be ready to be fed by you. They do require a mud bath. This allows them to cool down in hot weather and cleanses their skin of parasites. It is also a social activity for these pigs.

Iron Age pigs have excellent mothering abilities, but they should be approached with extreme caution when farrowing. Many smallholders like them as a breed because they require low maintenance and because they can be applied to maximize the use of wooded areas. This is a very active breed.

Housing / diet:
Pigs are omnivores and will eat almost anything they are given. If rearing on a small scale, they are a good way of getting rid of household scraps and feeding them these gets them nearer to the house and more used to people. However, their Tamworth and their Wild Boar heritage makes them excellent foragers. They particularly love wooded areas and will root around naturally. Oak woodland is a particular favourite. They will eat fruit, roots, tubers, greens, flowers, insects, worms, carcasses and any other types of meat. In autumn they will gorge on nuts, acorns and mushrooms.

If you are breeding for meat, then it is a good idea to supplement their diet with grains mixed with protein and vitamin supplements. But if you are using a low management system and they have plenty of land to forage in this is not necessary.

They require plenty of water and providing them with some kind of shelter is also recommended. This could be a wooden or corrugated construction. You should provide plenty of dry bedding, particularly in the winter months. Pig owners are advised to check with local authorities for legislation regarding the ownership and keeping of pigs in their homes and backyards.

Written by Dyfed Lloyd Evans




Tamworth sow, wild boar, Celtic Ironage

Iron-age Pig Health Tip

Iron-age Pig

From DLlE Sep 5 2012 2:42AM


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