Acquired: Breeder (non-professional, hobby breeder)
Congleton, Cheshire, United Kingdom
Posted Sep 15, 2012
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.