Many years ago I started keeping Oxford Sandy and Black pigs that were bred true to type but were not accepted by the RBST, as a pure, rare breed, British pig. When I took on the Cumbrian finishing unit for pure, rare breed pigs, the scheme instigated and run by the RBST, Oxford Sandy and Black pigs were excluded. So, my herd were all sold off and replaced by Saddleback pigs.
That is until summer 2010 when they were reintroduced into the Coal Yeat Herd. I purchased two in pig gilts and an unrelated boar for my two grandchildren, Harry and Imogen and a new dynasty was established.
Then finally, in November 2011, they were recognised by the RBST. What a nonsense that one of the oldest breeds of British rare breed pig was so nearly lost to extinction.
The Oxford Sandy and Black is one of the oldest British traditional pigs, although its origins are somewhat hazy. It is believed to have originated from the Thames valley around Oxford. The Oxford Sandy and Black was popular as a back garden pig in the era when those living in rural areas reared a pig at home as a necessary source of family food. In fact we may well be returning to those times, as this pig will eat almost anything, even leeks! In those days it was an essential way of converting the bounty of the autumn into family feed for the winter, probably fattening in the oak forests of England on the acorns.
Today the breed is most admired for its bright metallic, gleaming, golden coat, as it is a well haired pig. The Oxford Sandy and Black loves being outside and copes very well with most conditions, growing a thick coat of hair in the winter. In my experience they are slower to mature than other rare breeds but time equals taste and this is reflected in the close grain of the very tasty, excellent pork.
One of the other main advantages of the Oxford Sandy and Black is that it is a relatively lean pig in rare breed pig terms, as no rare breed pig can be expected to compare with modern commercial pigs in growth rate or fat cover. It is not prone to lay down too much fat if it gets a little overfed. It also has a unique, high killing out percentage as it is lightly boned with excellent meat to bone ratio.
One unfortunate aspect of Oxford Sandy and Black pigs is that breeders have been selecting for “aesthetic good looks” rather than establishing a basic “good pig first” approach. Therefore some Oxford Sandy and Black have faults, which may be hard to breed out. The Coal Yeat Oxford Sandy and Black pigs have been rigorously selected for good bone and strong, sound legs as well as breed character. Too much attention has in my opinion been attached to size of blotches or white feet at the expense of the pig. It is my hope to try to remedy theses minor faults.
The Oxford Sandy and Black remains the most beautiful of British Rare breed pigs. It is docile and easy to handle, a prolific and an excellent milky mother. The combination of manageability and hardiness mean it’s a joy to own. I believe the Oxford Sandy and Black to be the most friendly of the British rare breed pigs and are ideal for the first time pig keeper, novice pig keeper or as children’s pigs.
This pig known as the “plum pudding pig” is a survivor. Numbers are now at a height not seen since early last century and we all enjoy our Coal Yeat Oxford Sandy and Black pigs!
“My Duchess Oxford Sandy and Black sow is now nearly 3 year old and very mature. She has had 3 litters, her most recent litter contained 11 piglets but she got mastitis and lost some. The rest are growing very well and are very friendly and tame. I go and play with them as often as I can as they are across the valley at the farm.
I like Oxford Sandy and Blacks because they are very friendly and as they grow slower than other breeds I can have more cuddle time with them when they are small and cute.
In 2011 I showed my own bred gilt Coal Yeat Duchess and won several breed championships and the best female rare breed pig at Anglesey show in Wales. I’m looking forward to her piglets in 2012 and showing my Oxford Sandy and Black pigs next show season.”
Visit John's dedicated website for Oxford Sandy and Black pigs here: www.oxfordsandyandblacks.co.uk
Visit the Oxford Sandy & Black Pig Society here: www.oxfordsandypigs.co.uk