1902 Encyclopedia > Agriculture > Hogs

(Part 90)



Although occupying a less prominent place in the estimation of the farmer than the ox and sheep, the hog is nevertheless an animal of great value. He is ieasily reared, comes rapidly to maturity, is not very nice as to food consuming offal of all kinds, and yields a larger amount of flesh in proportion to his live weight and to the food which he has consumed, than any other of our domesticated animals whose flesh is used for food. To the peasantry he is invaluable, enabling the labouring man to turn the scraps even from his scanty kitchen, and fromhis garden or allotment, to the best account. On such fare, aided by a little barley or polard, he can fatten a good pig, and supply his family with wholesome animal food at the cheapest possible rate.

The breeds of swine in Great Britain are numerous, and so exceedingly blended that it is often impossible to discriminate or classify them properly. The original breeds of the country seem to be two, viz., "The old English Hog," tall, gaunt, very long in the body, with pendent ears and a thick covering of bristles. The representatives of this old breed are found chiefly in the western counties of England, especially in Lancashire, Yorkshire, and Cheshire, where hogs of immense size are still reared, but greatly improved as compared with their ancestry. Their bones are smaller, their hair finer and thinner set, their skin thinner and with a pink tint, the ears still pendulous but much thinner, the carcase much thicker, and their propensity to fatten greatly increased. This large breed is exceedingly prolific, and the sows are excellent nurses, it being quite common for them to farrow and rear from 12 to 18 pigs at each litter. They are somewhat tardy in arriving at maturity, and do not fatten readily until that is the case. After sixteen months old, they, however, lay on flesh very rapidly, grow to very great weights, and produce hams of excellent quality, with a large proportion of lean flesh in them. The Berkshire and Hampshire hog seems originally to have been from the same stock, but by some early cross acquired the thicker carcase, prick-ears, shorter limbs,and earlier maturity of growth, by which they are characterized. The other native breed is found in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. They are very small, f a dusky brown colour, with coarse bristles along the spine, and prick-ears. They are exceedingly hardy, and susist on the poorest fare, being often left to range about without shelter, and support themselves as they best can on the roots of plants, shell-fish, seaweed, and dead fish cast up by the tide.

The improved breeds now so abundant have been obtained by crossing these old races with foreign hogs, and chiefly with the Chinese and Neapolitan. Our modern white breeds, with prick-ears, short limbs, fine bone, delicate white flesh, and remarkable propensity to fatten at an early age, are indebted for these qualities to the Chinese stocks. The improved black breeds, ofwhich the Essex may be selected as the type, and which possess the qualities just enumerated in even a greater degree, are a cross from the Neapolitan. They are characterized by their very small muzzle, fine bone, black colour, and soft skin nearly destitute of hair. They can be brought to profitable maturity at from eight to twelve months old, the white breeds at from twelve to sixteen months. Both kinds are peculiarly suitable for producing small pork to be used fresh, or for picking. The flesh of these smaller breeds produces, however, excellent bacon when used in that manner, and at less cost than that of the larger breeds, for this reason, that it is only from the flesh of a hog that has reached maturity that bacon of the first quality can be produced; and as these have reached that point at an age when the others are but ready for beginning the fattening process, it follows that the carcase of the former, in a state fit for curing, is produced at less cost than that of the latter. Sows of the Neapolitan breed and its crosses are better mothers and nurses than the Chinese. Both kinds require peculiar care to prevent the pregnant sow from becoming hurtfully fat. Unless kept on poor and scanty fare they inevitably become useless for the purpose of breeding. The Berkshire hog combines the good qualities of the larger and smaller breeds already referred to, so happily, that he deservedly enjoys the reputation of being as profitable a sort for the farmer as can be found. With proper treatment he arrives at maturity at about sixteen months old, yields a good weight of carcase for the food which he has consumed, and his flesh is well adapted for being used either as fresh meat, pickled pork, or bacon, according to the age at which he is slaughtered. A very profitable hog is also obtained by coupling sows of the larger breeds with males of some of the smaller races.

It too frequently happens that less care is bestowed on the breeding of pigs than of the other domesticated animals.

From the early age at which they begin to breed there is need for constant change of the male, to prevent the intermingling of blood too near akin. These animals, too, are exceedingly sensitive to cold, and often suffer much from the want of comfortable quarters. Whether for fattening hogs, or sows with young pigs, there is no better plan than to lodge them in a roomy house with a somewhat lofty thatched roof, the floor being carefully paved with stone or brick, and the area partitioned off into separate pens, each furnished with a cast-iron feeding-trough at the side next the dividing alley, and with adequate drainage, so that the litter in them may be always dry. The period of gestation with the sow is sixteen weeks, and as her pigs may be weaned with safety at six weeks old, she usually farrows twice in the year. In this climate it is desirable that her accouchement should never occur in the winter months. It is a common arrangement to have a pig-shed so placed that the store pigs lodged in it can have access to the cattle-courts, where they grub amongst the litter, and pick up scattered grains that have escaped the thrashing-mill, and fragments of turnips and other food dropped by the cattle. On such pickings, and the wash and offal from the farm kitchen, aided by a few raw potatoes, Swedes, or mangold, and in summer by green vetches, a moderate number of store pigs can be got into forward condition, and afterwards fattened very quickly, by putting them pens and improving their fare. There is no cheaper way of fattening hogs than by feeding them on boiled or steamed potatoes, mashed and mixed with a portion of barley or pease-meal. When barley-meal aloneis used, it should be mixed with cold water, and allowed to soak for twelve hours before being given to the hogs. A few morsels of coal should be frequently thrown into their troughs. These are eaten with evident relish, and conduce to the health of the animals.

An interesting account of the most approved methods of cutting up, curing, and disposing of carcases of pork, is given in the Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society, vol.xi., p. 585.

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