This lit­tle piggy. . .

In­tel­li­gent, adapt­able and af­fec­tion­ate, our na­tive pig de­serves a place in the Suf­folk an­i­mal hall of fame


This year I will have been fat­ten­ing pigs in our gar­den, for our own con­sump­tion, for 40 years. Over the years I have grown at­tached to the near­est Suf­folk has to an in­dige­nous breed, the large black.

We were warned that the black skin has black fol­li­cles, which means you are al­most cer­tain to get your own pig back from the butcher, as they can’t sell pigs whose skin is cov­ered in lit­tle black spots. They also have floppy ears which al­most cover their eyes, so they can’t see where they are go­ing and thus tend not to run very fast. Rare breed en­thu­si­asts re­fer to the ‘Suf­folk Trio’, mean­ing the Suf­folk Punch horse, Suf­folk black faced sheep, and Suf­folk red poll cat­tle. They for­get that we also have an in­dige­nous pig, and it is feel­ing a tad left put in the cold.

On a re­cent visit to my long­suf­fer­ing GP, a con­ver­sa­tion started about keep­ing pigs, trig­gered by my ex­cel­lent choles­terol lev­els. I said I put it down to eat­ing good ba­con, and he agreed. Hav­ing dis­cov­ered that he too kept pigs, un­til banned by his wife, we spent a few brief mo­ments shar­ing sto­ries, un­til our laugh­ter drew his col­league from the next room to see if we were al­right. He told two won­der­ful anec­dotes, the first in­volved a great es­cape. It was har­vest time and it was get­ting dark by the time he got back from his surgery. There were no pigs in the run. They had es­caped. He ran out into the fields, walk­ing up and down the tram lines you get in fields these days whis­per­ing “pig­gies”, get­ting pro­gres­sively louder as he gained con­fi­dence that no one was lis­ten­ing in on this un­usual be­hav­iour. Noth­ing. He went to bed, anx­ious that his beloved pigs were rough­ing it in some ditch, maybe with their lit­tle trotters point­ing sky­wards. Next morn­ing, he woke up early, de­ter­mined to con­tinue the search. “Pig­gies!” he cried out at the top of his voice. Noth­ing hap­pened un­til a star­tled hare ran to­wards him, stopped in its tracks and gave him a long, hard stare. Ap­par­ently, this lasted a few min­utes, but maybe it was only a few sec­onds. My GP is con­vinced that the hare then nod­ded to­wards a hole in the hedge, as if to say ‘They went that way’. He then re­ceived an irate mo­bile call which led him through the hedge and on to the next vil­lage. There the re­cal­ci­trant an­i­mals had ripped up the wa­ter­ing sys­tem in some­one’s gar­den along with their newly laid lawn.

His sec­ond story in­volved a swim­ming pig. One day, he went home early as his children had in­vited friends round to a pool party. The screams he heard on get­ting out of his car, how­ever, were more of anx­i­ety than delight. He hur­ried over to see his best gilt do­ing doggy (piggy?) pad­dle up and down the pool with per­fect poise. But as pigs can’t raise their heads, the look was more one of de­ter­mined Chan­nel swim­mer than the delight of a cool dip. There was only one thing for it – he donned a cozzie and jumped in to res­cue the pig. He was only able to as­sist it out of the pool by us­ing its ears, upon which the pig, much re­lieved, pro­jec­tile defe­cated a tremen­dous vol­ume of poo, put­ting paid to the pool party, but caus­ing much mer­ri­ment.

They say you can house-train a pig more eas­ily than you can a dog. I’ve never tried, but there was once a per­sis­tent ru­mour that the or­gan­ist at a lo­cal church kept one un­der her kitchen ta­ble to keep her warm. You can get very close to a tame pig. You can tickle their tum­mies and they’ll roll over on their backs. Once used to you they’ll let you lie with them in their pens (don’t try this at home). They will eat any­thing, and nu­tri­tion­ists say that pigs fed on raw veg­etable mat­ter alone pro­duce fat high in polyun­sat­u­rates.

I once asked a pig farmer about keep­ing pigs. He told me that, com­mer­cially, they carted pigs off to the cheapest abat­toir they could find, no mat­ter how far or how stress­ful the jour­ney. When I asked him about pork for his own con­sump­tion he told me, with a wist­ful smile, how he kept his own pigs in small fam­ily groups, avoided us­ing an­tibi­otics and then, with min­i­mum fuss, took them qui­etly to the near­est slaugh­ter house, in­sist­ing they were killed quickly. The dif­fer­ence, he said, is de­tectable in both the tex­ture and flavour of the meat. I can only agree. N [email protected]­

‘He went to bed, anx­ious that his beloved pigs were rough­ing it in some ditch’

ABOVE: The large black is the near­est Suf­folk has to an in­dige­nous pig breed

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