Gloucestershire Old Spots - Brief History
Considered one of the oldest pedigree pig breeds from England, these droopy-eared white pigs with distinctive black spots are making a comeback. Originating form the Berkeley Valley in England near Gloucestershire, Gloucestershire Old Spots (GOS) were very near extinction as recently as the 1970s. Once the preferred "family" pig for small farms and homesteads in England and in the US, the last centuries wars and industrialization almost wiped out these beauties.
The exact history is not fully known but these breeds but they first appeared in writing in the late 1700s coming into prominence in the U.K. in the mid 1800s. The first society to track the breed and provide a registry didn't take place until the early 1900s.
Known to be great mothers, docility and their hardiness, GOS are still known for their excellent meat-to-fat ratio, especially for the family. Although their bloodlines are in the big commodity hog markets today, having this heritage breed on your farm or in your freezer is about as good as it gets. British folklore suggests the black spots are from the "bruising" taking place when apples fall from a tree while the pigs underneath are foraging as the GOS are excellent foragers and were traditionally fed whey and other dairy by products along with the orchard fruit of the family farm.
At our farm, we have been raising GOS for a few years and have seen firsthand their even temperament, their not-too-aggressive foraging and their playfulness. We typically raise them until they are 8-10 months old and they weigh in the 240-260 lb. range. They have access to just over an acre of natural forage and we feed them whey from a local dairy, orchard fruit, as well as non-GMO, non-soy, non-corn feed (mostly peas and barley).
On harvest day, you can expect an inch and half or more of fat around the chops, which indicates a good, healthy life. These pigs are great for meat, lard, back fat, sausage-making and curing.
In addition to rendering our own lard we have had great success making breakfast sausage, bratwurst-style and Italian-style sausages as well as cured meats like capicola, prosciutto-style hams, and the famous Kentucky smoked hams and many other traditionally European cuts.