Pigs come in a wide range of colours, shapes and sizes. Historically, most regions had their own breed or breeds of swine, ranging from the Gloucestershire Old Spots of England to the small, straight-tailed Vietnamese pot-bellied pig. According to the University of Georgia, U.S. farmers typically raise one of eight major breeds.
American Landrace pigs are descended from Danish Landrace specimens, first brought to the United States in 1934. These large pigs are white and have an elongated body with a less-pronounced back arch than other breeds. American Landrace sows are prolific breeders that produce large amounts of milk for their piglets. This breed is commonly used for bacon production.
Berkshire pigs were originally sandy in colour, but are now black with white spots. These pigs have short, perky ears and white stockings on their feet. This medium-sized breed is considered quite hardy and is often used as the sire in crossbreeding. Berkshires grow quickly and efficiently and produce large litters.
Originally from Chester County, Pennsylvania, this pig originated in the early to mid-19th century. Chester White hogs are used as meat producers and for crossbreeding. These medium-sized pigs have white skin with some black spots, a straight back similar to that of Landrace hogs and floppy ears. They can produce in a wide range of settings, making them popular for both large and small farms.
This pig was originally known as the Duroc-Jersey, and originated in the eastern and central United States. It was first recognised at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, and has the highest feed-to-meat conversion ratio of any U.S. pig breed. Duroc hogs have red skin and brown, black or red hair. They are relatively lean and muscular compared to other pigs, grow to a large size, have short, floppy ears and a short snout.
This older pig breed originated in the U.S. between 1825 and 1835, and is known for its distinctive black coat with a white stripe around the forequarters. Hampshires are large pigs noted for their hardiness, high-quality meat and foraging ability.
Poland China hogs are the product of extensive crossbreeding and are known for their prolific reproduction. These black pigs have white socks, snout and tail, and a very sturdy frame. Historically, Poland China sows have produced 16 and 17-piglet litters regularly, but have a tendency to overlay large litters. This pig is extremely hardy and deals well with varying conditions.
Spotted, or SPOTS, pigs were originally descended from Poland China hogs, but have a lighter frame and distinctive black and white spotting. These pigs are efficient feeders, converting food to meat with extreme speed. They transmit these qualities to their offspring, even when crossbred. Spotted female pigs are noted for their gentleness and hardiness.
Yorkshire, or American Yorkshire, hogs are descended from Large White English pigs, and were developed in the mid-19th century. This breed is large and long, similar to the American Landrace, but smaller. It has pink skin, white hair and upright ears. American Yorkshire sows make excellent mothers. This breed is also used as a major ham and bacon producer.