Our Livestock Raising Principles
We raise three endangered breeds of heritage pigs: American Guinea Hog, American Mulefoot Hog, and Red Wattle Hog. We have some heritage pig crosses, as well as heritage pig crosses with Yorkshire pigs to maximize the diversity of our pigs, especially in terms of size and type of meat. This variety in livestock is maintained in part, to expand the options to restaurateurs and people with selective palates. We have about 40 pure- breed sows among the heritage lines, and an abundance of genetically diverse boars for each of three pure-breed heritage pigs. We typically have 100 to 120 pigs of all ages at any period during the year.
There is no official definition or certification for heritage animals, but for a livestock breed to be considered heritage, it must have unique genetic traits and be raised on a sustainable ranch. Heritage animals are well-suited to sustainable ranches since they are able to survive without the temperature-controlled buildings and constant doses of the antibiotics that are administered to commercial breeds raised on factory farms. Our Hang Belly Ranch pure-breeds of heritage pigs have been registered with the appropriate registry associations.
Over the centuries, hog farmers throughout the world have raised at least 200 to 300 different breeds of pigs. Pigs were domesticated at multiple locations across Eurasia, thereafter to Africa and America. England, United States, and China were the main centers of breed-development during the 1800s and 1900s. Recently the genetic variation of pigs has been dramatically reduced by a variety of factors, especially by industrial agriculture which requires that pigs be in confined facilities to mature and gain weight quickly and produce particular types of meat in large amounts. Today's industrial swine farms rely upon only a few breeds. In fact, 75 % of pigs for meat consumption in the US come from only 3 breeds. In the last century, a large number of hog breeds have disappeared, along with their valuable genetic diversity. Unfortunately, this trend will likely continue due to the pressures to industrialize agricultural operations. Approximately 20% of currently existing pig breeds worldwide face extinction within the next few decades. There are seven heritage-designated breeds of pigs in the US that are considered at high risk for extinction. Included among these hog breed at high risk for extinction are the three heritage pig breeds raised on the Hang Belly Ranch: American Guinea Hog, American Mulefoot Hog, and Red Wattle Hog.
In general, heritage animals were bred over time to develop traits that made them particularly well-adapted to local environmental conditions. Heritage breeds are generally better adapted to withstand disease and survive in harsh environmental condition more so than the breeds raised in large commercial operations. They are better suited to living on pasture rather than in small closed pens. In general, they grow more slowly than commercial breeds; therefore, they are more expensive to raise to market weight. Many of the heritage breeds produce exquisitely tasting meat. These heritage swine breeds serve also as an important genetic resource. When a heritage breed becomes extinct, its unique genes are lost forever and cannot be used to breed new traits into existing livestock breeds. The continuance of heritage pigs helps to preserve valuable traits within the species so that future breeds might endure harsh conditions. We at the Hang Belly Ranch are interested in increasing the genetic diversity of hogs for meat consumption, especially breeds that improve human nutritional standards.
American Guinea Hog
This rare hog originated on the Guinea coast of Africa and was brought to several parts of America via the slave trade. At that time, these hogs were a large, square-shaped breed with reddish bristly hair and pointed ears. They were grazers and foragers. Though raised on pasture, these pigs could still produce significant quantities of valuable lard, as well as pork meat. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, their numbers declined drastically with the collapse of the lard market and with the shift away from backyard pork production. In fact, by the 1930s, there was danger of this breed being entirely lost.
Today, the American Guinea Hog is smaller than it was 300 years ago. At six months of age, this hog may provide a nicely marbled meat of up to 75 pounds hanging weight. At one year, a market size of 150 to 200 pounds hanging weight can be achieved. The meat is rich in flavor and gourmet quality. The fat tends to peel easily from the meat. Unlike all commercial pig breeds, there is no need to castrate young male hogs of this breed intended for slaughter at six months of age and some advocate never castrating male hogs since this breed lacks the genetic trait of boar taint which can poorly affect the meat taste quality. The mature adults weigh only 250-300 pounds by 2 years of age and are 15-27 inches tall and 46 to 56 inches long. This compares to a weight over 300 to 350 pounds at 1 year that is typical for the breeds that are raised in large commercial operations. Colors of the American Guinea Hog may vary, but they are usually black. They are often hairy with long, coarse, bristled hair. The American Guinea Hog is extremely gentle and easy to care for, making them perfect on a farm for small-scale pig production. However, precautions must be taken to not over feed the adults with grain because excess weight can lead to fertility problems. For excellently flavored, marbled meat and the best bacon, the American Guinea Hog is a star breed.
American Mulefoot Hog
The American Mulefoot Hog most likely originated from Spain and was brought to the United States Gulf Coast in the 1500s. While this breed continued to flourish during the early half of the 20th century, by 1985 only one herd of American Mulefoot Hog remained ---belonging to a Mr. R.M. Holliday of Louisiana, Missouri. The Hang Belly Ranch has obtained this heritage pig breed from offspring of this herd. Presently, herd populations of the American Mulefoot Hog are considered by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy to be critically small, as there are now only 600 documented purebred American Mulefoot Hogs in existence. Because of its endangered status, historical value, and superior flavor, conservation is essential.
The defining characteristic of this large black pig is its solid hoof, which resembles that of a mule or horse. Pigs with solid hooves (a physical characteristic called syndactylism) have attracted the interest of many writers including Aristotle and Darwin. A single isolated genetic defect can produce syndactylism in an otherwise cloven hoof animal. The American Mulefoot Hog is the only syndactyl swine breed with a documented lineage history and breed standard. One benefit to raising one-toed animals is the elimination of hoof rot, which affects the area of an animal's hoof between the toes and is a common problem in wet, muddy environments.
The American Mulefoot Hog is resilient, has an extremely gentle disposition, and is exceptionally intelligent. Mulefoots are solid black with occasional white points (feet or nose), medium flop ears and a soft body coat. They fatten easily. At two years they weigh 400 to 600 pounds and are 3 to 3.5 feet in height and 4.5 to 5 feet in length. They have litters of 5 to 6 piglets but can have as many as 12 piglets. The sows are excellent and calm mothers. The superior tasting meat is red, freckled marbling and is considered by many as the tastiest among the American heritage pig breeds. They are best known for their premium hams.
Red Wattle Hog
These hogs are originally from New Caledonia, which is a French Island in the South Pacific near Australia. They were brought to New Orleans in the late 1700s by the French. They have been at risk for extinction. In 1999, there were only 42 breeding pairs on six different ranches, primarily located in Texas and South Dakota.
The defining characteristics of this large pig are its red color and fleshy growths (i.e., wattles) hanging from each jaw. They are distinguished for their gentle nature, which makes them a pleasure to raise. They are also well known for their toughness, ability to adapt to a wide range of climates, hunting ability, and disease resistance. For the small pig farm, this heritage pig breed is particularly worthwhile to consider because the sows are excellent mothers and successfully produce litters of 10 piglets to 16 piglets. The sows have a low rate of piglet crush mortality (where the mother rolls over or sits on her piglets and crushes them). For a heritage pig breed, these piglets have a rapid rate of growth. It is not unusual for the piglets to reach weights of over 60 pounds at 8 weeks and 300 pounds at 6 to 8 months. By 2 years the hogs are 4 feet high and 8 feet in length and weigh 600 to800 pounds. Older animals can reach weights of 1500 pounds. Despite their size, they have a lean but tender carcass. The meat is dark red, juicy with slight marbling throughout, and with an excellent flavor--- somewhat resembling beef in taste and texture. They are especially excellent for sausage. In fact, many pork connoisseurs claim that the Red Wattle Hog is the best sausage pig they have ever eaten.
Any customer can be assured that the livestock purchased from the Hang Belly Ranch are healthy, quality animals. We offer the following options:
- Genetically distant, weaned or breeding pigs to start a new herd
- Young or breeding boars (special deals are available for the interested farmer)
- Weaned pigs weighing 60 to 90 pounds (weiner pigs) for you to raise for slaughter
- Barrows or gilts - priced according to weight
- Market-sized pigs weighing about 250 to 300 pounds for immediate slaughter - priced
according to weight.
- A half or quarter of a slaughtered market-sized pig (when we are able to find other
interested buyers with whom to divide up the pig).
See Pricing and Terms of Sale