The docile Red Wattle Pig has a mysterious history among heritage pig breeds. Sadly, it’s on the Threatened list of The Livestock Conservancy. When you look at the Red Wattle pig, maybe you’ll decide it’s the breed you need on your homestead.
Yes, the story of the Red Wattle pig is sketchy at best. As the breed is known to us today, we know it came from east Texas. In the early 1970s, Mr. H.C. Wengler found a herd of large, red wattled pigs in the woods. He used selective breeding, over generations to develop his “Wengler Red Waddle Hog.”
Mr. Robert Prentice found another herd of red wattled pigs in the early 1980s. He bred his line of “Timberline” pigs, as they became known, to the Wengler Red Waddle to create Endow Farm Wattle Hogs. So now you see why their history is considered sketchy.
Where did these herds come from? Were they wild hogs which migrated from the south? Were they descended from a breed or breeds lost during the early days of American history? Why were they just found in the 20th century? All unanswered questions.
As the name indicates, the Red Wattle pig is large and has a wattle attached to each side of the neck. As far as we know, the wattle serves no purpose. I believe, however, that just because we don’t know or understand the purpose of something, doesn’t mean there isn’t one.
The wattle is said to be passed to offspring of crossbreeding. There is a great variance in the colors of the Red Wattle pig. From red, of course, to red with black specks, to almost black. The tips of their ears droop which gives them an endearing, playful look.
This breed is known for being good foragers, hardy, and having an excellent growth rate. The meat is lean and tender. As with the Large Black pig and the Gloucester Old Spot pig, the sows are excellent mothers successfully farrowing and rearing large litters.
The docile temperament of the Red Wattle pig makes them easy to handle for the novice at raising pigs. They’re adaptable to a range of environments. Because they are good foragers, they are a good choice for those who practice pastured meat raising.
Like the Large Black pig, their numbers were adversely affected by the commercial pig market. With the Red Wattle, it was the boom of the 1980s hog market. Breeders cross-bred for production instead of maintaining the breed.
A quote from The Livestock Conservancy on the status of this breed:
“Three organizations served as registries for Red Wattle hogs and over 100 people were involved with Red Wattles. The breed, however, has never been supported by an active breed association. In the mid-1980s the Livestock Conservancy facilitated a meeting of the breeders, encouraging them to unify their efforts to benefit the breed. The breeders preferred to continue with the three registry system. The Conservancy’s 1990 census reported 272 purebred registered offspring. In late 1999 Jerry Russell began to search for Red Wattle hogs and found only 42 breeding animals belonging to six breeders. None of the three registries had registered stock in years. Connected breeders are searching for others who may have Red Wattle hogs so that all eligible animals can participate in the breed’s recovery.”
Why Choose the Red Wattle Pig
If you have room, this breed will produce excellent meat on pasture and forage. For those using pasture management, they’re an excellent choice to help build soil and healthy animals. Feeding them this way keeps the feed bill low or next to nothing.
Another reason to choose this breed is they do well in confined spaces. Many farmers who have small-scale hog farms keep their pigs in yards or pens. The Red Wattle pig can do well given the right environment.
The boar ranges from 700-800 pounds on average. The sow weighs in from 600-700 pounds on average. This produces a lot of meat! Average hanging weight is 180-200 pounds.
Because they’re docile, they’re an excellent choice for those who are new to pig farming. As with any large animal, you want to use common sense and not startle them by chasing. Talking to them as you work with them not only gets them used to people handling them, but it also soothes animals and builds their trust in you.
Raising Red Wattle Pigs
Raising pigs is one of the easiest sources of meat and money for the homesteader. All you have to do is provide them a place to graze and forage or feed them, give them clean drinking water, a place to wallow and a place to sleep.
These pigs are quick for their size, but they’ll still need protection from predators. Most pig farmers use homestead fencing made of hog panels, or cattle panels, electric fencing, barbed wire or a combination of these. We use fences for our animals, but we also like to use watch animals to help guard livestock. Dogs and donkeys are our preference. I’ve seen llamas and mules used for this purpose too.
It’s important, I think, to say pigs need boundaries. Even those who are free-ranged need boundaries. Property lines and no trespassing signs don’t do a thing to keep them where they belong. Their noses are to the ground and they keep on rooting without noticing they’ve crossed over your property line and invaded your neighbor’s yard.
Since pigs are omnivorous, they’ll eat animals and plants. Actually, there isn’t much they won’t eat. My Granny’s slop bucket was kept by the back kitchen door. If something didn’t get fed to the dogs or chickens, the pigs got it.
As foragers, they root around for worms, insects, larva and many other crawly things. Grains, grasses, roots, fruit, practically anything is on the menu if it’s on the ground. Pig farmers turn their pigs to “fattening” in the fall when the acorns are on the ground.
Papa taught me it isn’t necessary to feed hogs commercial feed. He always slopped them and let them forage. They get necessary minerals from rooting around in the dirt. I know commercial farmers or lot farmers will say that you have to give a pig corn.
I disagree with this, especially for heritage breeds. Yes, corn will fatten them up fast, but fat isn’t nutrition, it’s selling weight. As homesteaders, we’re more concerned with the health of our livestock and the meat we feed our families than profit.
I’m sure you know what a pig wallow is. A wallow is necessary for pigs because they don’t sweat. A herd of pigs will often choose a shady area with some sort of water source as a place to make their wallow. As long as they have a place to get clean drinking water, bathe and wallow, they’re good.
Wallowing allows them to coat their body in mud which dries and forms a protective layer. The mud layer protects them from sun and bugs. If you’re like me, you like your animals to be clean, but your pigs can be left dirty without any guilty feelings on your part.
Some people provide pig showers for their herds. Sprinklers or pools, even ponds can be used for this purpose. Be creative, there’s no limitation to how this can be done.
During the day, you’ll see your herd asleep just about anywhere, even their wallow. When bedtime comes, they like a clean, dry place to be. Again, there is no end to the way people provide housing for their pigs. All their shelter needs to provide is protection from predators, the elements, and clean, dry bedding. Any animal shelter should be well ventilated.
Some people make a face when you talk about keeping pigs. This is because they’ve been around a pig sty at some point in their life. Papa taught me if I smell stinky poop, I’m the one doing something wrong. We know poop doesn’t smell good, but when properly managed, manure is a vital part of the homestead, not a source of stink.
The Red Wattle pig is endangered as you read in The Livestock Conservancy quote. Do you have pig keeping tips for us? Do you know of a farmer who has this breed? Share with us.
Safe and Happy Journey,
Rhonda and The Pack