The Hampshire pig is recognized easily by the wide white belt that continues down the front legs on a black hog. The Hampshire pig is the fourth most recorded breed in registries, and a common hog found in many pig farm operations.
Early history of the Hampshire pig tells of a man named McKay importing stock from Scotland and Northumberland areas of England between 1825 and 1835. The breed derives directly from the Old English breed of pigs. Once imported to the United States, the breed was largely developed in Kentucky. Often referred to as McKay hogs in the early days, Hampshires have also been called, Thin Rind, Ring Middle, and Saddlebacks. The distinctive white band around the middle extends down the front legs. In 1907, a new breed organization for the pig breed named them the American Hampshire. History tells us that Smithfield Hams would only purchase American Hampshire pigs in the early days.
Hampshire pigs are large in size. Early on, the large size was a bit of a problem for the pig farmers. Most pigs were butchered at 125 pounds. The Hampshire pig would reach this weight before the other breeds and too early for butchering. Later, this trait of large, fast growth would lead to the popularity of the breed. The strong, steady growth is not as fast as crossbreeds but is faster than the Yorkshire pig breed growth. The fast growth and hardiness helped the breed become a long-standing favorite.
Physical Traits of the Hampshire Pig
The large, heavily muscled carcass of the Hampshire pig breed is only part of the list of good pig qualities. The carcass is also thin-skinned and lean. Temperament wise, the breed is fairly even and good-tempered, although the boars can become aggressive later in life. Hampshire boars are often used in crossbreeding programs to add the lean quality to the meat.
Sows are good mothers and do well in confinement facilities. In addition, Hampshire pig sows are notably long-lived, adding to their prolific quality. The sows are generally even-tempered.
The boars are large, maturing to around 650 pounds. As is the case normally, the sows mature at a smaller size of 550 pounds. The average lifespan is twelve years.
Feeding the Hampshire Pig
Most commercial hog operations will feed a commercial pig feed made up of grains and supplements. Since the Hampshire breed does well in confinement, they can succeed on this ration. The Hampshire is also an excellent forager. Raised in a pasture setting, the breed will gain and grow on forage and grain feed. Hampshire pigs will thrive on foraged food, much like another old time breed, the Gloucestershire Old Spot. The meat from a Hampshire carcass is lean but not to the point of little lard like the Red Wattle pigs.
Care of the Hampshire Pig Breed
Confinement of the breed in a homestead situation would include good fencing of the pasture area or a sturdy pig pen. Pig pens can be constructed from pallets, boards, chain link fencing and livestock panels. Adding a low line of electric wire will save you a lot of effort and heartache from escaping pigs.
Some sort of hog waterer will be necessary. Since pigs are shorter than other livestock, the water trough should be lower sided, and big enough to hold at least 14 gallons of water per pig. Keep in mind that the water will need to be changed daily because you will find muddy pigs bathing in the water trough.
Pig Safety Practices
Other considerations when raising Hampshire pigs or any other breed of pigs include safety for you and others, securing food storage, and keeping the area from developing an offensive odor. Did you know that there is considerably less odor involved in pasture raised hogs, compared to confinement raised hogs? In addition, the table scraps play a part in the smell of the waste produced. When a pig is fed a lot of processed sugar, the odor increases noticeably. A pig farm in the middle of farmland on either side might not be offensive, but if you are homesteading and raising a couple of pigs for meat, this is important to you and your neighbors. Feeding the table scraps is a good way to supplement the pig’s diet. Keeping the scraps to largely whole foods and not sweetened baked goods will help you manage the odor.
As mentioned earlier, pigs like to escape. When they are cute small piglets it isn’t much of a problem as long as they don’t leave your property and cause damage elsewhere. Large, mature pigs can do a lot of damage to your property. If you leave a feed shed opened, the pig will find it and cause havoc. This is why many people raise pigs with the help of an electric wire fence, placed low to the ground where pigs try to dig out. They quickly learn to stay away from the fence line.
Use a pig board when handling your hogs. This is something you can make from a 4 X 4 piece of plywood or it can be purchased from a livestock supply business. The pig board is a safety device used between you and an aggressive pig. Even if your pigs have excellent temperaments, pigs can be unpredictable. Having the board nearby may come in handy.
When using a Hampshire pig boar as a sire, you will see some of the characteristic markings from the breed in the piglets.
The Hampshire pig is a good choice for homesteads and small farms. You can raise good lean meat or raise piglets for sale. Have you raised the Hampshire pig breed? Tell us your experience in the comments section.
Originally published in 2016 and regularly vetted for accuracy.