Raising backyard pigs used to be common, but these days pigs are often kept mainly by commercial farmers. However, if you’re a homesteader, you may be interested in starting pig-keeping. When choosing a pig breed, you’ll want the right temperament, size, feeding behavior, and meat quality.
The largest pig breeds you need to know about are the popular Duroc, Chester White, and Landrace pigs, which are all excellent meat producers. Durocs produce smaller litters but are often suggested for new pig keepers. For heritage breeds, consider keeping Tamworths and Red Wattle Hogs.
Choosing a breed will also depend on if you plan to breed, in which case you’ll want a pig breed known for large, reliable litters. You may prefer to keep a rare or heritage breed. Pigs are social animals, very smart, and need good care and human interaction to avoid becoming aggressive.
The Largest Pig Breeds for the Homesteader
A large pig breed will provide a lot of meat, but there are several other qualities you want to consider. Some breeds are fast-growing and pack on a lot of fat; others take longer to mature, but you may prefer the taste. You’ll also want to consider litter sizes and how well they can forage.
The Beautiful Red Duroc
Duroc pigs top the list for anyone wanting a giant, docile pig that can survive inclement weather and produce excellent quality meat. Their hardiness and resistance to disease make them an excellent choice for beginner pig keepers.
They are easy to identify with their reddish-brown fur and lopped ears. Expect boars to weigh more than 800 lbs and sows upwards of 700 lbs. They produce small litters and must have their hair removed at the abattoir.
The Motherly Chester White
Chester Whites are massively popular for producing quality pork products and their prolific nature. The American-developed Chester White is a good option if you are keen to breed pigs and like the leaner white breeds.
They have drooped ears and long, white bodies. They will need shade to prevent sunburn, however. They gain weight quickly; sows can weigh up to 650 lbs, while boars can reach nearly 800 lbs. Chester Whites are unfussy eaters, produce large litters, and are known for their mothering skills.
The Successful Landrace
Initially a Danish breed, this giant pig proved so successful that there are distinct English, American, and Dutch Landraces, among other varieties. The Landrace is excellent if you want a long, lean pig that grows to a medium to large size. They are mainly for bacon and ham production.
The Landrace is very popular as it is easy to keep, grows fast, and breeds prolifically. If you prefer a low-fat pig with a docile temperament and an excellent mother, you cannot go wrong with a Landrace. You can keep these hardy pigs indoors or outdoors. Boars reach 770 lbs and sows 660 lbs.
The First-Timer’s Gloucestershire Spotted
Another excellent pig for first-time keepers, you can’t go wrong with the superb bacon pig, the Gloucestershire Old Spot, or Spotted. They are attentive mothers and easy to breed. The breed is hardy and good at foraging, and their friendly, gentle nature makes them perfect for small farms.
The Gloucestershire Spotted is a distinctive pale breed with dark spots, drooped ears, and a silky coat. The boards will reach around 620 lbs, and the sows will grow to 490 lbs. These intelligent and maternal pigs are well known for the quality of their meat, but they can be at risk of sunburn.
The American Poland China
Despite its name, the Poland China is an American pig breed and is one of the largest of all pig breeds. The Poland China is ordinarily black with white points and is considered the oldest breed of American pig. They are excellent lard pigs and are rugged, hardy, and fast growers.
These pigs produce large litters, are easy to handle and are docile. Their lean meat is suitable for pork, sausages, ham, and bacon. Boars will weigh 700 lbs on average and sows about 600 lbs.
The Hardy Heritage Tamworth
The Tamworth is one of the oldest pig breeds, tracing its lineage back to the old English forest pig. Buy Tamworths if you want a heritage breed with a curious and lively nature that produces great bacon and pork. They are hardy pigs and easy to look after, but they can jump.
These red pigs are chock-full of character and friendly but produce relatively small litters. They do well outdoors in adverse climates and are not aggressive, making them an excellent choice for a small farm. Expect boars to reach a maximum of 820 lbs, while sows will top out at 660 lbs.
The Unique Red Wattle
If you prefer American heritage breeds, look no further than the Red Wattle Hog. These docile and fast-growing pigs can be kept in smaller spaces and are excellent foragers. They make great free-range pigs for the homesteader and produce excellent meat at pasture.
The Red Wattle is currently listed as an endangered heritage breed, so it could be more challenging to source. However, Red Wattle pig keepers say they are docile and great for people new to pig farming. Sows will weigh about 650 lbs, while boars will average 750 lbs.
The Queenly Berkshire
Consider getting the medium-sized Berkshire pig if you want juicy marbled meat with high-fat content. They are known to be a non-aggressive breed. If you’re keen to conserve a dwindling breed, these are excellent, hardy pigs for a beginner keeper.
Berkshire pigs are black with white socks and pricked ears. Although they are one of the smaller breeds listed, sows will reach 485 lbs and boars 615 lbs. The rearing time for a Berkshire to be ready for bacon and ham is 28-20 weeks, though they can be ready for general pork by 22 weeks.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is The Biggest Breed Of Pig?
One of the largest breeds of domestic pigs is the Duroc, developed in the United States from the Jersey Red. These reddish-brown pigs can weigh between 772 lbs for a sow to 882 lbs for a boar.
Other large domestic pig breeds include the Danish Landrace and the American Yorkshire. The Red Wattle Hog can reach 800 lbs but can be harder to source than other breeds.
What Are The 5 Top Breeds Of Pigs In The World?
For commercial farming, several pigs make the top list worldwide. While these breeds can vary by country, you’re likely to see the following breeds in the top five:
- Poland China
- Chester White
How Big Do Duroc Pigs Get?
In the early days of developing the breed, Durocs could weigh as much as 1000 lbs. With the breed now correctly established, you can expect sows to range around 700 lbs and boars to weigh about 800 lbs. The Duroc is a popular breed thanks to its high weight, fast growth, and large litters.
Several large pig breeds have boars that can reach weights of around 800 lbs, but some breeds will mature faster than others, making them more economical to keep. You might choose slower-growing pigs for the meat’s taste or their hardiness.
Heritage breeds are also an exciting choice for the homesteader. The friendly, sweet nature of pigs like the Tamworth makes them appealing, while the hardiness and docile nature of the Red Wattle make them easy to free-range.