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Status of Pig Breeds in Australia 2004

By Fiona Chambers. RBTA Director, Species Coordinator & Pig Coordinator.

It has only been in the last 4 years that Rare Breeds Trust of Australia (RBTA) has collated the information readily available from the Australian Pig Breeders Association (APBA) into the graphs below. Collating the information relating to number of pigs registered and number of studs registering pigs has enabled RBTA to better monitor the changes directly impacting on pig numbers in Australia. At this stage, the information does not graphically tell us anything about the number of lines being bred within each breed, nor the relative level of inbreeding occurring in pig herds. It also does not measure the numbers of unregistered pigs which may be pure bred, and being used in the national herd. The graphs do however allow us to monitor the changing numbers of pigs being registered and the number of studs registering pigs. These two criteria are largely used to monitor and determine the rarity status of pig breeds in Australia.

For the purposes of monitoring, RBTA considers registered animals for two key reasons.
1) RBTA fully supports the process of registering animals. (Knowing an animal’s pedigree is important when trying to avoid inbreeding in a well managed breeding program)
2) The information is readily available from the APBA and is indicative of the major trends in the national herd.

Dramatically falling numbers of Large White Pigs, Landrace Pigs and Duroc pigs being registered over the last 5 years has led to these breeds being included in our monitoring processes since 2000/01.

Numbers of Breeders.
In some cases, although there may be 5 breeders shown, in reality, there may only be 3 or 4. This is because we find that some breeders are purchasing unregistered animals born from unregistered but eligible parents. When the new owners pay to have their pigs registered and entered into the herd book, the parents are listed under the prefix of the stud where they have been bred even though the stud may no longer be operating,

This may be of little relevance where there are a hundred people breeding pigs. When there are only 5 breeders listed and 1 or 2 of those are no longer actually breeding pigs, it equates to 40% difference in the figures. This then is of great concern. This situation has occurred to my knowledge over the last 3 years with in the following pig breeds:
· Large Black Pigs
· Berkshire
· Wessex Saddleback
· Tamworth
Where this has occurred, pigs may be moved to the next status rating, even though their apparent numbers/number of breeders appear stable.

Appendixed Pigs
There has also been an increase in the last 3 years in pigs being appendixed into the herd book as shown in the table below.

Table 1: Number of Animals entering the APBA national herd book through the appendix system

BREED 2002 2003 2004
Large Black 3 (19%) 0 0
Hampshire 0 3 2 (6%)
Large White 5 (2%) 1 (1%) 39 (12%)
Landrace 1 (<1%) 4 (5%) 32 (28%)
Berkshire 8 (6%) 0 5 (5%)
Wessex Saddleback 1 (2%) 0 0
Tamworth 0 0 0
Duroc 0 1 (4%) 17 (50%)

Table 2: Total number of studs registering pigs under the appendix system

BREED 2002 2003 2004
Large Black 1 (33%) 0 0
Hampshire 0 1 (50%) 2 (67%)
Large White 3 (14%) 1 (16%) 11 (69%)
Landrace 1 (8%) 1 (16%) 7 (58%)
Berkshire 1 (12%) 0 2 (22%)
Wessex Saddleback 1 (20%) 0 0
Tamworth 0 0 0
Duroc 0 1 (33%) 5 (100%)

Of particular interest is the fact that in 2004, all of the registered breeders of Duroc pigs introduced some appendixed animals and these appendixed animals amounted to 50% of all of the Duroc pigs registered in that year.

Similarly, a much higher proportion of Landrace, Large Whites and Hampshire pigs were also being apendixed. This raises a few questions.
1. Why are so many pigs suddenly being appendixed?
2. Are these pigs known to be purebreds or do they just display the appropriate phenotype of the breed?
3. Are these breeds in danger?
This information is currently being sought.

Based on the most recent figures, the following pig status report for Australia is shown below. The rarity status of pigs in Australia has been determined following consultation with Lawrence Alderson, Chair Rare Breeds International, and takes into consideration global populations. For the first time, Wessex Saddleback pigs have been moved into a critical ranking. This is following initial results from a European study that analysed DNA samples from a number of pig breeds to assess their genetic similarities and differences. The study of British Saddleback pigs (3) included 2 pigs of Wessex Saddleback origin that had been imported from Australia into the UK. The sample also included pigs from a stud in Ireland which breeds pigs exclusively for Essex Saddleback origin. The rest of the animals were British Saddlebacks of unknown origins. The study identified that the Wessex Saddleback pig samples from Australia were indeed genetically different from the European sample of British Saddlebacks. Based on this information, we are seeking to undertake further DNA samples from Australian Wessex Saddleback pigs to provide further evidence that Wessex Saddleback pigs in Australia differ from the British Saddleback pigs in the UK. In the light of this information, Wessex Saddleback pigs have been moved to critical status. As the breed no longer exists in it’s country of origin and global population numbers are fewer than 100, The Wessex Saddleback pigs remaining in Australia are now considered to be of international importance.


Extinct or Lost from Australia

Poland China
Gloucester Old Spots (circa 1930)
Middle Yorkshire White (circa 1990)
Welsh (circa 1995)

(< 30 annual female registrations)

Wessex Saddleback
Large Black

(< 115 annual female registrations)


(< 350 annual female registrations)


Tamworth Boar Contact the Pig Species Co-ordinator - Fiona Chambers if you would like further information: Phone 61 3 5348 5566 or Email: organic@fernleighfarm.com. Large Black sow and litter

Last updated 6 February, 2008

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