When we first decided to raise free range pigs our concern was how a cute little pink piglet would fair in the ever changing Gippsland environment! After extensive research we found that the best pigs to raise as free range pigs were heritage breeds with darker skin as they are more accustomed to living in outdoor environments – in turn this led us to our beautiful Berkshires.
The Berkshire pig was first referenced by Oliver Cromwell’s (1599-1658) troops during the English civil war. The colour of this original Berkshire varied from black to sandy red. It was renowned for its size and the succulent meat it produced. For this reason the breed was kept by the Royal family and they have continued to do so for centuries. Queen Victoria bred the famous boar “Windsor Castle” who exceeded 500kgs mature weight. Approximately 300 years ago the Berkshire was crossed with Chinese and Siamese blood resulting in a black coat with six distinctive white spots (face, trotters and tail) we see today.
Not long after the creation of the black Berkshire, as a diplomatic gift, a small group of this breed were sent to the Kingdom of Ryukyu (modern day Okinawa). The Okinawans were so impressed by the quality of the breed that they soon sent some north to Kyushu. The Japanese have been breeding Berkshires since this time and call it Kurobuta (meaning “black pig”). The Japanese regard Kurobuta pork as the highest quality over any other breed.
Berkshires are still considered to be a rare breed and were listed as ‘vulnerable’ by the Rare Breeds Trust of Australia not too long ago. We are excited to be breeding such a wonderful animal and helping its’ conservation at the same time.