chapter  9
16 Pages

Traditional, Rare and Fancy Breeds

On the Prince of Wales’s organic farm in southern England, the breeds of pig are the Tamworth, a hairy russet-coloured breed with the upright ears and long snout reminiscent of its wild boar ancestor, and the Large Black. They are classified as rare native breeds in the UK National Database for Animal Genetic Resources and the Rare Breeds Survival Trust gives their conservation status as ‘vulnerable’.2,3 Today these two traditional breeds have speciality status. Between them there are just under 600 breeding females, compared to the 455,000 breeding females of commercial pigs used in the UK in 2007.2,4

In the wider world, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that nearly 1 billion poor people in rural areas, accounting for over one third of the world’s poor and 70 per cent of the rural poor, rely on mainly local breeds of livestock for their survival.5 The international breeds of dairy and beef cattle, pigs, laying hens, meat chickens and sheep that make up the majority of the commercial animal production sector account for only 7 per cent of the 7616 breeds recorded in 2007 in the FAO’s Global Databank of Animal Genetic Resources, while local breeds make up 86 per cent of the total.6