Tamworth Pigs are characterised by their long legs and neck, long narrow body, elongated snout and pricked up ears. However, the breed’s most distinctive feature is its ginger, orange-red coat. This colouration has led to the breed being known as ‘Sandybacks’ or ‘Tamworth Reds’.
Early breeds are believed to have had less prominent features and colours ranging from pale ginger, to dark mahogony, and some with black and red spots. Many of these traits are similar to those of wild English forest pigs.
The breed is believed to have originated in ireland in 1809 when Tamworth’s famous second baronet Sir Robert Peel (1788 – 1850) discovered a breed of pig known as an ‘Irish Grazer’, and had several of the animals imported to England to the Peel estate at Drayton Manor. The breeding of the pig continued in Staffordshire after this date, until the ‘Tamworth’ was granted a seperate breed recognition at the English Royal Show of 1865. The herd book was started in 1885.
‘The Tamworth Two’ is the story of 2 Tamworth Pigs who had escaped on their way to an abattoir in Malmesbury, Wiltshire in January 1998. Having squeezed through a fence and swam the River Avon, the two pigs went on the run!
After the story appeared in the national press, the pigs were given the nicknames ‘Butch Cassidy’ and ‘The Sundance Pig’. The pigs were eventually recaptured over a week later and purchased by the Daily Mail newspaper who reprieved them from slaughter at the rare Breeds centre, an animal sanctuary near Ashford in kent.
In 2004 the BBC dramatised the story in the film ‘The Legend of the Tamworth Two’.
Tamworth’s are renowned for producing excellent quantities of both pork and bacon, due to their ability to achieve high body mass with little fat. In the 1990’s the Tamworth came top in a taste test conducted by Bristol University.
Today there are thought to be less than 300 registered bredding sows in the UK, leading to the breed being classified as ‘Vulnerable’ by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.