Information on the American Guinea Hog
“The Guinea Hog is a small, black breed of swine that is unique to the United States. Also known as the Pineywoods Guinea, Guinea Forest Hog, Acorn Eater, and Yard Pig, the breed was once the most numerous pig breed found on homesteads in the Southeast. Today there are fewer than 200.
Hogs were imported from West Africa and the Canary Islands to America in conjunction with the slave trade. The imports were documented as early as 1804 by Thomas Jefferson and other Virginia farmers. These large, square animals were called Red Guineas, because they had red or sandy colored hair. Red Guineas were common throughout the mid-Atlantic region during the 1800s. The breed disappeared as a distinct population in the 1880s, when most of the red breeds and types of hogs in the eastern United States were combined to form the new Jersey-Duroc breed. Although extremely rare, occasionally Guinea hog breeders of today find red highlights in the hair of their Guineas and even more rare, is a completely red individual born.
The name Guinea occurs again a few decades later in the southeastern United States, though describing a different animal entirely – a small, black hog common on homesteads across the region. Guinea Hogs were expected to forage for their own food, eat rodents and other small animals, grass, roots, and nuts, and clean out garden beds. The hogs were also kept in the yard where they would eat snakes and thus create a safe zone around the house. These Guineas were hardy and efficient, gaining well on the roughest of forage and producing the hams, bacon, and lard essential for subsistence farming.
Guinea Hogs were widespread, and descriptions of them varied. Generally, the hogs were small, weighing 100-300 pounds, and black or bluish-black in color. They had upright ears, a hairy coat, and a curly tail. Beyond this, conformation varied, as hogs could have short or long noses and be “big boned,” “medium boned,” or “fine boned.” It is likely that many strains of Guinea Hogs existed. Since most of these are extinct, it is now impossible to weave together all the threads of the Guinea Hog story into a single neat piece.
The Guinea Hog became rare in recent decades as the habitat of the homestead hog disappeared, and it survived only in the most isolated parts of the Southeast. During the 1980s, new herds of Guinea Hogs were established, partly in response to the pet pig market.” Source: The Livestock Conservancy
Breed Description from American Guinea Hog Association
Height: Adult American Guinea Hogs (at 2 years of age) range from 22 to 27 inches tall, adult males sometimes averaging one or two inches taller than females. Older animals may grow larger.
Body/Length: Fully grown adult American Guinea Hogs range from 46 to 56 inches, measured from a point between the ears to the base of the tail. They have a straight to slightly arched back. From a side view, they should present a long, rectangular appearance (with flat sides and rounded corners). As a landrace breed, variations are common. Some hogs will be taller and broader at the shoulders with slightly lower and narrower hips.
Weight: Well-conditioned, fully adult American Guinea Hogs range from 150 pounds to 300 pounds, depending on sex, frame-size, and body condition. Because American Guinea Hogs easily fatten, care should be taken to NOT overfeed, especially with grain. Excess weight will likely lead to fertility problems.
Temperament: The American Guinea Hog is exceptionally calm and friendly making it an excellent choice for small sustainable family farms. They have exceptional mothering skills. Females with piglets are easily managed, as are adult males. They do well with children and a wide range of farm animals. It
should be a goal of breeders to maintain the good temperament of the American Guinea Hog.
Living Environment: While American Guinea Hogs are suited to a wide variety of environments and will do better than most breeds on low grade forage, they prefer lush pastures with clover along with access to minerals, kitchen scraps, quality hay in winter, clean water to drink, access to a muddy wallow, minimal shelter from precipitation and wind, dry bedding, and perhaps a small amount of grain. They thrive where ranging and grazing is a constant activity giving them plenty of exercise. They are minimal rooters when good grazing and adequate feed is available.
Life Expectancy: The expected life span of the American Guinea Hog is 10-15 years or until they are ready for culling and slaughter as farm livestock, providing excellent meat for the table.
Carcass: At six months, the American Guinea Hog may provide a nicely marbled carcass of up to 75 pounds hanging weight of gourmet-quality highly-flavored meat. Fat tends to peel easily from the meat. There is no need to castrate young male hogs intended for slaughter at six months of age.
Source: American Guinea Hog Association
There were some technical difficulties during the podcast interview, but Cathy shared with me later that she wanted to talk about her careful documentation of registration and pedigrees of her American Guinea Hogs and other rare breed livestock.
Cathy is a member of The Livestock Conservancy and takes her responsibility as a breed steward of pigs, sheep, and rabbits seriously. She is learning about genetics and the various lines of the founder hogs used to establish the current American Guinea Hog registration book.
With these rare breeds, to be a good steward, it is essential to understand line-breeding, in-breeding, and out-crossing of lines. In order to do this, you must have pedigrees on your hogs, preferably going back multiple generations. That is why she is a member of the American Guinea Hog Association, registers all of her litters, and determines which hogs that she sells will be allowed to be registered.
In addition, she is interviewing owners of the foundation hogs in order to share this information with other interested breeders.
If you choose to purchase an unregistered Guinea Hog without pedigree information, you might be purchasing a pig that is heavily inbred or purchase a mate for the pig that is actually a full sibling, even if purchased from another state. The gene pool is that small. Over time, inbreeding depression could result in lowered fertility, small litter size, decreased mothering abilities, or various deformities.
More Information on the American Guinea Hog:
American Guinea Hogs Grazing
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The American Guinea Hog
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More information on Cathy Payne:
You can contact Cathy via the form HERE.
Cathy’s was previously interviewed on Episode 010:
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