Raising American Guinea Hogs – The Homestead Pig with Cathy Payne (PVP086)

Guinea Hogs Permaculture Voices

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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

Registering Hogs:

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:

The Livestock Conservancy

The American Guinea Hog Association

Body Condition Scoring

American Guinea Hogs Grazing


The American Guinea Hog


More information on Cathy Payne:

Broad River Pastures

Broad River Pastures on Facebook

You can contact Cathy via the form HERE.

Cathy’s was previously interviewed on Episode 010:

Raising Heritage Breed Livestock and Venturing into Farming with Cathy Payne



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Comments 23

  1. We too raise this wonderful heritage breed here on the Southern Oregon Coast. We have a fantastic breeding pair and often bring 8-10 little ones into the world in each litter. They are the most incredible pigs we have ever owned. Very tame, gentle, easy on the land and while I haven’t eaten any of them (yet) I have heard they are one of the best. We have raised larger hogs and will NEVER again go back. AGH’s can be easily kept for garden management and fertilization, they honor a single wire electric fence and LOVE belly rubs!!! Yep – the perfect pig. Thanks for getting the word out.

    1. Reply To Tammy & Bob…
      we are in Central Oregon, expecting delivery of my “birthday piggies” from Washington this weekend! We are getting two females…one just 10 weeks, and one 6 months… Never had piggies before, but after doing the research on AGH’s, they seem to be the perfect fit for our acreage. We are retired, and hope to eventually be able to find a boar and breed AGH’s.

  2. This is a great pig. Dont be scared. Pig makes great backyard animal / pet. You need not have any experionce. Can make due with 1 acre lot. AGH does not require alot of time. I think of it as an outside dog. My favorite homestead amimal. Just do it. Does not cost much to get into. You can always find a buyer for this pig if you need to sell quick and dont want to process your self. You cant go wrong.

  3. Taint is a complicated issue. It is controlled by genetics, feed and management.

    Boar taint is controlled by two primary chemicals and you can effect these. Genetics control these to a degree. Some lines of pigs within some breeds have higher levels and some lower levels. Some breeds like the Red Duroc are reputed by researchers to have higher levels of taint in general but there are even some within those higher taint breeds who have lower levels. Select for boars that have lower levels.

    High fiber feeds reduce taint but low fiber feeds such as corn soy increase taint. Feeding chicory reduces taint. Plenty of scientific articles about this.

    Extensive management (e.g., pasturing, rotational grazing) reduce taint but confinement management increases taint (dirt lot, indoor, etc). Plenty of scientific articles about this.

    Fortunately taint is not actually all that common. You can also test for taint using a simply biopsy method I developed for working with our herds. We don’t castrate. We raise thousands of boars and sell their meat because we don’t have a taint problem. Can you with any random pig? Maybe you will be lucky but I would suggest approaching it slowly, testing the animals progressively over time to find out if your genetics, feed and management produce taint free meat. See: http://SugarMtnFarm.com/taint

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  4. I recently acquired 4 sows and 7 piglets. The 7 piglets belonged to 2 of the sows. The piglets were approx 6 weeks and are now going on 10 weeks. I’ve read various info on sows coming in heat. How soon can I expect them to be in heat ? The piglets were born in August. Any info would be really helpful.

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    2. Guinea Hog gilts can come in heat as early as 3 months, so litters need to be separated by sex by 12 weeks of age. They will cycle into estrus every 14-21 days until bred. Gilts who have had several cycles may be bred between 7 and 8 months and will farrow by their first birthday. Breeding early and breeding twice a year will keep them productive and healthy.

      – Cathy Payne

  5. Where can I get breeding stock and how much should I look to be set back per animal

    I live in sw mo. Around the Joplin/Springfield area

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  6. I have a small farm and was really inspired by this podcast and contacted Cathy at Broad River Pastures. She is only 1.5 hours away and I now have two wonderful gilts named Henrietta and Gertrude. Thanks Diego for this awesome podcast!

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  7. I’m just going thru websites to learn as much as I can about our first two AGH gilts (born Feb ’16).
    We love them as pasture replacements for my Pygora bucks – moving on after 19 years of registered Pygoras.
    The ‘girls’ are super rototillers – really working grasses & weeds, roots and all.

    As we proceed, I am seeking to learn the best size to slaughter. At three months old, the bigger one calculates at
    31.5 lbs. Shall I count on about 8-10 lbs growth per month on pasture? We were thinking Dec-Jan?

    It seems Oregonians have taken these piggies to heart – I find lots of breeders in the NW.

    1. Guinea Hogs can be slaughtered at a variety of ages, depending on your needs and what you desire. Various genetic lines or individual pigs will grow and varied rates. A 10-12 week old piglet weighing 18-35 pounds can be dressed whole for a roaster or BBQ suckling pig. I have a chef who enjoys 7 month olds at about 65-75 pounds hanging weight. Other chefs like them at 9 months. At a year of age, they may be 90-125 pounds depending on genetic and feeding factors. Some farmers process them at 14-18 months or even 2 years. Just observe, experiment, and enjoy. The meat is delicious in all of those scenarios!

    1. well love these pigs..have not sold any but i do like them..there not big eaters feed bill not bad..i feed mine healthy stuff and no meat do i ever give them..drink lots of water..i also give them milk here and there fresh whole eggs from my chickens..there calm friendly not fence busters..good luck to you..dennis

  8. The “cons” of Guinea Hogs are similar to the “pros.” They became almost extinct because of their small size and slow growth. Production farmers prefer large and fast, but that also requires a lot of expensive feed. This breed is very thrifty and needs only 2 quarts of feed a day versus gallons for a typical pig. The small size means that it is less expensive to maintain a boar, and safer for beginning farmers. Their gentle nature makes them a pleasure to work with. Their black skin and bristles protect them from sunburn, but our processor claims that black bristles are harder to remove. The meat is delicious! They can produce a lot of lard when they are older or are over fed.

  9. Nice article. I listened to the podcast several months ago. We also raise these animals, certified organic, at Common Treasury Farm, near Waldport, Oregon. One thing we did learn the hard way though, if you plan on keeping the boars to full maturity (i.e. 12 months) you definitely DO need to castrate, or risk the getting some pretty strong “boar taint” in the meat. I’d read the same thing – that you didn’t have to castrate – and on our first litter we did this. One of our customers got some pretty strange tasting meat that first year. Now we castrate all males within the first 3 weeks. It’s not a pleasant job. I had also heard that that if you run the young boars away from any sows and gilts for 3 months they will not have boar taint when slaughtered. I tried this last year and it did seem to work, though for management purposes, I’d rather not run that many herds…and rotate that many fences.

    Our pigs even eat blackberry! Especially in the spring. I’d say they rival the goats, though you do need to chop it down so they can get to it.

    Fun breed. The boars especially are very friendly, which is key. We raised Tamworths one year and will never go back. The personality of the breeds is like night and day.

  10. r.c.r we have 2 sows one had 4 gilts waiting for other one to drop hers..we love them,mom let us touch her babies right away..sweet thing..i will stay with these pigs as long as we can…

  11. I’ve been looking into these pigs for a few months now and they seem like a good choice for me BUT how likely am I to be able to sell off the piglets? I don’t want to be left wintering over more than I have to.

    1. Thats a good question. Keep in mind that there is always a buyer at the right price. You many not get premium price but you are never amiss charging $0.50 a pound over market price. We have a small heard in northeast Kansas.

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