The Ossabaw Island Hog is a breed of pig derived from a population of feral pigs on Ossabaw Island, Georgia, United States. The original Ossabaw Hogs are descended from swine released on the island in the 16th century by Spanish explorers. A breeding population has been established on American farms off the island, but they remain a critically endangered variety of pig.
The meat of Ossabaws is dark, with a unique texture, and is prized for resembling the jamón ibérico of the Black Iberian pig. It is considered to be artisanal, heritage product especially well-suited to use in pork, cured meats, and whole pig roasts. They are found to be particularly well suited for sustainable or pastured pork production.
But you could have learned that from Wikipedia or any other of a dozen websites that cut and pasted that information from some other website. It's about all I had to go on when we started with this breed. We choose them for several reasons, for one, we wanted a "heritage breed," meaning something that was traditional used in a homestead situation would have the traits we were looking for, such as good foraging abilities, cold and hot weather tolerant and good mothering skills. Being beginners the idea of a smaller breed was also appealing and the Ossabaw met all these qualifications with the added bonus of being noted for having top quality pork.
We found every one of these points to be exactly as advertised! The pork is OUTSTANDING, they do well during any weather extremes we've experienced in our fairly mild weather area, their mothering skills are truly amazing and they are fantastic foragers. Here's what that means in real life -
1. The pork is truly wonderful; however, like a lot of heritage breed animals the meat needs a different type of preparation and cooking method than what you pick up in the supermarket. Marinade is your friend. Keep in mind that these animals aren't all that far from their feral ancestors, so prepping your meat in a similar fashion as wild game makes for a more tender pork chop. The meat is very dense, making it easier to over cook but far more filling of a meal. I found one small chop filled me up as opposed to the two supermarket cuts I might eat. So take your time preparing and cooking this artisan meat and you'll find it hard to go back to the over the counter stuff.
2. They can handle the weather fine, but they still need shade, shelter and a wallow is hog heaven.
3. Great mothering ability even in 1st time moms, but being a smaller breed the litters are generally smaller. The newer moms tend to throw 2-5 and the two and three year old moms from 5 - 8. Some moms tend to graduate the whole litter but some are lucky to keep half. So like any breed you have to be selective with your breeding stock.
4. Fantastic foragers. Yup. If you want to keep these guys on grass 100% of the time you'll have to be more prepared than we were. I did the research, I did the math, I built what I thought was a good solid fence. I was throughly defeated.
First of all, take a look through some of the pictures of these hogs, see the long noses? Those are for digging foxholes, shoveling copious amounts of dirt/mud/hay/branches onto electric wires in order to short out your charger and for lifting "tightly pulled" field fence a few inches off the ground which is all a 100+ pound pig needs to be able to slide under it. It's pretty amazing to watch. Keeping them where you want them requires field fence with a line of electric on the inside that's no more than 6 inches off the ground and you'll want to check that at least daily to keep it unburied. You've been warned.
The second part of keeping them on pasture is having enough pasture. They're small, but they're hungry and they LOVE grass! The only way too keep your lovely green pasture lovely and green is rotation, rotation, rotation! Let them till and stomp it too much and you may find yourself with a dirt lot that takes more time than you'd like for it to come back.
If your intention is to raise pork for your family and maybe sell some piglets to cover any hay and feed cost, I can highly recommend the Ossabaw for some of the best tasting pork you'll ever put on your table. We currently have over 100 Ossabaw from piglets to proven breeding stock; feel free to contact us to see what we have available for sale, or just to get more information about the breed.
Fresh batch of bacon!