Large White pig
A Large White boar
|Country of origin||England|
Sus scrofa domesticus
First recognized in 1868, the breed is the progenitor of the American Yorkshire (or simply Yorkshire) in North America. The Large White is one of the most numerous of all pig breeds, widely used in crossbreeding for intensive pig farming around the world.
True to its name, the breed is a big, white-skinned pig, with erect ears and a dished face. It was originally developed as an outdoor breed, but today it is one of those favored by commercial pig breeders, lending uniformity to pigs produced for meat on a large scale.
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First recognised in 1868, the Large White was one of the original founder breeds of the National Pig Breeders' Association (now known as the British Pig Association), and the first herdbook was published in 1884. The early history of the breed in Yorkshire is difficult to trace. The huge, coarse-boned, and leggy white pigs of the region were crossed with other breeds. Davidson, in The Production and Marketing of Pigs, has suggested that among these were the Cumberland, Leicestershire, and the Middle and Small White. Specimens of the new breed first attracted attention at the Windsor Royal Show in 1831. The stock used in the development and improvement of the pigs of that area is not as important as what was finally produced as a breed.
Before the end of the 19th century, British Large Whites were already establishing themselves all over the world. Innovative pedigree breeders, such as Sanders Spencer of the Holywell herd near Huntingdon, were exporting breeding stock as far afield as Australia, Argentina, Canada, and Russia, as well as most countries in Europe.
The Large White has proved itself as a rugged and hardy breed that can withstand variations in climate and other environmental factors. Their ability to cross with and improve other breeds has given them a leading role in commercial pig production systems and breeding pyramids around the world.
In the early 1970s, the development of modern performance testing programmes led to an increase in world-wide demand for Large White breeding stock from the United Kingdom. In the first three years of that decade, more than 8,500 pedigreed Large Whites were exported to all parts of the world. Once again in the early 1990s, the switch in the USA from payment on liveweight to payment on lean meat percentage led to another great wave of exports of Large White genetics from Britain. They are the most eaten pigs in the US and in the UK, therefore constituting a prolific breed.