Ossabaw Hogs Status: Critical

Overview

A feral breed found on Ossabaw Island off the coast of Georgia, Ossabaw hogs are said to have been brought to America by the Spanish during an early American settlement. They are typically black, although some are black with white spots, white with black spots, or rarely red.

"Though pigs have lived on Ossabaw for several centuries, they do have an impact on the island's ecology. Environmentalists became concerned, and the pigs may or may not be allowed to remain." livestockconservancy.org
Extinction Risk: Critical
Population: 400
Temperament: Active

Why we need them

With a growing world population and a greater strain on the planet's natural resources than ever before, sustainable systems of farming and food production are imperative.

Heritage breeds help to ensure the security of the world's food systems by preserving these genetic traits, and others: disease resistance, survival, fertility, longevity, and maternal instincts.

Ossabaw are unusual and important for three reasons. First, its history as an isolated island population has meant that the Ossabaw is the closest genetic representative of historic Spanish stock. Second, the presence of pigs on Ossabaw island provides scientists with an exceptional opportunity to study a long-term feral population that is well-documented. Third, the Ossabaw breed is biologically unique, having been shaped by natural selection in a challenging environment known for heat, humidity, and seasonal scarcity of food. They are able to store astounding amounts of body fat in order to survive. This biochemical adaptation is similar to non-insulin dependent diabetes in humans, making the pigs a natural animal model for this disease. Ossabaw hogs are also found to be particularly well suited for sustainable or pastured pork production.

Here in Piscataway Park, Ossabaws are a part of the Foundation's land stewardship work. As active rooters, these hogs help to aerate agricultural fields prior to planting and can also help with invasive species control on forest edges.

What the Accokeek Foundation is doing to help

The Foundation's Heritage Breed Conservation Program has two main goals: increase the population of critical and threatened breeds, and educate students and visitors about the importance of biodiversity in agricultural systems.

The Heritage Breed Conservation program currently has two Ossabaw sows that help educate students and visitors about this unique breed. Over the next few breeding seasons, we hope to double the number of sows and purchase a boar so that we can begin breeding Ossabaws.

We also work with small, family-owned farms to encourage the adoption of Heritage Breeds like the Ossabaw hog into their own stock. It is only with the help of farmers and consumers all over the world that we can bring these breeds back.

How you can help

Donate

Volunteer

Join the Farmhands volunteer crew to assist in the care of the Foundation's Ossabaw hogs (and other critters too!). Visit the website to learn more.

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