Extinction Risk: Critical
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.