Tamworth pigs

Tamworth sow with piglets

About the breed

Tamworth pigs are critically endangered.  Tillari is home to one of only three significant groupings of these wonderful pigs in Australia.  By choosing our rarebreed, ethically raised pork and lamb you are helping to keep these animals from extinction.

If you talk to older people in the community who grew up on farms or raised pigs, most will have fond stories and memories of their families keeping Tamworth Pigs. Stories not just of moist juicy tender meat on the table, but of the antics of the animals.

Most literature suggests that the Tamworth 'Hog' or 'Swine' breed originated in Tamworth, Staffordshire England, however recently it was uncovered on an English Tamworth website that the exact origin may actually be unknown. It is further mentioned that a Tamworth Swine Association booklet says that the Tamworth originated in Ireland where they were called "The Irish Grazer". About 1812 it is said that Sir Robert Peel, being impressed with the characteristics of them, imported some of them and started to breed them on his estate at Tamworth, England and they have been bred quite extensively ever since. It has also been suggested by numerous persons that the Tamworth are descendants of the wild English hog. This may be one of the reasons that Tamworths are able to thrive in many different environments and are rarely affected with illness.

The Tamworth in Australia

The following Information was sourced from a document authorized by the Federal Council of the Australia Pig Breeders Society that was compiled and edited by the Promotions Committee in 1982/83. Thanks goes to McIntosh Ranch for providing this document.

It appears the first Tamworths were imported into Australia in the 1890’s by the Hawkesbury Agricultural College. They exhibited as a special exhibit, a boar and sow at the 1899 Sydney Royal Knowle Lad (imp.) and Knowle Rose (imp.). The Australia Pig Breeders Association then known as the Yorkshire and Berkshire Society, admitted Tamworths to the herd book in 1914. The first registered pig was Knowle Indian Prince (imp.) by the Hawkesbury Agricultural College. Over the years, the Hawkesbury Agricultural College imported a lot of Tamworths, the last being by Mr. G. Carse (chief pig officer) in the late 1930’s. The College, along with the herds at Wagga and Wollongbar, exhibited Tamworths with distinction up until 1956 at the Sydney Royal. The breed reached its greatest popularity in Australia between 1950-1960 when annual registration in the herd book touched 1000 head on several occasions.

The breed was ideal for the rough hot Australia climate and thrived under open range conditions (this quality being one of the many reasons we chose the breed for our herd). Tamworths proved ideal for crossing with the more compact heavier breeds, particularly with the Berkshire which became a most popular cross for both bacon and pork production. The colour varied from light bricky yellow to a gold red, the later being more popular.

The Queensland Agricultural Journal, Volume 5 July to December 1899 Edited by A J Boyd also provided information in regard to the Tamworth noting it as the 'most profitable pig'.

It is written:

"The most profitable pig to breed this year and hereafter is, without questions, the Tamworth. The Tamworth is the pig par excellence for the packer and feeder. Its length and depth of body are so pronounced that no breed of pig can approach it in these important respects. Its shoulder is light but deep through the chest and wide between the forward legs, giving it the indispensable lightness of shoulder with large heart girth and great vitality. The Tamworth is wide behind, with strong back and great depth through the flank and hams well let down; and these points sought by the curer... More the unexampled docility of the Tamworth can be approached by no other breed. The Tamworth is more prepotent, has the function of motherhood more pronounced and has greater precocity than any breeds of pigs yet brought into public favour..."

"The Tamworth bred in the standard has a slightly prominent pelvic arch, showing her strong maternal power; and the milk giving function is shown by her udder, of long abdominal attachment from front to rear, and well balance as to form, couple with strong, wedge shaped digestive capacity and her constitutional vigour is not only shown by her large heart girth but by they strong navel development."

"The well bred Tamworth is a brainy animal (sometimes too brainy in our experiences). This is shown by her lean and smallish head and her bright prominent protruding eyes. By reasons of her highly nervous organism she is as susceptible to kind or abusive treatment as is the gentle kittenish Jersey. From the above it will be seen that the Tamworth is fundamentally a dairy breed of swine; and a successful dairy man should, from his association with high-bred dairy cows make a good breeder of Tamworths and a successful producer of fine bacon."

Over 100 years later, the Tamworth is a rare breed. It is now less favoured as it doesn't grow as quickly or to the standards now required for it to be a profitable animal in an intensive piggery. However, the quality, durability and mothering ability of the animal hasn't changed. We hope as society's demand for free range animals continues that this breed will again be favoured, leading to increased numbers and having its 'rare breed' status removed. It is only through demand for the meat that we can ensure that this breed will survive and not become just another part of history and an animal that our children will only learn about in a book.

Finding information in relation to the history of the Tamworth pig in Australia has proved to be very challenging. If you have additional information or would like to share your experiences with the breed, please feel free to contact us, we would love to gather more information on this wonderful breed and include it on our site.