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Ossabaw Island Hog

In the 1500’s Spanish explorers brought a population of pigs to the Americas. These pigs became the foundation population for both domestic and feral pigs, in the southern United States. One of these important and unusual breeds is the Ossabaw, which is a feral breed found on Ossabaw Island, off the coast of Georgia near Savanna. The Ossabaw is the closest genetic representative of historic Spanish stocks because the population remained on the island where it did not come into contact with mainland breeds. However, as the pigs, adapted to the island, they became smaller, a process called insular dwarfism.

According to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, the breed is biologically unique, having been shaped by natural selection in a challenging environment known for heat, humidity and seasonal scarcity of food. Though the pigs may be as small as 100 pounds, they adapted to the food cycle on the island, enabling them to store astounding amounts of body fat in order to survive during the spring season, when there is a dearth of food.

The Ossabaw is usually black, although some are black with white spots or light with black spots. The adults are hairy with heavy frayed bristles on the head neck and topline. Their heads and shoulders are heavy but this does not prevent them from being fast and agile in the dense undergrowth of the island.

Currently it is not possible to import the animals directly from Ossabaw Island due to quarantine restrictions. However small groups of these hogs, descendents from those brought from the island in the 1970s, can be found on the mainland. The Ossabaw Island hog is endangered. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy estimates that here are fewer than 200 individuals remain on the mainland, though many more can be found on the island itself.

Click to find sources for this item at Local Harvest

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