Adam's Farm Animals: Gloucester Old Spot

Countryfile presenter Adam Henson reveals why the Old Spot is a favourite among the rare breeds that live on his Cotswold farm

5th November 2009
image

Height: 85cm to the shoulder
Weight: 250kg
Origin: Bred in the Berkeley Vale on the south banks of the Severn
Watchlist: The Gloucester old spot is categorised as Minority meaning there are around 1,000 animals left in the UK.

My dad bought his first Gloucester Old Spot pigs when I was only three years old and we’ve been breeding them on the farm ever since. They have got to be my favourite pig breed, not only because I’m a Gloucestershire boy, but also because they have such a docile temperament which makes them easy to work with. The sows will farrow outdoors and easily rear at least 10 piglets.

These fantastic looking creatures originated in the Severn Valley as orchard pigs and were traditionally raised on windfall apples and whey. Once known as the Cottagers or Orchard pig, folklore has it that they received their black spots from bruising caused by falling apples. But they don’t suit intensive indoor pig systems and run to fat easily, so they became very rare.

It was thanks to a few very dedicated enthusiasts in the 1950s like Worcestershire farmer George Styles – who is known affectionately as the grandfather of the breed – that kept them from extinction. Today, with renewed interest from small scale farmers and a demand for local traditional free range meat, the Gloucestershire Old Spot is thriving once more. We sell pigs to other enthusiasts for breeding but also provide Lambournes Butchers in Stow-on-the-Wold.

Movie lovers can even spot one of our Old Spots on the silver screen. In the 90s we trained a sow to sit on cue, and her services were called on when Disney needed a pig to pin the evil Cruella de Vil to the ground in 101 Dalmations. Princess has now passed on, but her granddaughters still sign autographs at the Cotswold Farm Park.

This feature was taken from issue 26 of Countryfile Magazine. To make sure you never miss an issue subscribe today.


Save 40% when you subscribe to BBC Countryfile Magazine

Subscribe to BBC Countryfile Magazine today and you can enjoy generous savings from the shop price plus, free UK delivery and discounts off special editions and back issues.

Countryfile Magazine - Current Issue