The Tamworth originated in central England in the counties of Stafford, Warwick, Leicester, and Northhampton. Prior to 1815, dark red and grisly pigs were found largely in these Midland counties. In this region, there were dense forests of oak and beech trees where the pigs were kept to forage in the autumn and winter. The breed takes its name from the village of Tamworth in Staffordshire.
Long, lean, and athletic, the Tamworth is probably the most direct descendant of the native pig stock of northern Europe. There is historic documentation that some of the stock used to develop the breed may have had an Irish origin through an importation around 1812 by Sir Robert Peel (Prime Minister of the United Kingdom between 1834-1835 and 1841-1846) to his farm in Tamworth. Peel is reported to have crossed the Irish pigs with the local pigs of Tamworth at that time. The Tamworth breed was standardized during the early to mid-1800s, becoming uniform in type. The Tamworth was recognized as a breed by the Royal Agricultural Society in 1885 and fell under the authority of the National Pig Breeders’ Association of Great Britain.
Tamworth pigs were first imported to North America by Thomas Bennett of Rossville, Illinois in 1882. Many more Tamworths were imported into Canada after 1888. The American Tamworth Swine Record Association was founded in 1887 with their national headquarters in Ames, Iowa. In Canada the Tamworth was admitted to the Dominion Swine Breeders Association Herd Book in 1893.
The characteristics of the Tamworth reflect the breed’s centuries of selection for an outdoor life. Pigs of this breed were expected to find their own food, especially mast (or acorns) of oak and beech forests. Long heads and impressive snouts enable these pigs to be efficient foragers. Long, strong legs and sound feet give Tamworth pigs the ability to walk for considerable distances. Ginger red coats make the pigs adaptable to a variety of climates and protect them from sunburn. Tamworths have an active intelligence, and they are agreeable in disposition. Sows are prolific, able to produce and care for large litters. The piglets are vigorous and often have 100% survivability. Both sexes of this breed reach a mature weight of 500-600 lbs (227-272 kg).
The Tamworth was traditionally considered a “bacon” breed, meaning that the pigs thrived on low energy foods but grew slowly. They produced meat and bacon that was lean and fine grained. The breed has an excellent carcass yield of up to 70% due to their fine bones creating a more productive meat to bone ratio for finished meat products.
Plimoth Plantation maintains a herd of Tamworth Pigs and helps to maintain genetic diversity in livestock through its conservation of rare and heritage breeds. These heritage breeds were common in the past, but are in danger of becoming extinct today. For more information visit www.plimoth.org or www.albc-usa.org.
Net proceeds of these plush animals support Plimoth Plantation's educational programming and exhibits.