Pig breeds: Large White

Pig breeds: Large White

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Origin, diffusion and production characteristics

The Large White, also called by the name of Yorkshire, is perhaps the best known and appreciated breed in the world. It originates from England and more precisely from the counties of York, Lincoln and Norfolk. Its formation took place in the eighteenth century, and began at the farm of the famous breeder Robert Bakewell, starting from local sows and imported boars of Chinese and Siamese origin. Through a long work of mestizo and selection, in 1860 it came to the fixation of the characters and the recognition of the breed. Large White was immediately appreciated for its marked qualities of earliness, prolificity, large size, remarkable aptitude for meat production, relatively small skeleton and high slaughtering yields.
initially three sub-breeds were distinguished: Large White or large York white, meat, very appreciated for the production of bacon; Middle White or medium York white fatty fat, suitable for the production of lard; Middle Essex or small white York, for the production of fatty meat. Soon, however, the last two were abandoned in Italy, because the Large White was clearly preferred for its exceptional performance.
The remarkable ability to transmit its qualities to the offspring was the main reason why it was used for the genetic improvement of many pig populations all over the world.
It arrived in Italy in 1873, imported by prof. Antonio Zanelli, in the improved animal depot annexed to the Agricultural Technical Institute of Reggio Emilia. From here it spread rapidly at first across the Po Valley and later in other parts of the country. Its intense use as a cross breed caused, during the twentieth century, the replacement of the native Italian breeds, several of which disappeared, while others survived with limited consistencies.
The Large White, for the large size and the strength of the limbs, found and still finds considerable appreciation in Italy for the breeding of heavy pigs, used for the production of famous cured meats such as Parma and San Daniele hams. The intensive breeding conditions that involve the use of rooms with concrete floors and the high slaughter weight determined the choice of animals with precisely strong and resistant limbs, favoring this breed. The long selective activity carried out by Italian pig farmers on this breed has led to the formation of an Italian strain, called Large White Italiana, with characteristics that are particularly suited to the production of Italian heavy pig.
It is the breed with the highest consistency in Italy.
It has a high growth rate at all ages, an excellent food processing capacity, high slaughtering yields, excellent meat quality with the right ratio between fat and lean part, well-conformed hams. The meat is used for the production of typical cured meats and for ready-to-eat meat. The slaughter weight used for heavy pigs is around 160-170 kg (in one year).
Large White is characterized by high prolificity, with around 11 piglets born per brood and around two parts per year. Sows have excellent maternal nature and high milk production, which allows them to bring numerous broods to weaning.
It is mainly bred with an intensive breeding system, inside large farms. It also adapts to outdoor breeding, even if the long selective activity has reduced its qualities of rusticity, so the most suitable conditions are those of semi-wild breeding, not particularly severe.

Morphological characteristics

Rosy skin and white bristles.
Large head with an average concave front-nasal profile. ears raised upwards, slightly tilted forward.
Thighs and shoulders well developed, long cylindrical trunk slightly depressed laterally, convex buttocks with thick, muscular and descended ham (with a typical flattened shape; robust skeleton.
Adult males:
- up to 1 meter in height
- 1.60-1.80 m in length
- weight 300-350 kg, up to 550 kg (sows up to 400 kg).

Large White Italian - Morphological characters

The National Pig Breeders Association (ANAS) manages the genealogical book of the Italian Large White breed.
- Type: lively, robust, rustic, of good size, not fatty; solid skeleton, harmonic conformation.
- Coat and Pigmentation: white bristles; depigmented skin (rosea); the presence of some small black spots or clearly defined slate is tolerated.
- Head: strong, light, with broad forehead and medium length face with slightly concave or rectilinear front-nasal profile; good development snout; wide, strong and clean jaws; wide cheeks and throat; erect ears with pavilion opening directed forward.
- Neck: moderate in length but not too short, relatively more muscular in the male and harmoniously attached to the trunk.
- Trunk: sufficiently long, deep, cylindrically depressed laterally; muscular and well-wrapped shoulders; wide and deep chest; muscular and uniformly broad back and loins, forming a horizontal line that harmoniously connects with the regions of the withers and croup; broad, long and muscular croup; robust tail, attached high at the point of passage between rump and buttocks; well-convex buttocks; ribs and hips well descended and harmoniously connected to the back-lumbar region; broad, supported belly, forming a straight and horizontal line with the sternum; ham which results from the description of the rump and the buttock and therefore, on the whole, very developed in the antero-posterior sense, often, muscular, well descended.
- Limbs: of medium length with clear, robust and perfectly perpendicular joints; medium-length pastorals and solid feet with wide, short, well-tightened and uniform nails.
- Gait: agile, elastic, safe.
Sexual characteristics: in the male the testicles are voluminous, globular, uniform, well protruding from the perineum; the nipples must be not less than 14, well detected and regularly spaced. In females, the breasts must be not less than 14, regularly spaced, with well-pronounced normal nipples and patent.

Large White sow and boar (www.ansi.okstate.edu)

Italian Large White breed boar (website photo)

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