Pigs

Hampshire Pigs: Everything You Need to Know

hampshire pig

Hampshire Pigs — Everything You Need to Know Before Breeding 

If you have ever considered breeding Hampshire pigs, stop what you are doing.

This article was made for you!

Read below to find out everything you need to know — from behavioral tendencies to tender loving care — when deciding whether you should breed these special pigs

hampshire pigs

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What Are Hampshire Pigs Known For? Hampshire Breed Characteristics

hampshire pigs

Throughout the last 200 years, Hampshire hogs have become the most prevalent and desirable breeds found in the United States, ranking fourth in the number of pigs bred. The easy maintenance of the breed coupled with the lean meat it produces makes this pig a great choice when deciding whether to take on the task of raising pigs. 

The Hampshire breed is most desirable for its meat, which makes sense given that the muscular physique makes for much more lean pork than that of other common breeds.

There is a good carcass quality that you won’t find with just about any other breed of pig, too.

If you are looking to begin breeding pigs for their meat, this breed is also a great choice because they naturally breed very easily and mature fairly quickly.

As far as breeding, itself, goes, Hampshire sows are known for both being diligent mothers and for generally giving birth to healthy piglets, meaning it is quite easy to increase the number of pigs under your care.

One of these sows typically births between 7 and 15 piglets in one pregnancy and can do so up to twice a year. With a lifespan of 12 years, one sow has the potential to produce over 300 pigs. Being able to quickly and easily expand your livestock implies that your financial return has the potential to proliferate exponentially. 

Not only do Hampshire pigs breed well, mature quickly, and produce high-quality meat, but they are also known for their extreme intelligence, docile nature, and good temperament. These qualities make the Hampshire breed a great addition to any sized farm, including backyard farms for beginners. 

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Origins of the Hampshire Breed

The origins of the breed Hampshire can be traced back to 18th century Northern England and Scotland where they were, at first, unpopular due to their larger size in comparison to other breeds. By the 19th century, however, these pigs became one of the most sought-after breeds once breeders began butchering them before reaching full maturity. It was not until the 1830s that Hampshire pigs were introduced to the United States, as legend has it, by a man named Mckay. 

Kentucky was the first location Hampshire pigs began to flourish in and were given the nickname “thin rinds” based on the thinness of the skin in relation to other popular breeds found in the United States. 

It is in Kentucky that a group of local breeders decided they should keep as many pureblood Hampshire pigs as possible when breeding. Eventually, breeders from Ohio and various midwestern states began importing the pigs until the 1960s, when worldwide exportation of the pigs began. Hampshire pigs can now be found across the globe in all environments and climates. 

Today, many of the original Hampshire pigs imported from the United Kingdom have been crossbred creating the Wessex Saddleback Pig, similar to the Hampshire pig but identified by classic floppy ears and a more domestic temperament rather than the original’s erect ears and foraging tendencies. 

What Are the Traits of a Hampshire Hog?

hampshire pigs

Hampshire pigs have very specific traits and are easily recognizable even to those without much knowledge of pig breeds, in general. A medium to large-sized breed, these pigs are extremely robust and can thrive in many environments and climates. That being said, not only are Hampshire pigs recognizable by their physicality but by their personality, as well. 

Hampshire Swine Physical Characteristics 

  • Head: The head of a Hampshire pig is typically medium-sized with small eyes that do not provide great eyesight. Fortunately, it is not important that domestic pigs have good eyesight. When trying to tell if a Hampshire pig is healthy and sound, check to make sure it has a wide forehead and a good distance between the eyes. 
  • Ears: While most domestic pigs sport floppy ears, the Hampshire pig is known for its upright, erect ears. 
  • Teeth: Even though Hampshire pigs do not have very sharp teeth, they possess a strong jaw and a solid bite. Always be careful when you are near a pig’s mouth. You may also consider clipping piglet teeth.
  • Tail: The Hampshire pig has a short tail that curls around, touching its lower back. Its tail rests high on its hindquarters which should ideally appear to be long and level. 
  • Tusks: Like most other breeds of pigs, Hampshires do have tusks irrelevant to gender. The main difference between the tusks of male pigs and female pigs is the length they may grow to. Checking the size of a pig’s tusks is a simple way to tell its gender. 
  • Nails and Hooves: Hampshires, like all other breeds, have nails and hooves that should be regularly attended to depending on their terrain. An enclosure with solid surfaces as well as grass will increase the amount of time necessary between trimmings. 
  • Snout: The snout of a Hampshire is typically long with a small or medium-sized upturned nose. To help supplement their bad eyesight, these pigs are extremely sensitive to smell. 
  • Color: With an all-black body broken up by one white or cream-colored belt covering the upper chest and front legs, the coloring of Hampshires is their most obvious characteristic. Because of this distinctive coloring, these pigs are still lovingly referred to by some as “the hogs with the white belt.” 
  • Weight: Hampshire pigs are larger than most domestic pigs in the United States, accounted for by their muscular bodies that make such lean meat. Males can reach a weight of up to 660 pounds while females can reach up to 550 pounds. However, due to their size, they can be more difficult to control and many farmers choose to butcher their pigs before they get too big to ensure the meat stays lean. 
  • Breeding Capacity: Female Hampshire sows are able to birth up to two litters each year. Between 7 and 15 piglets may be reared each time. When inspecting your female pigs, see that there are 12 pronounces teats with proper spacing in between. 
  • Growth Rate: Piglets reach sexual maturity by 7 months old. However, it is advised they are not bred until they reach 12 months. 

Hampshire Pig Personality 

Behavior 

Pigs are one of the most intelligent creatures on the planet, with Hampshire pigs absolutely included in that statement. They are extremely quick learners and will adjust to any environment they are put in. Hampshires possess a great memory and can even remember the face of their owner, making them great as pets and not simply as livestock. 

Because Hampshires lack good eyesight, an indicator of natural prey, they counteract this by being constantly aware of their surroundings. It is because they need to outsmart their predators that they are able to learn and adapt so well. Hampshire pigs can even be trained to do tricks or to use a litter box. 

Along with their intelligence, Hampshires are compassionate and can experience a range of emotions from happiness to sadness and even depression. It has been said that they may even cry tears after the loss of a companion. Similarly, they can become bored a restless and need plenty of space to play.  

If you treat your pigs well, they will most certainly remember and return the affection. 

Temperament 

Though Hampshire boars and sows are extremely large and very muscular, they are, by nature, docile creatures with a generally good temperament if unprovoked. They will not attack unpredictably but, remember, they are always on high alert for predators. Because of this, you do not want to provoke the pigs in any way. 

It is also important to remember that naturally wild animals have the tendency to become more aggressive with age. For Hampshires, this is especially true about aging males. This can be due to chemical changes within the brain as well as health issues or pain. 

Because Hampshires have a great memory, they will remain obedient to you. And, if you are always diligent about remaining calm around your pigs, they should never have an impulse to attack. 

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Other Hampshire Hog Facts

  • The lifespan of a Hampshire can be up to 12 years. This number can be increased with a proper diet filled with nutrients as well as affection and entertainment.
  • Hampshires are number 4 on the list of most bred pig breeds in the United States. This is on account of their delicious and lean meat. 
  • The price of a male can range between $300 and $600. Price will depend upon the pig’s age and bloodline, as well as from where and whom you are purchasing. 
  • The price of a female pig under 12 months, known as a gilt, can range from $250 to $400. 
  • Beginning in the 1960’s, only a little over 100 years after their introduction, the United States became one of the world’s top exporters of Hampshires.
  • As opposed to many other breeds, Hampshires prefer a clean living environment. 

Taking Care of Hampshire Pigs 

hampshire pigs

Hampshires are so desirable for breeders because of their robustness and ability to thrive in all types of conditions. Nevertheless, they are still living creatures that need plenty of food, water, and even affection. If you wish for your pigs to thrive, they should not be taken for granted. 

Environment and Enclosure 

  • Hampshire pigs are known for their durability and capability to live in any climate or environment. This is why they are so great for large, small, and even backyard farms anywhere in the world. 
  • While wild Hampshire pigs are excellent foragers, it has been proven that domesticated Hampshire pigs can thrive just as well in confinement. 
  • However, because Hampshire pigs are natural foragers, they love to dig and explore. If you have the space available, allow them to roam. 
  • Since they love to roam, dig, and explore, it is especially important that you have solid fencing the pigs cannot escape from. They can and will destroy you or your neighbor’s property, including the garden you may have next to their pen. 

Food and Water 

  • Like most other breeds of pig, Hampshires have a very strong stomach that can digest a ton of different foods and materials. This is not an advisable way to ensure they are getting a nutritious diet, though. 
  • It is best to provide your Hampshire pigs with a diet mainly consisting of grains and vegetables to maintain the quality of the meat they produce. 
  • It is also recommended that you supplement their diet with a multi-vitamin that will ensure they are getting all the nutrients they need. 
  • 15 or more gallon troughs are recommended for supplying water to your pigs as it they need a ton of water each day. Check the height of the trough to confirm each pig can reach. 
  • Be sure to change the water every single day given that the water is also used to bathe and play in. 

TLC

  • Hampshire pigs are truly compassionate creatures and can sense whatever emotion you are projecting on to them. They can both sense and feel anger, frustration, sadness, and discomfort so it is important you always treat them with kindness. 
  • In the same way, the pigs can feel loneliness, so be sure they are not kept alone for extended periods of time. If you only have one pig, visit often and use both verbal and nonverbal forms of communication. 
  • Allow enough space for your pig to exercise. If you do not have a large enough holding pen for your pigs to exercise, consider either limiting the number of pigs you keep or having a designated exercise space outside of the pen. 
  • While Hampshire pigs do thrive in confined, domestic spaces, it is always nice to allow your pig to forage for itself. This can keep them happy, entertained, and enriched. Try burying or hiding food items for your pigs to discover if this cannot be accomplished naturally. 
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Hampshire Pigs Pros and Cons 

hampshire pigs

Pros: 

1. They produce great meat.

Hampshire pigs are a great option if you have the time, space, and are looking for some disposable income. Their meat is highly sought after and you will most definitely find potential customers. 

2. They are robust and resilient creatures.

Properly raising Hampshire pigs is not overly complicated as they are low-maintenance creatures. They are a great option for beginners as well as those who do not have a ton of land or climate control options available. 

3. They are a breeder-friendly animal.

Female Hampshires are able to birth up to 30 healthy piglets in one year. Because this breed is so well known for producing healthy piglets, you can be sure your yield will be high, quickly increasing the number of pigs you have. This will subsequently increase your financial return. 

4. They are docile, friendly, and clean. 

You need not worry about your pigs attacking you or each other with this breed. This fact, alone,  can take away from a lot of the stress that can come with raising livestock. Similarly, if desired, you can even create a meaningful relationship with your Hampshire. 

If you are worried about the smell, Hampshire pigs actually prefer to live in a clean environment. They even go so far as to designate a space for excrement away from their living area. 

Cons: 

1. They love to explore.

While, on the face of it, this may not seem like a con, it can become frustrating if your pig decides to dig up its pen. It can become even more stressful if your pig is not properly fenced in. Because they are natural foragers, the pigs have the potential to destroy land, produce, and even man-made materials while on their hunt for food. 

2. They need plenty of space.

Due to their size and temperament, Hampshire pigs do need enough space to play, explore, and live happily. While they do not need acres of land as cows and horses do, they still need plenty, particularly due to their size, to stay enriched. Similarly, because of their ability to breed and their rapid rate of growth, there is always the possibility you could underestimate the amount of space you need. 

3. They are rare. 

It can be difficult to find the pigs you need to start breeding Hampshires. If you are able to find them, the price could be pretty high. However, if you are able to begin breeding them, you will have joined an extremely lucrative and high-yielding market. 

4. They require tons of water. 

On average, one Hampshire pig requires around 14 gallons of water a day. This can become a lot of work and take a toll on your water bill as you grow your business. 

CONCLUSION: Should I Raise Hampshire Pigs?

hampshire pigs

As we have discussed in detail above, Hampshire pigs are a great breed for beginners. They have a rapid growth rate and high birth yield and a fairly self-sufficient. The lean meat they produce is a perfect way to gain extra income. However, it is important that you have the time, energy, and supplies to keep your pigs happy and healthy. 

Remember, if you choose to raise Hampshire pigs, you do not have to knock out everything on the list at once. You will still need to start from scratch and raise your first few pigs to get the hang of things before you are even able to begin breeding. This can give you the time you need to become adjusted. 

Thanks for reading and happy breeding! 

What do you think – are Hampshire pigs right for you? Let me know in the comments!

Want to learn more about farming? Be sure to take a look at these other articles.

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Author: Anna B

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