Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Gloucester Old Spots 'at risk' as numbers decline

Over the two years the number of sows producing litters have halved. Photo: ITV News

The Gloucester Old Spot Pig, once saved from extinction, could now be in trouble again.

In 2014, there were 837 sows producing litters, while by 2016 this had dropped to only 416. This puts the breed in an "at risk" category.

The breed was saved from extinction by organisations like the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. Now they are warning that numbers are falling.

Judy Hancox believes she knows why and it might be to do with one breed's television appearance.

Lady Mary, an Oxford Sandy and Black is a popular breed after appearing it hit TV programme Downton Abbey. Credit: ITV News

Lady Mary is an Oxford Sandy and Black a breed which has become famous since appearing as a prize porker in ITV's Downton Abbey.

The piggy above, is the one who starred in the show, as the Empress of Downton, Lady Mary's pig. As a tribute, Judy calls her Lady Mary now.

But her role in the period drama could be one of the factors in the decline of Old Spot numbers. These are the new kids on the block, numbers of Oxford Sandy and Black's are going up, while Old Spot numbers are going down.

Well Josephine will hopefully have 10 piglets, any less would be a bit disappointing, any more a bonus, some will be good enough to go as breeding and showing stock, but not all of them, and certainly however endangered a pig is you mustn't keep them all, as they have been selectively reared for years and years.

– Judy Hancox

So if the old spot is so endangered, why are breeders still converting them into sausages and bacon?

Josephine and friends, Old Spots in South Cerney. Credit: ITV News

Well Josephine will hopefully have 10 piglets, any less would be a bit disappointing, any more a bonus, some will be good enough to go as breeding and showing stock, but not all of them, and certainly however endangered a pig is you mustn't keep them all, as they have been selectively reared for years and years.

– Judy Hancox
An inquisitive little piglet. Credit: ITV News

At the farm it is the time of year when piglets are roaming free, another generation of rare breeds to help stop the decline in those heritage breeds like the Old Spot.