Thursday, August 1, 2013

What do blueberries and pigs have in common?

Not much, really, but I happened to pick up both yesterday while visiting the town of Renick, WV.   Two weeks ago I was invited to go blueberry picking in Renick.  It was an hour and 45 minute drive away but I picked 26lbs so it was well worth the drive, plus it was fun hanging out with my friends.  I'd never heard of the town of Renick before.

Just two days later I discovered a breeder of Gloucestershire Old Spot (GOS) pigs.  A friend had recommended this breed because they're good grazers and we have lots of pasture to graze on, that's for sure.  Strangely enough, they were also  located in Renick, just 15 minutes from the blueberry farm.  If that wasn't a sign to go pick more blueberries and buy more pigs, then I don't know what it was.  GOS pigs are pretty rare and hard to find so of course I took it as a sign :)  We bought a breeding pair, a gilt and a young boar, so it will be a while till we get babies from them.  They're about as cute as can be and way more adventurous than Wassee.  We named the little girl Mickey, on account of the spots on her rear end.  The boy has no name yet.
In this next picture you can see how much pinker Mickey is than the boy.  She has a sunburn, which I hope goes away soon.  She needs to learn to cover herself with mud like Roxie does..
Roxie hasn't adopted them like she has Wassee. 

Just now (11PM) I went out to check on them and Wassee was sleeping on top Roxie's back in their house.  It took a while before I found Mickey and ______________ sound asleep in the grass about 25 yards from the house.  I need to build another shelter for them for when we need to separate them for breeding in the future.  I guess I should do it soon in case Roxie doesn't let them in her house.   

All three babies are about the same size.
Notice how Wassee's ears stand up and the new kids ears flop over their eyes.   Wassee has some GOS blood in him but he didn't get the floppy ear gene.  He seems to have more hair than them too.
There's lots of really tall, thick grass/weeds for them to get lost in but so far I've been able to find them, even though they've claimed the 10 acres as theirs instead of staying in their 2 1/2 acre fenced in (electric ribbon too high off the ground) area. 

These two pigs are being  registered so I feel like I should give them distinguished names, maybe something British since the breed originated in Gloucestershire, England.   I know Mickey isn't a very distinguished name but I had no choice.   Any ideas?  I thought of Vern, since the farm he came from was called Vernal Vibe Rise.  Or maybe Renick, since we named Wassee after the town he came from, Hiwassee. 

To give you an idea how hard it can be to find GOS pigs and how lucky I was to find them so close, read below.

Endangered breed

GOS is currently on the "Critical" List by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy,[5] meaning there are fewer than 200 annual registrations in the United States and estimated fewer than 2000 global population. In the UK the Old Spots is listed as "Category 5, Minority" by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust as there are fewer than 1000 registered breeding females.[4][6]

In 1995 the last few Gloucester Old Spots pigs had dwindled down to four animals in North America. Fifteen years before that time, a group of GOS pigs had arrived in the US from the UK but had since disappeared into the hybrid pig population. Kelmscott Rare Breeds Foundation (1994-2004), located in Lincolnville, Maine, felt that it could help re-establish the breed by bringing another group of GOS pigs from the UK to the US. Kelmscott, with the help of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, contacted farmers in North America, who were interested in pig conservation and offered GOS piglets from the UK importation. A group of breeders joined Kelmscott in the project. Kelmscott farm contacted Richard Lutwyche, of the UK Gloucester Old Spots and he graciously assisted Kelmscott in locating willing farms that could contribute piglets from all four color groups for export. Robyn Metcalfe, owner of Kelmscott Farm, traveled to the UK farms to discuss details, see the proposed stock, and made arrangements with UK and USA agricultural departments. In 1996, after the piglets were born and passed through the required tests, they flew (on British Airways) as cargo to the USDA facility in New York. Twenty piglets arrived and, after a quarantine period, of a few months, arrived at Kelmscott Farm in Maine. Kelmscott and the other breeders picked up their pigs and met to re-establish the pig registry and breed association. By that time there were only two aged GOS living in the US. Kelmscott set up the organization and began developing a pig registry and registration process. Newsletters, a breed census, and other aspects of GOSA (Gloucestershire Old Spots of America) began to operate as Kelmscott and the other breeders began to raise the numbers of GOS pigs in North America. With the closure of the Kelmscott farm and a period of transition between registrars, the GOSA organization ceased to function.
In 2007 a group of concerned GOS admirers got together to rebuild GOSA; beginning with resurrecting the registration process. Between 2008 and the present, memberships were once again reinstated, a Board of Directors was voted in, consisting of a President, Vice President, Secretary, and Registrar/Treasurer, as designated by the Bylaws (click to view) that were brought up to date and expanded. The Board of Directors began to hold regular meetings, a newsletter was once again circulated, a breeders survey was taken, this new website was designed and launched and the first annual members meeting was held in 2010. GOSA is once again thriving, the number of GOS pigs are increasing while members and breeders are on the rise.
An application has been made to gain European Commission Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) status for Old Spots pig meat.[7] This was granted on 29 July 2010.



  1. They are just as cute as can be . . . were they coming when you called in the video? I need to get out there and see it all in person!!

  2. Donald. After the Duck. You're going to love these! Anyway, you HAD to get them since God sent a sign.

  3. Love them! Phyllis