The Origins of the Kolbroek

The Origins of the Kolbroek
19 October 2019
By Eben van Tonder



The Kolboek is a South African pork breed. The origins of the breed are shrouded in mystery.  In this article I examine the state of pig breeding in England in the 1700s and 1800s as the most likely source for the origin of the Kolbroek and the stranding of the Colebrooke at Cape Hangklip in 1778 as the event that most likely introduced the breed to South Africa.

The modern breed was created by combining a variety of breeds and bears little resemblance to the original Kolbroek. It is similar in this to the Bonsmara cattle breed or the Dorper sheep breed. The development of the modern Kolbroek began in 1996 at the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) under the leadership of Dr. Danie Visser. Dr. Visser and his team started by refining the nearly forgotten old Kolbroek breed, and ultimately succeeded in producing a unique, indigenous pig breed. (BKB)

They incorporated among others, Windsnyer, Sandveld Red, Tamworth and Great White genetics with the Kolbroek. It is important to note that the Windsnyer is an ancient, black breed with a long snout that was popular in Zimbabwe. (BKB)

The Sandveld Red comes from Malmesbury in the Western Cape and was in turn bred from Kolbroek and Durocs. The Tamworth is among the oldest pig breeds in the UK, and the Large White originated in Yorkshire. They further included domestic South African pigs that crossed with African Bush Pigs in the mix. (BKB)

There is, however, nothing like a real mystery to unravel. As is always the case with such indeavours, we invariably learn much more than we ever imagined. There are several theories about the ancient origins of the Kolbroek. They are in the public domain through the internet and various publications. I refer you in particular to the work of Dr. Danie Visser, Die Kolbroek (2012) published by Kejafa Knowledge Works where he deals brilliantly with the subject matter. My goal is not to repeat or review what he and others have done brilliantly but to open up new frontiers of inquiry.

A Long Term Project

I am not a veterinarian and the subject is new to me. Please send any corrections or new insights to me at . I am setting this article up as a work in progress which I will update as I learn. This is, in any event, a delightful journey into the world of pork genetics! Researching and writing this was done with great enjoyment! Now, let’s get back to considering the various options of the history of the Kolbroek.

1. Pigs in Africa:  Broader Historical Context

Swart summarised it well when he wrote, “Domestication of pigs seems to have taken place outside Africa and they were introduced, rather than domesticated (Plug and Badenhorst, 2001) into southern Africa. According to archaeologists, South Africa was occupied solely by San hunter-gatherers before the time of Christ. These people survived by hunting rather than keeping domesticated livestock. Domesticated animals are thought to have originated in the Middle East about 9,000 years ago (Giuffra et al., 2000).”  (Swart, 2010)

“The coming of Islam to North and East Africa seemed to have limited the migration of pigs into southern Africa – consequently pig remains are not common in southern African excavation sites (Epstein and Masen, 1971; Plug and de Wet, 1994). This does not mean that domestic pigs were completely absent, but it does indicate that they were not generally kept (Plug, 1996).”  (Swart, 2010)

“While most livestock were utilized initially by nomadic people, pigs are more indicative of a settled farming community (Briggs, 1983). Relative to cattle, sheep and goats, pigs played an insignificant role as livestock of the early pasturalists in southern Africa. The unsuitability for a nomadic lifestyle, religious taboos, diseases and the tropical nature of large regions all favoured alternative types of livestock (Bonsma and Joubert, 1957; Plug, 1993; Clutton-Brock, 1997; Bester and Küsel, 1998).”  (Swart, 2010)

This not to say that there is no information available on the indigenous southern African pig population, albeit it being limited.  Personal communications between Swart with Dr. Ina Plug, an archaeologist from the Transvaal National Museum and Mrs Jenny Bester, from the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), “confirmed that there is very little historical information available regarding the southern African indigenous pig populations. There were apparently three phases of migration and introduction of domesticated animals into Africa, central Africa and southern Africa. The process of barter, warfare and migration resulted in a southern movement of animals down the length of Africa. Archaeological finds suggested that a further southward migration took place in southern Africa as early as 400 BC but, certainly, by 200 AD the Khoi-Khoi pasturalists arrived at South Africa’s northern borders with early sheep populations.”  (Swart, 2010)

“A second phase of migration between the 3rd and 7th centuries brought Iron Age communities into the eastern parts of the country with cattle, sheep, goats, chickens and only one archaeological record of pig introduction (Clutton-Brock, 1997; Plug and Badenhorst, 2001). The last phase of introduction began in the 16th to 17th century when the Dutch landed in the Cape to establish a halfway station on the sea route to the East and the European pig populations were introduced (Bester and Küsel, 1998).”  (Swart, 2010)  Our study therefore generally focuses on this time period to unravel what the circumstances were in southern Africa and the most likely mode of introduction.

These deal with the presence of domesticated and wild pigs and hogs in southern Africa generally.  Related to the Kolbroek, there is one theory in particular that needs further investigation.  What were the circumstances of the reported introduction? How plausible is it?  Is there corroboration from other historical facts to the story? How does this rank in terms of the other theories of the introduction of the Kolbroek to the region?

2. The 1778 sinking of the Colebrooke close to Hangklip.

The story goes that the particular breed of pigs was on board this vessel when she sank. They swam ashore and got the name Kolbroek, from the name of the ship, the Colebrooke.

The Colebrooke sailed from the Thames in London, planning to travel to Bombay and on to China, past the Cape of Good Hope. En route, it briefly stopped at Madeira. It took animals on board at Gravesend. Below is a map showing the distance from the Smithfield Market to Gravesend. I show the location of Gravesend and the distance, relative to the Smithfield market in London due to the pivotal role that this market played in old London and the export/ import of animals. If there is any relevance to this connection, the facts will tell us, but for now, we introduce two important locations to the discussion namely the Smithfield Market and Gravesend.

smithfield to Gravesend.png

What do we know about the Colebrooke? It belonged to the English East Indian Company and not the Dutch East Indian Company which is more familiar to South African readers. She was named after Sir George Colebrook (1729 – 1809), chairman of the Board of the Honourable East Indian Company in 1761 and 1771. The Colebrooke weighed 739 tons. She was 137 feet long, 35 feet wide and had 3 decks. She was built by Perryard and launched in 1770. The Captain was Arthur Morris and she was on her third voyage. “On 6th January 1778, the Colebrooke loaded a large number of lead ingots and some ships stores at Blackwall in the East India Docks on the Thames. On the 3rd of February, she moved to Gravesend to load shot, copper, stores, gunpowder, wine, guns, corn, livestock, and military recruits. On the 8th March, she set sail from the Downs in the company of three other vessels, the warship Asia, as well as the East Indiamen Gatton and the Royal Admiral, to call at Madeira for 43 pipes of wine. On the 26th of May, she sailed from Madeira for Bombay and China passing the Cape of Good Hope. Three months later, on the 24th August, at 11h.30, on rounding Cape Point.” (Worthpoint) The reason why they kept going past Table Bay, around Cape Point to Simons Bay was that it was winter in the Cape and ships were not allowed to anchor in Table Bay during the winter on account of the bad weather.

When it sailed from London, it has 212 passengers on board. More importantly for our discussion, she took livestock on board at Gravesend. I have no information at the moment which tells me that it did not include pigs which were reportedly plentiful in the area. In fact, taking pigs on board for such a journey was at this time a standard practice for the British and there will have to be clear and convincing evidence to the contrary for us to exclude the possibility.

Dr. Robin Lee, the famed historian from Hermanus sent me the following interesting background to the sinking of the Colebrooke. “The Colebrook, a British East Indiaman was on her way from England to Bombay with a cargo of lead, copper and military supplies, when on Tuesday, August 25th, 1778, she struck Anvil Rock, off Cape Point.” (Lee, R)

“She began leaking badly and Captain Arthur Morris decided to beach her at Kogel Bay. 7 of the 15 crew onboard the first pinnace were drowned when it capsized in the huge surf. Other ships arrived and they transferred most of the passengers before night fell.
The next morning the weather had moderated and some of those still on board were transferred to the ships standing by, whilst others made it to the beach on rafts.” (Lee, R)

Third officer John Elliot and a small group of the crew remained on board while the other ships sailed for Simon’s Town. They then secured the wreck and rowed from here to Simon’s Town. It was an arduous 20-mile pull that took them 10 hours. They were the last to leave the wreck. The next day he returned with 3 boats to search for the Colebrooke’s missing longboat. It had been packed with 57 people. Elliot spent the night at sea and returned to the Colbrooke on the Thursday and he recovered a few more items. He was lucky to survive this time as he was trapped by the surf on the wreck. The boat returning to pick him up was nearly destroyed. That night almost ended in disaster as a sudden north-easter drove his boat out to sea. After a frightening and miserable night, Elliot eventually returned to Simon’s Town on the Friday to receive news that the missing longboat had been found.” (Lee, R)

“In 1986, more than 200 years later, the wreck was found by Cape Town diver, Charlie Shapiro. Some of the salvage material can be found in the IZIKO Maritime Museum in Cape Town.” (Lee, R)

Visser (2012) mentions that the man who introduced me to the amazing world of pork breeds and pig husbandry, Dr. Jim Robinson, investigated the evidence in great detail. He concluded that there is no evidence of pigs swimming to the shore. When I am in Cape Town again I will Dr. Jim a visit to understand the source documents he looked at. So far we have evidence of the sinking of the ship and despite the work of Dr. Robertson, and without seeing his evidence, it is, indeed possible that there could have been pigs on board the Colebrook that possibly made it to land. The probability of the legend of the pigs making it to shore is, in our consideration, still a possibility.

3. Colnbrook

We are in the process of setting our chessboard up, identifying the various facts that must be taken into account to make a determination. So far, the important pieces that we placed on the table in our unraveling of the origin of the Kolbroek are the Smithfield Market in London, Gravesend, and the Colebrooke that was lost close to Hangklip on the Cape coast.

Besides these, I was looking for other names that sound similar to Kolbroek. An interesting small English town comes to mind, the city of Colnbrook. This small town, famous for its inns, is situated on what was a very important corridor for the import of pigs into England. The road from Bristol to the Smithfield Market in London was the main import route of pork from Ireland where they were offloaded in Bristol and traveled the journey on hoof. The pigs traveled through two important towns. The one was Calne where the Harris Bacon operation was established (C & T Harris and their Wiltshire bacon cure). The second one is Colnbrook, the town of interest to us for its similarity in sound to Kolbroek.

Bristol to Smithfield Market.png

Colnbrook is, therefore, a town, closely associated with pigs. History gives us no indication that any link exists between the name of the town and the Kolbroek. What it does, is to ask the question of a between the Kolbroek pigs and Berkshire.

I was feeling a bit silly about the possible link with Colnbrook. There is no shred of evidence of a breed that ever called Colnbrook. I was reading up on breeding techniques from the mid-1850s. An article from the North Wales Chronicle, 9 January 1849 caught my attention. The article appeared in a section called the Farmers Club. The authors make a distinction between large and small breeds. Major breeds are Berkshire, the Herefordshire, etc. The author says that “these are a description of pigs that grow to a large size, and great weight and consequently are reared for making bacon.” He lists examples of small breeds which include the Suffolk and the Essex. He also mentions a breed that I have never found listed in any of the works I consulted namely the Buckinghamshire. What is so super fascinating about this reference is that Colnbrook lies within the historic boundaries of Buckinghamshire. It is today in Berkshire and this link we will investigate in great detail in section 3. The fact that a breed called the Buckinghamshire existed, a lard pig as opposed to a bacon pig is fascinating. The Berkshire is listed as a bacon pig, but the Buckinghamshire is used for the production of hams.

The author mentions that the big and small breeds are continually being crossed in such a way that it is difficult to say exactly how a breed is composed. It is not even possible to say for sure if any particular breed belongs to a big or small pig breed due to the many times that different breeds are crossed at that time. The author urges the farmer to determine his breeding gals clearly between bacon pigs on the one hand and ham pigs on the other. He also advises the farmer to select as breeding pigs, animals with small bones as they produce the least amount of offal. (North Wales Chronicle, 1849)

4. Berkshire

Colnbrook is in the present day Berkshire. Berkshire is also the place of origin for another famous pig breed namely the Berkshire. The question is if it is possible that there was a breed, like the Berkshire, called the Colnbrook? Could it be that there was an ancient pork breed that originates from this small English town and which, like the Berkshire, were at one point famous enough to have been the origins of the pig breed that ended up in South Africa and known by the name Kolbroek in reference to Colnbrook?

Despite an extensive search in old newspaper databases going back to the 1400s, old farmers publications which list English and European breeds there is no reference to any breed of animals named after Colnbrook. Despite the fact that there were lots of pigs in Colnbrook, the only breed that it was ever associated with, is the Berkshire.

A far more productive line of inquiry is the history and the nature of the Berkshire breed. The breed has formally existed from around 1780 and before this time, the animals were known to exist and have been bred in this region in England.  The colour and markings of the Berkshire show close association with the wild boar.

A breeders association targeted a longer, straight back animal as opposed to the more arched backs of the original Berkshires. There is a great description by a man called Laurance who, in 1790 gave the following account of the old Berkshire pigs. “It was long and crooked snouted, the muzzle turning upwards; the ears large, heavy and inclined to be pendulous; the body long and thick, but not deep; the legs short, the bone large, and the size very great.” (Richardson, 1857) This was not the best animal that the farmers wanted to breed by any means, but it was a marked improvement on the old English pigs that were described as “gaunt and rugged.” (Richardson, 1857) Developing the breed through cross-breeding with the Chinese and Siamese pigs resulted in an animal that Lawrence describes in 1790 as already a great improvement from the old Berkshires. He describes the 1790 animals as “lighter both in head and ear, shorter and more compactly formed, with less bone, and higher on the leg.” (Richardson, 1857) By 1875, Richards reports that “the breed has been since still further improved by judicious crossing; it still has long ears inclining forward, but erect, is deep in the body, with short legs, small bone, arrives early at maturity, and fattens easily and with remarkable rapidity.”

One of the men responsible for great developments of the breed in the mid-1800s was Richard Astley, Esq. of Oldstone Hall. Another important breeder of this time was an Irishmen, Mr. Sherrard. In crossing with the Berkshire, he used the Neapolitan pig or the improved Essex pig which is the same as the Neapolitan. This cross resulted in a long body, a handsome head, a well-skinned animal which is a rapid grower.

The Siamese and Chinese cross were important for the breed. The Chinese hog went by many different names. The Siam and the Chinese proper were two important variants of the Chinese hog in the 1800s. The main difference between the two relates to colour. The Siamese is black and the Chinese, white. There were, however, great varieties, and one could get black Chinese and white Siamese hogs. Importantly, the Chinese hogs are small. “The body is a near-perfect cylinder; the back slopes from the head, and is hollow, while the belly, on the other hand, is pendulous, and in a fat specimen almost touches the ground. The bone is small, the legs fine and short.” (Richardson, 1857) Both the Chinese and Siamese are good feeders and matures early. The Chinese is almost identical to the Portuguese and many people thought that the Portuguese breed of the 1800s is actually the Chinese proper.

Trow-Smith (1959) summarises the state of play well when he writes, that “by reason of the introduction of direct and indirect Chinese blood into British breeds very few of the swines of the late eighteenth century had any degree of stability in character. Those which were contemporarily notable have now ceased to exist or become of little importance, and the leading breeds of today were then barely distinguishable. . . The ubiquitous Berkshire, the first British breed of pig to achieve national fame, to win a national distribution, and to exercise a national influence. At the end of the eighteenth century, it was predominantly of a sandy red-spotted type, prick-eared, with no very marked dish of face, and renowned for its early maturity. In the following three decades the Berkshire seems to have been given its present appearance of a black pig with white extremities and dished face by the work of Lord Barrington, who probably had used Neapolitan blood in the improvement – or, at any rate, the alteration – of this breed. The sandy reddish colour still emerges occasionally in crosses from the modern Berkshire.” (Trow-Smith, 1959)

“After Barrington had to a large degree fixed the new mainly black type, the older red Berkshire continued to be found unimproved in the Midlands in considerable numbers and began to assume a Midland name and to be known as the Tamworth.” If one wants to know what the Berkshire looked like at the beginning of the early 19th century, look at the Tamworth of the 1950s. (Trow-Smith, 1959)

The point that is important to note from Trow-Smith is the very early success of the Berkshire and in light of this, it is not a far fetched speculation to imagine that this pig made it onto the Colebrook. Trow-Smith reports that during the 1700s the British pigs became breeds and spread far and wide. The most important of these were according to him, the Berkshire. He references Culley who said that it spread to almost every part of England and some parts of Scotland. According to him, Young also found it in Ireland, in the cities of Tipperary, Clonmel and other places before 1780 (Trow-Smith, 1959) which is the time period of interest for us and the sinking of the Colebrooke in 1778. A description of the Berkshire in an 1891 newspaper may add another bit of evidence. The statement is made that the Berkshire is very popular among the international community due to the fact that it is able to “stand the sun well.” (Sheffield and Rotherham Independent, 23 June 1891) The comment was made 113 years after the sinking of the Colebrooke. Still, it may explain why the breed was introduced subsequently to South Africa or, the importance of being able to handle the sun was a requirement that has been a key consideration for many hundreds of years (if not millennia) and may explain why either the Buckinghamshire or the old Berkshire (before the improvements of the 1800s was made) was used on the ships.

5. Visuals to compare the present Kolbroek with the Berkshire

Below is a contemporary photo of a Berkshire pig. The question is if the ancient Berkshire breed could have been closely related to what we know as the Kolbroek.


A drawing in an 1809 publication gives us a picture of what the animal looked like at the beginning of the 1800s.

Berkshire Hog.png

Berkshire Hog2.png

The Berkshire developed more into the animal that we know today by 1882 as can be seen from this drawing from a Berkshire pig from Burpees Farm Animals.


The question then comes up if it is possible that the first Kolbroek pigs to set foot on land in South Africa was Berkshire pigs, crossed with Siam and Chinese pigs before the stranding of the Colenbrook in 1778 which allowed the pigs to swim to land? Evidence is there that such crosses took place before 1778. Can the old Kolbroek be a Berkshire of the late 1700s?

Visser (2012) points out great character traits shared between modern Berkshire and the Kolbroek. He compared the breeds and found observable similarities (phenotype) between the Kolbroek and the Berkshire in the black colour, the underline (spacing and number of nipples), the flanks, white legs, and white snout/ “bles.” Unfortunately, there are no Berkshire pigs in South Africa to determine the genetic distance between the two breeds. (Visser, 2012)

In his work, Variations of Plants and Animals under Domestication, Charles Darwin quotes Nathusius who reported that “the Berkshire breed of pigs of 1780 was different from that of 1810 and that since that period, the two distinct forms have born the same name.” (Richardson, 1857) So, the matter is further complicated by the question of which of the forms of the breed are we talking about. It is a delightfully complicated matter. Was the Kobroek then one of the two Berkshire breeds that existed in 1780? There seems to be a larger resemblance between the Berkshire drawings as given above and the Kolbroek than those given by Visser (2012) if one looks at the neck, the arched back, the belly, head and ears of the animals.

Morkel (1925) is of the opinion that the Berkshire made no contribution to the Kolbroek. Visser concludes that there is Berkshire in the Kolbroek race as it exists today and states that the Berkshire must then have played a role in the development of the Kolbroek then post-1925, if Morkel is correct (Visser, 2012) The position of Morkel that the Kolbroek is “positively indigenous” is, however, disputed by Bonsma & Joubert (1952). (Brown, 1969) This doubt that someone of the status of Bonsma expressed, gives credence to our current study.

The extensive treatment of the Berkshire is important. It is an important breed. The Buckinghamshire from Colnbrook must also not be forgotten in the discussion. The goal with the Berkshire was to produce a bacon pig. The back had to be straight, the animal had to be big with big loins and less fat. The Buckinghamshire was a ham or a lard pig. The older Berkshire pigs may have been the same as the Buckinghamshire and breeders may simply have set different breeding goals which may have meant that at some point they were closely related if not almost identical and then was developed into what became a bacon and a ham/lard pig respectively.

Viewed in this lite, if the Buckinghamshire was possibly referred to as a Colnbrook at some point, and if these pigs were loaded onto the Colebrook at Gravesend before it departed for the East, isn’t this by itself an interesting fact. That both the name of the breed and of the ship that transported it could later be perverted to the Dutch/ Afrikaans, Kolbroek. The matter should be settled by a research project in Colnbrook to establish if the Buckinghamshire was ever called the Cornbrook. Whichever way it turns out, this offers us a great glimpse into English pig breeding of the 1700s and 1800s.

6. Trade with Passing Ships

What is the possibility that the Kolbroek came from Dutch or Portuguese pigs that were traded with the native tribes in the Cape area? Raven-Heart writes that the natives that were encountered by the Dutch at the Cape “possessed cattle in large numbers, and sheep and pigs.” (Raven-Heart) There is good evidence that visiting ships traded with the local inhabitants and pigs were also used to trade with by the Europeans.

Swart reports that “Chinese and Portuguese trading ships passed South African shores (Ramsay et. al., 1994) and pigs were most likely exchanged with the indigenous communities (Quin, 1959). All other archaeological records on pigs from the sub-region date to post-European contact (Plug and Badenhorst, 2001).”  (Swart, 2010)

How plausible is it that the Kolbroek was traded with native Africans?  Did the Dutch encounter local peoples keeping or eating pigs?  How possible is the concept that the pigs swam off the sinking ship and made it to land?  There were many shipwrecks along the coastline of the Cape of Good Hope, or the Cape of Storms, as will more aptly apply when we think of shipwrecks.  Did the pigs that were aboard those ships make it to land?

We begin by looking at references from the earliest writers who traveled through southern Africa.  The first quote, however, speaks directly to the matter of pigs swimming off sinking ships.

–  O. F. Mentzel – 1787  

From his work,  A Complete and Authentic Geographical and Topographical Description of the Famous and (All things Considered) Remarkable African Cape of Good Hope, 1787, as quoted by Mansell Upham

“Although I have already stated that there are two kinds of pigs here, the ordinary European type and a Chinese type which have claws like dogs, the latter are not actually bred here; though their meat is very dainty, their bacon is very flabby, and spreads out or drips down when being smoked. Thus when some of them are brought to the Cape or, as has often happened, swim ashore from a shipwrecked vessel (for they can swim very well, even through the strongest surf) they are immediately slaughtered or put on other ships.

Of the European type of pig, every farmer raises only enough for his own needs: and since the sows have litters of five, six and more piglets two or three times a year as in Europe, many of them are slaughtered before they are half-grown, cut up, then cooked for a short time, preserved in vinegar and eaten cold. Except near the City, no pigs are fattened for selling. There is no great demand for them and, since they cannot be transported by wagon but perish on the way, it would hardly be worth while to drive even a single pig to the market. But to drive whole herds to the City for sale would be of no use, for no one except owners of eating-houses lays in a stock of pork. Smoked hams and pigs’ heads, however, when brought to town, are soon sold although they do not compare in quality with those of Europe because they are usually smoked in mild weather. Those who wish to preserve them properly cut out the marrow-bones before smoking and put some salt inside. The European colonists also make very good black pudding, but no liver sausages. They mince the pluck, boil some meat from the soft part of the pig’s belly and add a goodly portion thereof to the blood and minced pluck. When these sausages have been boiled a little and then cooled, they are smoked. Prepared in this way they are not to be despised, but as they are smoked in mild weather they do not keep so long as those that are smoked in winter during frost and snow. The colonial born African farmers do not yet know how to slaughter pigs properly to get the best use of them: between ourselves, they are generally speaking not yet really good householders who might give themselves a little treat now and then in an economical way. The Hottentots do not keep pigs and therefore cannot eat pork. Those, however, who work for the colonists are just as fond of it as of hippopotamus meat which is one of their favourite foods.”

O. F. MENTZEL, A Complete and Authentic Geographical and Topographical Description of the Famous and (All things Considered) Remarkable African Cape of Good Hope, 1787. Wherein is described clearly and accurately the rural parts according to their division into districts, mountains and rivers; the Christian inhabitants and their customs; the agronomy and viticulture, stock farming, the ordinary expeditions, game hunting and finally also the aborigines, namely the Hottentots, besides many other lately discovered curiosities.

Several aspects of the Mentzel quote are of huge interest, especially the treatment of Chinese pigs that often swam ashore from sinking ships.  They did not flourish in the Cape and there seems to have been a reluctance to farm them as opposed to the European breeds, farmed by the Dutch.  The fact of the pigs swimming ashore from sinking ships is of immense interest and sets the precedence for the Colebrooke report.  Since the Colebrook sailed from England towards the East, it is expected that an English breed would have been on board and not one the Chinese varieties, as we could have suspected if the Colebrook was en route from India to England.  Two very good contenders to have been aboard the Colebrook are the old Berkshire pigs before the breed developments of the 1800s; more probable, the smaller lard pigs of the Buckinghamshire breed.

– Pigs imported from St Helena – 1685

Pigs were amongst others introduced to South Africa from the island of St Helena at the end of 1685. (Swart, 2010).  The island was “discovered in 1502 by the Portuguese navigator, Juan de Nova Castella, on the birthday of Constantine’s mother, St. Helena, after whom he named it. The navigators, constantly on the lookout for places where fresh water, vegetables and meat could be obtained, recognised the possibilities of the island, and left a number of donkeys, goats and pigs there.”  (Schoeman, 1974)

“The first recorded person to live on the island was the unfortunate Fernandez Lopez who was left to fend for himself as well as he could eleven years after its discovery. This nobleman, having incurred disgrace for deserting his post, was condemned and punished by having his nose, ears, right hand and the little finger of his left hand cut off! He preferred this punishment to returning to his fatherland to face the ignominy that awaited him there. However, from the records it appears that he was not left entirely to the mercy of the lonely island, but was ‘duly supplied with negro slaves, pigs, goats, poultry, partridges, guinea-fowls, pheasants, peacocks, vegetables, roots, fig, orange and peach trees’. If this statement is true, one wonders how, under the navigational conditions of the time, such a variety of animals was available. Four years later he was allowed to return to Portugal.”  (Schoemand, 1974)

The existence of the island was kept a secret by the Portuguese until it was discovered by Cavendish on 8 June 1588.  His official recorder of the voyage noted the following.  “Here are. . .  great store of swine, which are very wild and fat, and of great bigness; they keep altogether upon the mountains, and will very seldom abide any man to come near them, except it be by mere chance, when they are found asleep, or otherwise, according to their kind, are taken lying in the mire.”  (Brooke, 1824)   These are Portuguese pigs and they are described as big, wild and fat.  Could these have been the pigs that were sent to Cape Town in 1685?  A hundred years have passed since the landing of Cavendish and there would have been ample time to stock the island with English breeds, but the fact that the breed, found on the island by Cavendish was flourishing would have been an impetus to export the same animals to the Cape.  Settling pigs from St Helena on other islands and locations were known to have happened in other instances besides the export to the Cape of Good Hope.

“From 1603 onwards, many nations, particularly the English, Spanish and Dutch, became more and more interested in the island, for the Portuguese, fired by dreams of more profitable conquests, had abandoned it.” (Schoemand, 1974)  These conquests included the settlements they erected on the eastern shores of Africa which would have been the occasion of introducing their pig breeds to these regions.

What this is meant by “abandonment” is an interesting question.  Brooke (1824) reports that the island remained desolate for a long time.  He records that “about the year 1643, two Portuguese caracks  being wrecked here, their crew got on shore, and once more replenished the island with cattle, hogs, goats, etc.”  The Dutch soon after these events took possession of the island again.  The question comes up if all the pigs on the island had died out or did some survive, as one would expect, and the re-stocking with pigs in 1643 would have been an addition to the existing pig population.  Another question comes up as to the breed that would have been on board the Portuguese vessel.

It became of special interest to the Dutch as a refreshment station until 1651 when their plans were well advanced for the establishment of a halfway station at the Cape of Good Hope. Keen rivalry between the Dutch and British East India Companies developed until the latter, appreciating the importance of the lonely outpost, decided to annex it, and it was occupied with a capital outlay of UK Pounds 72 000. About 1610 a charter from Charles II secured its use for the British East India Company. Forts were erected and immigrants arrived from England. These early settlers proved the island to be of great value in producing fresh supplies which the Company, in turn, sold to calling ships at considerable profit to itself. The Dutch became jealous. The Dutch East India Company was, at the time, riding high with its successes and vast profits, and attacked and took possession of the island in 1665. Twelve months later the English retook it.  Having learnt an expensive lesson, they lost no time in building more sophisticated fortifications. The year 1666 saw the Great Fire of London and, as a result, many of the homeless emigrated to St. Helena. Seven years later the Dutch once more gained possession of it but only after overcoming the gallant resistance of the islanders who defended it tooth and nail. The Governor, Anthony Beale, and his party were besieged in Jamestown and surrendered, eventually escaping on some English ships bound for Brazil. On the way they met a squadron commanded by Captain Munden to whom they related the story of the island’s capture. Captain Munden immediately altered course and sailed to St. Helena on 14th May 1673 with 200 men and two guns. He succeeded in landing his force at night, surprised the Dutch and, after superhuman efforts, again took possession. Whilst Captain Munden was still on the island, a new Governor, sent out by the Dutch East India Company, arrived with several richly laden vessels. Unaware of the English occupation, he found himself a prisoner whilst his vessels with their treasure were a welcome addition to the English coffers. Again Charles II granted a charter giving the right of possession of the island to the British East India Company. This cumbrous document dated 16th December 1673, can still be seen at the Castle in Jamestown.”  (Schoemand, 1974)

There is an interesting reference by Alexander Beatson (1758 – 1830).  He was an officer in the English East India Company’s service, governor of St. Helena, and an experimental agriculturist.  He wrote, Tracts Relative to the Island of St. Helena, Written During a Residence of Five Years, published in 1816 by W Bulmer & Co..  Related to his farming operation he explains that “if I could sell my potato crops (it) at the island price, which is eight times what I got for potatoes in England. But as I might not be able to do this, I would take care to have a good breed of pigs to consume the surplus produce at the farm.”  From his comment, it is clear that good pigs for farming were not left to chance.  Men like Beatson who had the means and position to secure it would import the best pig breed for his farming operation.  He wrote that “my pigs would soon increase in number and size; and for which I should never be at a loss for a ready sale; which is a vast advantage to a farmer.”   

There is a note on St Helena from 1678 to 1679 that an order is issued “that all pigs in Chappell Valley be penned up on the firing of alarm guns, they fouling the water for the shippes.”  (Jackson, 1903)  Again, which animal it was that the Island Exported to Cape Town could have been the wild variety or a purpose-filled imported breed.

In June 1655, Jan Van Riebeeck, founder of the initial Dutch settlement in South Africa, stopped by St. Helena with his son Abraham who would become a Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies. Van Riebeeck recorded in his journal the visit of the Tulp the crew of which took aboard pigs, apple saplings, and horses (horses had been left to forage for themselves and breed, to be captured by crews of following vessels).  (“Stack of the Artist of Kouroo” Project)

Two 1711 entries caught my eye.  January 1711, on St. Helena Governor Captain John Roberts had one hell of a great idea — all they needed to do was divert water from Plantation Valley onto the 200 acres of Prosperous Bay Plain — sugar cane and yams would double the island’s crop production!  (“Stack of the Artist of Kouroo” Project)

The second entry from 1711 is of particular interest.  April 1711, on St. Helena Governor Captain John Roberts had another hell of a great idea — raise 150 to 200 pigs in an enclosure — enclosed pigs would taste better than the free-ranging ones of the East India Company.   (“Stack of the Artist of Kouroo” Project)  What is interesting about this last quote is the fact that the same logic probably caused the farmers at the Cape, who also allowed their pigs to run wild, to pen their animals up and restrict their movement.

– Other quotes by Upham Covering quotes from 1655 to 1710

Upham gives us a number of quotes where pig keeping is mentioned and the attitude of the locals towards.  He places his references all within the context of the experience of sales.

12 April 1710:  “Some slaves sentenced for stealing a number of pigs from different parties.  They were severely whipped on their backs, a piece of their noses was cut off; they were branded on the right cheek, & had to work for 2 months in chains. [Journal] [Mansell Upham]

18 August 1655:  “Herry’s troop [Goringhaicona under their chieftain Autshumao] very busy preparing their assegais, arrows, & bows.  Boat returns from Robben Island; 3 sheep dead, but 4 born. Brought back the 4 pigs because they destroyed all the penguins & their nests; also did not thrive there; all their young ones dead. [Journal] [Mansell Upham]

11 March 1710:  Council of Policy resolves that Company servants & all Europeans dying in the Hospital should, when possible, be buried in coffins & that the graveyard is to be enclosed by a wall to prevent animals from disturbing the recent dead ….  The servants of the Company dying in hospital, sewn in a blanket, & so buried in the graveyard destined for soldiers, sailors, & slaves. This does not agree with Christian charity & the usage prevalent everywhere in India. It was therefore decided that all Europeans dying here in hospital shall henceforth, be buried in coffins, as far as planks shall be at hand for the purpose. Those having a balance to have it charged against them, & those in debt to be buried at the cost of the hospital. The graveyard itself lying open, it was decided to enclose it with a proper wall in order to prevent pigs & other animals from turning up the ground & so injuring the corpses there. [Mansell Upham]

This aspect of pigs harkens back to the oldest references we have of them namely from Egypt where pigs were associated with Cannibalism and they were despised for exactly the reason that they desecrated human graves and impacted, it was believed, on the eternal state of the person in a society where it was important for the body to remain intact in order to have a hereafter.

25 October 1688: “… Today Commander [Simon van der Stel] gives French freemen-colonists at Drakensteijn 120 good draught-oxen, 20 pigs & 100 fine sheep … [Journal] [Mansell Upham]”

17 August 1672: “J. Jans:, free man: Theft of Money, by picking the pockets of a drunken man, (it is mentioned in aggravation, that the prisoner not only got drunk himself, but intoxicated the dogs & pigs also, with sugar & eggs mixed with wine, sentenced to be flogged, to work in chains for 3 years, & all his property confiscated. Executed on the 27th.  Note: This is not the same person as the free-burgher [Jurgen (Joris) Jansz: [Appel] (from Amsterdam)] who had died that same year a few months earlier & whose widow Jannetje Ferdinandus (from Kortrijk / Courtrai in Flanders) is already remarried (7 July 1672) …”  [Mansell Upham]

– Thomas Pringle in South Africa 1820-1826

– Livingston 1858 to 1864

Livingston reports on travels from 1858 to 1864 when he came upon a Portuguese settlement on the Zambezi where long-snouted, greyhound shaped pigs were kept. (Livingston, 1866)

– Nguni Pigs in the Transkei? (reporting on the work of older writers)

Evidence suggests that local tribes did not keep pigs and pork was not part of the regular diets of locals.  Brown (1969) studied the Xhosa nation of the Transkei region. He reports that early writers in South Africa make no mention of pigs being in the hands of the Xhosa. All evidence points to these being obtained from the Portuguese sailors and later, the early Colonists. Brown refers to the present-day African Hut-pig which has a fairly close conformational resemblance to the Kolbroek. His description of the Kolbroek is interesting. He calls it the “scavenger-type pig of the Cape which is a possible descendant of the Oriental pig, Sus vittatus.”

– François Le Vaillant 1780 to 1785

Le Vaillant (1753 – 1824) was a French author, explorer, naturalist, zoological collector, and noted ornithologist.  He went to the Cape of Good Hope in 1780, at the age of 27.  His travels relate to the time between 1780 and 1785.  He said that the Khoi (Hottentots) were not familiar with pigs and that even the Dutch farmers did not like breeding them at the Cape.  He did, however, see pigs at the Cape.  They were left unconfined and in order to kill them, one had to hunt them down.

– Andrew Sparrman 1776

Andrew Sparrman is one of the earliest South Africa writers who lived between 1748 and 1820.  He was a Swiss naturalist and abolitionist.  He is important for our study for several reasons.  We know that the Chinese hog breed proper and Siam variety played an important role in the development of the Berkshire and the Kolbroek.  In 1765 Sparrman, a medical doctor went on a voyage to China as ship’s doctor.  He returned two years later and describing the animals and plants he had encountered.  It was on this journey that he met Carl Gustaf Ekeberg.  Ekeberg was a Swedish physician, chemist, and explorer. He made several voyages to the East Indies and China as a sea captain. He brought back reports of the tea tree and wrote a number of books.

Sparrman sailed for the Cape of Good Hope in January 1772 to become a tutor. James Cook arrived at the Cape later in 1772 on his second voyage and Sparrman joined his expedition as assistant naturalist to Johann and Georg Forster. He returned to Cape Town in July 1775 after the voyage and practiced medicine.  This allowed him to earn enough to finance a journey into the interior. Daniel Ferdinand Immelman, the young frontiersman who had previously guided the Swedish botanist Carl Peter Thunberg, guides Sparrman.

These are important dates.  For starters, it is two years before the sinking of the Colebrooke.   He was a naturalist with a keen eye and gave a detailed description of the animals he encountered. He traveled to lands past Port Elisabeth on the South Coast and up to the Fish River on the Namibian border on the West Coast.  From here he and Daniel returned from his epic adventures in South Africa in April 1776.

Sparrman gives an account of riching the Sunday River, 40km East of Port Elisabeth.  It was here that he first saw a herd of bush pigs (bosch varkens).  They were so-called wood swine or wild swine.  He saw the same animal tied up for exhibition purposes in Cape Town, but never in the wild. (Sparrman, 1786)


He identified the animal by the work of M. Pallas as the aper Aethiopicus or the desert warthog.  The animal was by all accounts extremely dangerous and the Bushmen said that it would be better to encounter a lion than an African wild boar. He noted that young animals make the same sound as domesticated pigs.  He then wrote that he has it on “pretty good authority, that one Joshua de Boer, a farmer in Camdebo, had succeeded in obtaining a brood of these wood-swine, which had been coupled with the ordinary sort; but as the person who told it had not sufficiently informed himself concerning the circumstances, Sparrman could not get any further insight into the matter”.  (Sparrman, 1786)

Sparrman reported that a similar experiment to cross warthogs with domesticated European breeds failed in Holland, but saw no reason why it could not work in Africa. (Sparrman, 1786)  This crossing of wild animals with domesticated ones was part of the arms race of the 1700s and 1800s to breed ideal domesticated animals.  Darwin writes in 1868 that “the European wild boar and the Chinese domesticated pig are almost certainly specifically distinct: Sir F. Darwin crossed a sow of the latter breed with a wild Alpine boar which had become extremely tame, but the young, though having half-domesticated blood in their veins, were “extremely wild in confinement, and would not eat swill like common English pigs.”  (Darwin, 1868)  The effect of the cross on the offspring is predictable and interesting to note.

There is good evidence that local pig breeds were crossed with wild pig species.  Sparrman also showed a remarkable interest in pigs.  Sparrman makes a fascinating reference to the pigs that he was familiar with.  He sais that in colour, they are “of a bright yellow-colour, like the greatest part of our domestic swine.”  This key is very important.  As a sidenote, he mentions that the Khoi (Hottentots) call them kaunab. (Sparrman, 1786)

– John Barrow, 1797 to 1798

The abattoir in Cape Town at the bottom of Adderly street was called the Shambles after its bigger brother, the nickname given to the Smithfield Market in London at this time.  The butchers at the Cape Town Shambles discarded the offal by leaving it on the beach where the idea was for the tide to remove it.  This seldom happened and in reality, stray dogs, leopards, and pigs feasted on it.

Sir John Barrow, 1st Baronet (1764 – 1848) was an English statesman and writer.   In 1797, Barrow accompanied Lord Macartney as private secretary in his important and delicate mission to settle the government of the newly acquired colony of the Cape of Good Hope. Barrow was entrusted with the task of reconciling the Boer settlers and the native Black population and of reporting on the country in the interior. In the course of the trip, he visited all parts of the colony; when he returned, he was appointed auditor-general of public accounts. He then decided to settle in South Africa, married, and bought a house in 1800 in Cape Town.  During his travels through South Africa, Barrow compiled copious notes and sketches of the countryside that he was traversing.

Barrow reported on the hogs feasting on the animal scraps at the shores of Table Bay and he mentions that it is “scarcely known as food in the colony.”  He expresses surprise at the fact that with the abundance of  fruit, barley, peas, beans, and other vegetables, hogs should be reared at a “small expense.”  However, in light of the food they ate at the Cape, at this time, people were not fond of eating them.

Barrow is another author who mentions that there were no pigs towards what is known today as the Eastern Cape as did William John Burchell in his work, Travels in the Interior of Southern Africa, Volume 1.  Burchell’s comments were made related to the Khoi (Hottentots) where Barrow was speaking about the Xhosa’s.  Hinrich Lichtenstein in his work, Travels in Southern Africa in the years, 1803, 1804, 1805 and 1806, deals with the cuisine of the colonists and mentions suckling pig that makes up part of some menus.

– Andrew A. Anderson – 1887

Anderson states the time of his travels and objective in writing his book as follows.  “When he undertook this work in 1863 no information could be obtained as to what was beyond our colonial frontier, except that a great part was desert land uninhabited, except in parts by wild Bushmen, and the remaining region beyond by lawless tribes of natives.”  He probably did not look very far as a great deal was already known about what he intends exploring by 1860.   In exaggerated and poetic fashion he continues.  “He  at once saw there was a great field open for explorations, and he undertook that duty in that year, being strongly impressed with the importance, that eventually it would become (connected as it is with our South African possessions) of the highest value, if in our hands, for the preservation of our African colonies, the extension of our trade, and a great field for civilising and Christianising the native races, as also for emigration, which would lead to most important results, in opening up the great high road to Central Africa, thereby securing to the Cape Colony and Natal a vast increase of trade and an immense opening for the disposal of British merchandise that would otherwise flow into other channels through foreign ports; and, at the same time, knowing how closely connected native territories were to our border, which must affect politically and socially the different nationalities that are so widely spread over all the southern portion of Africa.”

He reports that at one point he saw two massive wild pigs in Bechuana land.  In the Marico district, he reports that he fed peaches to the pigs, presumably associated with the few local Boers who farmed in the area.

– Reports of the Presence of Pigs in the 1880s

Swart quotes Mason and Maule (1960) and Epstein and Mason (1971b)  who report that pigs were recorded in Pondoland, Tongaland, Lesotho and Hereroland in the 1880s. (Swart, 2010)

– Kolbroek in the Cape Colony

Brown (1969) makes an interesting statement when he refers to the Kolbroek as a “scavenger-type pig of the Cape.” By the Cape, he probably means the territory of the old Cape Colony. The fact that the Colbroek is given this regional designation plays into the narrative that the Kolbroek was either traded with locals in the Cape Colony or the pigs did indeed swim from this sinking ship in 1778 close to Cape Hangklip.

7. Animals aboard an Indiamen

We have seen that the Berkshire breed was very popular in England by the late 1700s.  The animals were already being exported around the world.  Besides the Berkshire pigs of the 1700s, there was the Buckinghamshire, adjacent to Berkshire where the objective was to breed a lard pig for hams.  The Kolbroek is a lard pig, but then, the older Berkshire pigs were also closer to a lard pig than a bacon pig it developed into.  We have also seen that pigs swimming ashore from sinking ships were a common occurrence at the Cape of Good Hope.   What was the condition aboard the ships of the English East Indian Company at this time?  Did they customarily take live animals aboard?  We know that the Colebrooke took on livestock at Gravesend, but would this have included pigs?

It turns out that we know in great detail how these ships were managed, also related to the live animals they kept aboard.

Cotton (1949) reports that a “feature of an Indiaman which deserves mention was its ‘farm-yard’ of livestock, of which the turkeys and other domestic fowl were kept on the poop. Captain Marryat in his novel Newton Forster gives a graphic description of the scene spreading over other parts of the ship and covering also closely-wedged sheep, goats, pigs, calves, rabbits, and milch-cows. Though this improved the fare available for officers and passengers, it had its drawback. Thus Heber said the poop would have been no bad place for air, study, or recreation, but for the Vile stench from the wretched imprisoned fowls whose hen-coops cover it’; and he condemns their being ‘packed like bottles in a rack with hardly any room to stir.’”  (Cotton, 1949) A poop deck is a deck that forms the roof of a cabin built in the rear, or “aft”, part of the superstructure of a ship. The name originates from the French word for stern, la poupe, from Latin puppis.

Captain Marryat’s description of the “farmyard” aboard the Indiaman is indeed as graphic as Cotton claimed.  He writes that “abaft, a poop, higher than the bulwarks, extended forward, between thirty and forty feet, under which was the cuddy or dining-room, and state-cabins, appropriated to passengers. The poop, upon which you ascended by ladders on each side, was crowded with long ranges of coops, tenanted by every variety of domestic fowl, awaiting, in happy unconsciousness, the day when they should be required to supply the luxurious table provided by the captain. In some, turkeys stretched forth their long necks, and tapped the decks as they picked up some ant who crossed it, in his industry. In others, the crowing of cocks and calling of the hens were incessant: or the geese, ranged up rank and file, waited but the signal from one of the party to raise up a simultaneous clamour, which as suddenly was remitted. Coop answered coop, in variety of discord, while the poulterer walked round and round to supply the wants of so many hundreds committed to his charge. The booms before the main-mast were occupied by the large boats, which had been hoisted in preparatory to the voyage. They also composed a portion of the farmyard. The launch contained about fifty sheep, wedged together so close that it was with difficulty they could find room to twist their jaws round, as they chewed the cud. The stern-sheets of the barge and yawl were filled with goats and two calves, who were the first-destined victims to the butchers knife; while the remainder of their space was occupied by hay and other provender, pressed down by powerful machinery into the smallest compass. The occasional ba-aing and bleating on the booms were answered by the lowing of the three milch- cows between the hatchways of the deck below; where also were to be described a few more coops, containing fowk and rabbits. The manger, forward, had been dedicated to the pigs; but, as the cables were not yet unbent or bucklers shipped, they at present were confined by gratings between the main-deck guns, where they grunted at each passer-by, as if to ask for food.”  (Marryat, 1873)

The presence of pigs aboard the Colebrooke is very likely and the chance that they were either Berkshire or Buckinghamshire pigs is equally probable.  At least it can be assumed that they would be one of the English breeds that existed in the late 1700s of whom the Berkshire w the most famous.

8.  Hangklip

The Colebrooke struck what is now known as Anvil Rock at 11 am on 24 August 1778.  The location is just around Cape Point in False Bay.  The rock was not marked on Dutch maps.  The Colebrooke almost immediately freed herself from the rock.  After a hurried conference between Captain Arthur Morris and his officers, they realised that they will not be able to nurse the ship to Simon’s Bay.  It was decided to cross False Bay and beach on the eastern side of the bay. (John Gribble & Gabriel Athiros)

Sinking of the Colebrooke.png

“The ship was grounded 200m off the beach at Kogel Bay at 4pm on the afternoon of 24 August.”  By the 27th the ship was almost completely submerged.  The False Bay coast was rugged and inhospitable.  It was explored by Europeans for the first time the previous year by Captain Robert Gordon.  At first, he called the beach Plettenberg Bay in honour of the Governor, Joachim van Plettenberg. He later changed the name on his map to Kogel Bay.  This name apparently refers to the round cobbles on parts of the beach which resembles cannon shot. (John Gribble & Gabriel Athiros)

Captain Morris and a party from the VOC tried to reach the wreck by land on 26 August but had to abandon the attempt and returned to Simon’s Bay four days later.  News of the sinking of the Colebrooks spread like wildfire and farmers as far as Swellendam, 150 km away started arriving at the site with their slaves to see what they could loot. (John Gribble & Gabriel Athiros)

“On 29 August news reached Captain Morris in Simon’s Town that the gale the previous night had ‘broken the wreck entirely into pieces.'”  (John Gribble & Gabriel Athiros)

The claim that the Cape Hangklip area at this time was completely uninhabited is not true.  There is evidence that runaway slaves have been living at Hangklip since 1725 until the 19th century.   Several communities of slaves lived in the area.  I know it well as it is a favourate site for Minette and I and we have a very good friend, Dirk Ace, who still lives in the Hanglip area.  We have spent an entire weekend looking for caves and holes where these runaway slave communities existed a few years ago.

There is little doubt that the slaves were probably witnessing the entire drama as it was playing off so close to their homes.  They would have been on the lookout for English and Dutch vessels approaching for fear of being recaptured.  I also have little doubt that it would have, in all likelihood, have been slaves who witnessed the pigs swimming to the beach on account of the ruggedness of the area and the fact that there were no farmhouses or other posts for many kilometers in the vicinity.

These slave communities were known to have farmed their own livestock in some of the massive caves in the mountains and a legendary cave even is said to exist on this coast, only accessible from the sea or a very small opening from the land where there was reportedly many animal carcasses found by farmers who later explored the site.  This sea-cave has never been verified and may be mostly legend, but it establishes the fact that the slaves were looking after themselves by acquiring livestock and then farming them.  The pigs would have been heaven-sent for the slaves who were in a constant battle for food security.  The many quotes given above, particularly by Mansell Upham, shows that slaves had experience with pigs.  At the Slave lodge in Cape Town, for example, pigs were reared and sold as income for the lodge.

There is mention that the Kolbroek was historically a very popular breed among the coloured community in the Western Cape.  Of course, there can be many reasons for it such as the gentle nature of the animal and the fact that it is ideal for a non-confined existence around villages.  I, however, wonder if the historical link between many of the members of the colured community in the Cape and the freed slave community have in common, could not provide a historical link to the fact that it was slaves at Hangklip who, in a sense, “received” these animals from the Colebrooke and who farmed with them.  It would have provided a secluded environment where the breed could have been established, so to speak, without crossing it again with many of the local, Dutch farm breeds or their wild cousins.  They would also have been given a lot of attention to ensure that they survive due to the importance of such a resource to a slave community.

There are many accounts of authorities who periodically started returning to the area to round up these slave communities and in this way, the pigs could have been transferred to local farmers.  It could have been the slaves who called the pigs Kolbroek, after the ship that brought them to their shores. There is still a lot of conjecture in the reasoning, but evidence starts painting a picture that is shifting in from possible to probable.

There are, however, other matters that must be considered, no matter how nice this story currently sounds.  We have to deal with all the matters before us.

9. The 1925 Line Related to the Kolbroek/Berkshire Cross

The 1925 line of separation is important and must be dealt with if we want to claim the Colebrook sinking as a likely origin of the breed. Morkel established it when he did his article and claimed that the Berkshire had no impact on the Kolbroek. Visser (2012) demonstrated that at some point Berkshire genetics entered the Kolbroek gene pool. This means one of three things.

  1. Morkel could have been wrong and the Berkshire and the Kolbroek were crossed pre-1925; or,
  2. The Kolbroek that swam ashore (if this happened) could have been a Berkshire before this breed was substantially improved in the 1800s (or another breed, crossed with a Berkshire);
  3. A third option is that the Morkel is right and the Berkshire was crossed with the Kolbroek only after 1925.


  • Could the Berkshire genes have been introduced into the Kolbroek breed after 1925?

Let’s look at the last one first namely the possibility for the Berkshire genes to have been brought into the Kolbroek gene pool after 1925. Any crime expert will tell you the importance of establishing the motive in a criminal investigation. What would have been the motive of such a cross in South Africa post-1925?

The international pork-agenda has by this time shifted away from lard pigs to bacon pigs which were also the case in South Africa. This is an extremely important point to make. The introduction of the Berkshire post-1925 would have been done by South Africans or English who had the financial means and motivation to import the Berkshire race to South Africa and then the arduous work of making such a cross a reality. The leadership in South Africa set as a national priority under Louis Botha, meat production according to world-class standards as a national priority. Botha passed away in 1919, but the focus and spirit of his work remained and impacted on the farming development of South Africa for many years following his passing.

Breeding pigs for bacon and not for lard was as much a priority in this country as it was in the rest of the world. On 13 June 1917, an article appeared in the Grand Forks Herald (Grand Forks, North Dakota), reporting from London that “Developments on an enormous scale are expected in South Africa after the war and plans in this connection are being made as regards the export of food. It is confidently predicted that so far as meat is concerned the Union will be in a position to compete very soon with any other part of the world and in order to assist the expansion of the industry all the steamship lines propose, it is understood, to increase their refrigerated space very considerably and to place more vessels in service.” This report came out in the year when the Cooperative bacon Company in Estcourt was formed. It oozes with deliberateness and purposefulness from the highest authorities.

The priority was set by none other than the leader of the Union, Louis Botha. He was clearly involved in the “deliberateness and purposefulness” becomes clear from a pamphlet that was published in that same year. In a document dated 12 Jan 1917 about the South African meat export trade, compiled by A. R. T. Woods to Sir Owen Phillips, chairman of the Union-Castle Line who by this time was carrying meat from South America to Europe in their Nelson Line of Steamers, the following interesting quite is given by Gen. Louis Botha. The background is the delivery of what is described in the document as “by universal consent . . . probably the best specimen of South African meat (beef) yet placed upon the London market” delivered by the R. M. S. “Walmer Castle” to the Smithfield market in London and inspected by a group from South Africa featured below in 1914.

Farmers Tour 1914.png

The party traveled to London by invitation from The Hon. W. P. Schreiner, High Commissioner of South Africa and Mr. Ciappini (the Trades Commissioner). The South African meat was deemed comparable to frozen meat produced in any part of the world. The letter was a motivation that the South African meat trade was mature enough to be taken seriously and some helpful advice was given based on experience in South America.

He quotes Gen. Louis Botha who advised farmers that “so far as mealies are concerned the export should not develop, but that the mealies should be used to feed stock in this country, and that the export should be in the form of stock fed in South Africa on South African Mealies.” There is, therefore, good evidence of Genl. Louis Botha involving himself in the details of the establishment of the meat trade from South Africa and that his interest included pork is clear from the fact that none other than Louis Botha himself unveiled the cornerstone to the Cooperative Bacon Curing Company, established in Estcourt, Natal in 1917.

The fact that this was a huge movement in South Africa is further evidenced by the fact that JW Moor who was the chairman of the company set up in Estcourt established cooperative pork industries not only in Natal but also in the Western Cape.

I located this pamphlet among documents in the Western Cape Archive of J. W. Moor and his farmers Cooperative where they apply for permission to erect an abattoir and a bacon curing company in East London on the harbour. It is interesting that one of the recommendations given in the pamphlet is that abattoirs and chilling factories be erected in Ports, “along the quays where the ocean-going refrigerated steamers load” as it was done in Argentina. Botha and Moor knew each other from the time they were children and the influence of Botha’s encouragement on Moor can be well imagined.

Application for an Abattoir.jpg

The application for the abattoir was lodged in 1917, the same year when the Farmer’s Co-operative Bacon Factory Limited was founded in August 1917. It is possible that members of the Natal Farmers Co-operative Meat Industries and the Farmer’s Co-operative Bacon Factory Limited were the same people. Or that the one owned the other.

The men with the means of effecting a post-1925 cross of the Berkshire with the Kolbroek was wholly occupied by establishing a pork industry after the English and Danish models. These models called for cooperative farming and developing breeds that favour bacon production, not ham or lard.

There is a complete lack of any evidence in the literature of any such cross to have been done during 1925 or subsequent. This, in a time when the British Empire was using its collective muscles in every part of the world improve meat production and supply from the new world to the old world. Academics were deployed to every part of the empire with detailed communication between them at a level that astounds the modern reader. That such an important event, in this time, would have gone unnoticed is unlikely.

The model that was used in South Africa from 1917 onwards was decidedly British and the farming model used was not directly the Danish Cooperatives, but the English Cooperatives who followed the Danish Model in turn. The farmer’s cooperative that was established in Estcourt in 1917, however, gives us another very important clue. The farmers cooperative became known as Eskort Ltd. Eskort, to this day, say on their bacon packaging that they use Wiltshire Curing to create the bacon. Despite being factually wrong since they no longer use the Wiltshire curing method, it is a very fortunate link that clues us in on the relationship between the South African Farmers Cooperative and England. The link with England had an important connection to Calne in Wiltshire where the bacon operations of C & T Harris was situated (C & T Harris and their Wiltshire bacon cure)

In Denmark, developments were underway since 1896 to create their own super-bacon producing breed, the Landrace. The first registered herd was being established in 1896 with the first progeny and sibling tests taking place in 1907. In England at this time, the Harris brothers were working towards greater mechanization in their bacon plant in Calne, shortly before the installation of brine refrigeration in place of the ice-house method for keeping the meat cool, “they embarked on a planned campaign to persuade farmers to breed the type of lean pig best suited to bacon. In 1887 pigs were received from 25 counties in England and Wales, of which Wiltshire, Hampshire, Somerset, Dorset, and Devon were the most important, and a large number of pigs were again being received from Ireland.” (british-history) This undoubtedly included the Berkshire.

So, if anything, the likelihood for the Natal and Western Cape pork farmers of the early 1900s in South Africa would have been much greater to have introduced the pigs created in Wiltshire to the pork population of South Africa and not the Kolbroek. Another problem with the theory that these farmers who had the means and motivation to introduce a new swine breed to the country is that of location. Their farms were in Natal and the Eastern cape and not in the Cape region, proper. The likelihood for whatever they brought to the country, to have ended up as a popular breed among the coloured population as has been reported is also low.

The importance of the Smithfield Market in London as the centre of the English meat trade should also not be ignored. Note that this was the place where South African beef was exported to and where the South African delegation of farmers and business people visited. If they visited Smithfield, there is a possibility that they stayed in the town, outside London of Colnbrook which was famed for its many inns where travelers have been housed for centuries.

  • Could the Kolbroek that swam ashore (if this happened) have been a Berkshire before this breed was substantially improved in the 1800s (or another breed, crossed with a Berkshire);
  • or Morkel could have been wrong and the Berkshire and the Kolbroek were crossed pre-1925;

The earliest reference to Berkshire being in South Africa that I can find is from Cape of Good Hope (Colony) Department of Agriculture;  1906;  The Agricultural Journal of the Cape of Good Hope, Volume 28, Townsend, Taylor & Snashall.

SA Berkshire Hog.png
Imported Berkshire Boar from Wagon Drift Farm in South Africa

The beautiful Berkshire Boar in the photo above was imported to the farm Wagon Drift close to Port Elisabeth in South Africa and featured in 1906. The following quote from the agriculture publication.  “Mr. John Martin, at Wagon Drift Farm, where progress has been most marked during the past few years. Mr. Martin is a practical Englishman from the west country, bred and born on the soil, and came to South Africa with the laudable object of bettering himself.”  “At Wagon Drift Farm, which is quite as favourably situated— the railway line running through the property with a siding less than fifteen miles from Port Elizabeth—he has more room to expand and is managing to move along pretty fast. The full extent of the farm is 1,200 acres which include a large proportion of arable land along the banks of the river. He has thus been enabled to extend the stock side of his operations which now include some 300 ostriches, 400 sheep, 25 dairy cows for town milk supply, and about a couple of hundred pigs of the Berkshire, Tamworth, and Yorkshire breeds.”

Note that not only was the Berkshire breed imported, but also Tamworth, and Yorkshire breeds.

“The Tamworth pig breed is one of the closest to the original European forest pigs, and it appears among the least interbred with non-European breeds. The breed was standardized during the early to mid-1800s, and it was recognized as a breed by the Royal Agricultural Society in 1885 and fell under the authority of the National Pig Breeder’s Association of Great Britain. Currently major population of the breed is available in the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States, New Zealand and Canada. Read more information about the breed below…. The Tamworth pig is a breed of domestic pig from United Kingdom. It was originated in Sir Robert Peel’s Drayton Manor Estate at Tamworth, Staffordshire, United Kingdom with input from Irish pigs and it was named after it’s origin place. It is also known by some other names such as Sandy Back and Tam. The breed is among the oldest of pig breeds.”  It is classified as a large to medium size animal.  (

Below is a photo taken from 1906 on the farm Wagons Drift in the Uitenhage district.


The animal is so beautiful that I include a recent photo of a Tamworth.  The colour is particularly spectacular!

Tamworth Pig.jpg

The Yorkshire Big Breed was first presented “in 1851 by Joseph Tuley at the exhibition of agricultural animals. People were surprised by the large size and appearance presented to the pigs. It was toned and slender animal, with good Constitution of body, larger relative to other breeds, just not obese, which is usually observed in other pigs.” (  “The Yorkshire is also called Large White, breed of swine produced in the 18th century by crossing the large indigenous white pig of North England with the smaller, fatter, white Chinese pig. The well-fleshed Yorkshire is solid white with erect ears” and is a bacon breed  (

Yorkshire Pig


There is good evidence that a staggering variety of big breeds were being imported from England in the late 1800s and early 1900s to South Africa.

The Agricultural Journal of the Cape of Good Hope, Volume XXXI,  1907 reports the following.  “BERKSHIRE PIGS thorough-bred, pedigree boars and sows, from imported stock, winners of numerous prizes. For particulars, apply to Superintendent, Porter Reformatory, Tokai, Retreat.”

The publication also advertised some pigs for sale.  The notice read:  “For Sale.— A few young boars from Imported Ohio Poland China stock. Farrowed July 1908 and March 1907. For price and particulars, apply J. T. Hind E. Far, Goedgevonden, Ores Road.

“The Poland China is a breed of domestic pig, first bred in the Ohio, United States, in 1816, deriving from many breeds including the Berkshire and Hampshire.  It is the oldest American breed of swine. Poland China hogs are typically black, sometimes with white patches, and are known for their large size. . . Although the origin of the term Poland China is a bit murky, it unquestionably arose from the initial American farmers’ perception of interbreeding Polish pigs with Big China pigs”. (

Poland China boars in Florida circa 1917

I also include a recent photo of this magnificent breed.

Poland China Pig

South Africa imported a vide variety of the best breeds available in the world at the beginning of the 1900s.  I still suspect that the drive, into the 1920s and 1930s and 1940 was to focus on bacon pigs.  The Kolbroek is a lard pig.  Crosses between Kolbroek and breeds imported into the country would, of course, have been a natural progression, as it was the case around the world and it is impossible to say for certain what occurred during this time.   Personally, I suspect that if the Kolbroek existed as a totally indigenous pig, that it would have been crossed long before 1925 with conventional and established breeds.

The fact that this is exactly what happened is stated in the Agricultural Journal of the Cape of Good Hope (1907).  “Similar examples of two breeds of pigs have been ‘secured, the Large Black and the Berkshire, and both the pure breeds and the cross with the common pig found in the district will be tried and compared.”  various experimental stations were already in use at this time at different locations in the country where crosses were experimented with.

Pig farming was something that attracted considerable academic interest from very early on. As far back as 1847 Youatt is described as “perhaps the most trustworthy of authors on the pig and new authorities on the pig have.”  Following 1847, others emerged as pork experts such as Harris, Coburn, Spencer, Craig, Bondeson, Day, and others.  A certain Professor Day is mentioned as having contributed by summarising the teachings of all the others before him in South Africa and he wrote a book entitled “ Swine,” which is said to have contained all that is worth knowing about breeding and raising pigs.  (Agricultural Journal of the Cape of Good Hope, 1907)

Breeding Objectives of the 1910s

The fact that breeding was done in the late 1800s and early 1900s in South Africa with the same meticulous approach as in other countries is clear.  The following is written as breeding objectives.  “The great point in breeding pigs is the shape or conformation. A long square deep side is wanted, and it is just as cheap to feed pigs producing such sides as it is to feed short round ones that no one wants.”  (Agricultural Journal of the Cape of Good Hope, 1907)  This last statement was in reference to the kind of pigs represented by the Kolbroek!

The author continues.  “Different breeds suit different districts and countries, and it would seem to be the opinion of many that black coloured pigs suit very hot countries best. The principal breeds cultivated in Europe are large Yorkshire and middle Yorkshires amongst the white pigs; the Tamworth, which is a red breed, and amongst the black breeds, the Berkshire, Suffolk and Sussex. Of all these I should think that either the Sussex or the Suffolk breeds would suit Cape Colony best, as they are good hardy pigs.”  (Agricultural Journal of the Cape of Good Hope, 1907)

The Berkshire is a fine pig for crossing, and splendid results have been obtained by crossing large whites with Tamworths and then with Berkshires, but local circumstances must always determine what rule is best to follow. It is well to know the general principles which govern the matter and modify these to local needs.  When the pigs suitable to the country have been produced, it then remains to find out what will be the best use for them. They can be handled in two ways, viz. : (1) They can be made into bacon on the farm; or (2) They can be handled in a co-operative or other bacon factory.” (Note 1)  (Agricultural Journal of the Cape of Good Hope, 1907)

The Cape Stud Breeders’ Association

Very shortly before 1906, the Cape Stud Breeders’ Association was formed.  The following notice was published.  “Mr. C. G. Lee, Secretary of the Cape Stud Breeders’ Association requests us to publish the following Retrospect:-The Cape Stud Breeders Association has made much progress with its work of registering some of the best stock in its books. The roll book shews its supporters are 160 members, all breeders of stock residing in various parts of the Colony, including East Griqualand. I hope you will grant me space for a brief outline of the past nine months’ work accomplished by the different sections.”  (The Agricultural Journal of the Cape of Good Hope, 1906)  That takes the formation of the Association to 1905.

Related to the pork, the association reports the following.  “Though this is a very important feature in the Stud Book Scheme, so far very few have availed themselves of its advantages. Some very good Berkshires have been registered, and it is believed that next year several other breeds will be included. Speaking generally, as far as the Cape Section of the Stud Book is concerned, about 2,500 entries of stock have been made. Of course many of these are in the Auxiliary Books of the different sections, but the first published volume or volumes of the Stud Book will reveal that Cape stockbreeders are believers in producing not only good stock, but are able to supply as carefully compiled and kept pedigrees as yet put before the world.”  (The Agricultural Journal of the Cape of Good Hope, 1906)

The National Pig Breeders Association in England

The concept of a Breeders Association is very interesting.  The first step towards the formation of a National Pig Breeders Association in the UK was taken in 1883.  A notice in The Leeds Mercury of (West Yorkshire), 1883 reads as follows.  “A meeting of those who are interested in the formation of the proposed National Pig-Breeders’ Association to be held in the council room of the Smithfield Club, at the Agricultural hall, Islington, on Wednesday next at 1.30 pm, when the draft rules are to be submitted and members of the council will be nominated.  In the United States, a Berkshire Pig-Breeders’ Association has been for some time in existence, and has published a herd-book.”  This means that the entire concept was relatively new and arrived on the South African shore in 1905.

  • Lastly, there is, of course, the possibility that Morkel is right and the Berkshire was crossed with the Kolbroek post-1925.

Despite the organised state of the pork industry, the fact that we know that crosses were done between top English breeds and local South African breeds none of the sources explicitly states that the Kolbroek was involved.  This remains a possibility, especially in light of the fact that the Kolbroek is a Lard Pig and the flavour of the month were bacon pigs.  So, still, the possibility remains that a Berkshire cross could have been done only after 1925, even though I seriously doubt so in light of all the evidence we presented.  It seems much more plausible that such a cross was done well before 1925.

10. The Bristol-West London Pork Corridor, Hotbed of Swine Breeding

The importance of the Bristol-London corridor dawned on me, not just for importing pigs and driving the on the hoof, of the ships, through Calne were the Harris brothers started up their bacon empire and past Colnbrook, to the Smithfield market. There was a strong supply of imported pigs from Ireland. Between 1770 and 1800 exports of Irish pork to England increased eight-fold. Over 60% of the Irish imports into England were done to London. (Cullen, L. M.; 1968: 71) The pigs arrived by ship in Bristol and were walked on the hoof all the way to London. Along the way, it was important to rest the animals and give them a chance to graze to ensure good meat quality when they arrive in London. The small town of Calne, in North Wiltshire, was a convenient stop-over on the long walk.

Legend has it that the Berkshire pig was discovered by Oliver Cromwell’s army, in winter quarters at Reading, the county seat of the shire of Berks in England. “After the war, these veterans carried the news to the outside world of the wonderful hogs of Berks; larger than any other swine of that time and producing hams and bacon of rare quality and flavor. This is said to have been the beginning of the fame of the Reading Fair as a market place for pork products.” (


1778 was a time when the Berkshire was gaining tremendous fame across England and around the world with myth and legend of its discovery adding to its mystique. The English coach inn town of Colnbrook has probably no relation to the naming of the breed, but happens to be in Berkshire. The Berkshire is part of the genetic heritage of the greed, definitely post 1925 and the possibility for a pre-1925 genetic link between the Kolbroek and the Berkshire seems to me, as a novice on the subject, a very good probability.

The one major agriculture development in South Africa at the beginning of the 1900s was that of the cooperative model based on the English model which they copied from the Danish. The first English bacon company established in the Danish Cooperative model was the St. Edmunds Bacon Factory Ltd. in Elmswell, established in 1911. In Denmark, their bacon breed of choice, the Landrace was being created with the first registered herd being established in 1896 with the first progeny and sibling tests taking place in 1907. In England, the Wiltshire breed was created in England. Its distant origins maybe Welsh. Richards in 1857 describes them as “long-bodied, low and hollow bout the shoulder – high on the rump of middling size, round limbed; large but pointed ear; of a light colour.” This breed did very well as a cross with the Berkshire which seems to swing it from a lard pig to a bacon pig. Richards says that the county of Wiltshire is celebrated for its bacon, as Yorkshire is celebrated for its hams.

The first Farmers Cooperative was established in Esctcourt in Natal in 1918 with JW Moor as chairman.

The Colebrook took on animals at Gravesend on the Thames river before it sailed for the East via the Cape of Good Hope. The Berkshire was at this point already cross-bred with the Siamese and the Chinese swine proper. Brown (1969) refers to it as a breed that existed in the Cape, consistent with the Colebrooke hypothesis. Drawings of the Berkshire from the beginning of the 1800s depict a pig more closely resembling the Kolbroek of today than the Berkshire of 1882, which we have a drawing off from Burpees Farm Animals. The Breed development in England in the 1800s yielded, towards the end of the 1800s, a long straight back animal. Colour was also a major focus point of breeding and crossing.

Further Research

Morkel (1925), Bonsma and Joubert (1952), Nicholas (1999) and Pretorius (2004).

Tales of Shipwrecks at the Cape of Storms (Colebrook Chapter) by John Gribble & Gabriel Athiros.

Note 1:  The two objectives from 1909 of breeding pigs (1) They can be made into bacon on the farm; or (2) They can be handled in a co-operative or other bacon factory.

(A) Bacon Curing on the Farm.

“The equipment necessary for bacon curing on the farm is small. The principal thing is to choose as cool a place for the curing process as possible, such as an outhouse or, better still, a cellar excavated out under any of the farm buildings; a small place will do. The floor should be laid with flagstones or cement, the atmosphere should be sweet, and the place should be dark, but should be well ventilated.

The bacon pig will weigh about 217 to 224 lbs. live weight, and this pig will turn the scale at about 168 lbs. dead weight ; that is with the offal excepting the head, feet and flake lard, removed. It will be necessary, therefore, to provide a scalding vat for a pig of this size. A large half baiTcl or similar vessel will do. In addition to this a simple rope pulley block, a few wooden gambrels or spreaders, two or three 10 in. straight knives, a steel, 20 in. back saw, and a 10 in. Smithfield cleaver, will complete the tools required.

The pig is slung by means of the pulley block, which can be fastened to the branch of a tree or a cross beam, by one of the hind feet head downwards, and a sharp 10 in. straight knife is inserted in the throat in the direction of the heart, so as to sever the main blood vessels. The blood at once rushes out, and may be caught for use in making blood puddings, or allowed to go to waste. In a few minutes the carcase will be quite free from blood, and may then be lowered into the large tub already spoken of. This tub should be previously filled about half full with water at about 160 degrees Fahr., or just so hot that the hand cannot be held in it comfortably. The carcase is turned round about in this water until the hair comes away easily in the hand. The two hind legs are then slit, as to expose the sinews, and these are loosened with the finger. A gambrel or spreader is then pushed in beneath them, and the carcase is hoisted again into the vertical position head downwards. It is scraped all over quite clean, by means of a blunt knife, or, better still, a pig scraper, cold water being thrown over it occasionally meanwhile, so as to cool it down as much as possible. A slight incision with a knife is then made between the aitch bones, and this is continued right down to the apex of the lower jaw. Next tlie knife is inserted so as to sever the aitch bones, and the bladder and organs of gestation are removed. The crown end is then cut round and removed, along with the fat gut which has been loosened right along the back. Then the remaining guts, stomach and fat are all pulled out. The liver and kidneys are taken out, and are at once thrown into cold water so as to cleanse them. The breast bone is severed by means of a saw, and the skirt is cut right round, as close to the flake lard as possible, and the heart and skirt are cut from the lungs and thrown into cold water to be cleansed. The lungs and windpipe are removed through the severed breast bone and cut off at the base of the tongue, which is left in the head, or may be cut out there and then so as to be used. All these various parts have their uses on the large scale, and they can also be utilised to much advantage on the farm. The guts or intestines should be cleaned thoroughly, then salted, and they can be used for sausage making. The liver, tongue, kidney, heart, etc., can be used fresh. The stomachs, if well washed and cleansed, make a very palatable dish.

The flake lard remains still in the carcase, and must be removed so that when that is done the whole inside can be washed with cold fresh water. The flake lard after cooling should be cut up and rendered.

It is necessary now to split the carcase in two, and this is done by making a straight continuous cut just under the skin right down the back from the root of the tail to the neck. The next cut is made deeper on the right side of the back bone, making that side clear and without leaving much meat on the bone. The left side of the back bone is cleared in the same way, so that the two sides are now separate.

In factories, where the dead weight is taken, the head, feet, flake lard, and back bone are all weighed in, but the remainder of the offal is not. If the pigs are weighed warm a deduction of 3 per cent, is made for“ beamage.^’

On the farm, however, these matters are of no interest, as it is assumed that the farmer proposes to utilize most or all of the carcase in his own household.

When the head, feet, back bone and flake lard, have been removed, the sides are allowed to hang until quite cool. A cool shady spot is best for this purpose, and if possible, the carcase should be hung where there is a gentle current of air.

The next process is the curing of the meat. This cannot be carried out successfully unless the sides are cool and stiff. When this stage is reached they are taken down, laid on a table or a bench, and trimmed. The inside is scraped free from fat, and the neck is trimmed free from bloody pieces, 1 he steaks are taken out and are utilized forthwith in the fresh state. The neck bones and aitch bones are cut loose, and the spare rib and breast bones are taken away along with these. The tops of the ribs are also sawn off, and the blade bone taken out. The large blood vein in the neck is removed, and the sides will then be trimmed complete.

It is now necessary to have ready some additional apparatus. A small pickle pump is necessary, together with a supply of pickle and a salino-meter to test same. The pickle may be prepared the day before, so that it will be nice and cool. It is made from the following receipe : —

  • 14 lbs. salt.
  • IJ lbs. saltpetre.
  • IJ lbs. dry antiseptic,
  • li lbs. cane sugar.

Make this up to five gallons with water, boil and skim till clear. The liquor should test 100 degrees or thereby on the salinometer, and if it does not, it should be made up to this strength with salt.


By the aid of the pump this pickle is now injected into all the fleshy parts of the meat, and the sides are then laid on a bed of salt on the floor of the curing place. The bed of salt should be about an inch thick, and a wooden stave should be used to press up the belly part of the side, which should be uppermost.

In the curing of hams there is very little variation from the method of curing bacon. The ham is cut from the side and nicely trimmed. It is then thrown into a tub of the pickle already mentioned, and allowed to soak for two days. The blood vein is then squeezed free from blood and the ham ia laid shank downwards on the floor in a bank of salt. It is covered with the curing mixture similar to the bacon, and is kept 21 days in salt for mild cure, and about fourteen days more if required for keeping a long time.

The Wet Cure for bacon and hams is very often practised. The meat, both bacon and hams, is simply thrown into a pickle as given, and kept there until cured, the time being the same for either mild-cured or salt cured meats as before.

Besides bacon and hams there are many other products which may be conveniently made on the farm, such as sausages and blood puddings. Then there is endless variety in dealing with the pigs feet, houghs, heads, tongues, etc. These should all be cured in pickle and cooked according to taste. It will be found, indeed, that with a little trouble much profit and satisfaction is possible by dealing with your own pig on the farm.

Now, sprinkle all over the side an equal mixture of dry antiseptic and saltpetre, just sufficient to whiten it, and on the top of this put a heavy layer of salt. In fourteen days thereafter the bacon will be “ mild-cured, for it does not require to be touched again unless it has to be cured with the intention of keeping some months. Then, at the end of fourteen days it will be necessary to add another dressing as before, and keep for other fourteen days. The resulting bacon will be salty, but it will keep a good many months quite fresh.

When the bacon is cured, take it up from the curing bed and wash it in some cold fresh water, then hang it up so as to drain for a few days. If it is wanted as pale-dried bacon, it can be hung in the kitchen after dusting a little dry antiseptic all over it, especially into the pocket hole. It will be ready for consumption at any time, but will get a more pronounced flavour the longer it is kept. Should it be desired to smoke it, an old barrel may be requisitioned. It will require to be so deep that the side can hang freely in it. An old tin can, which has had a lot of holes punched in it is then filled with hardwood sawdust, and after lighting it, the top of the can is covered with an iron plate so that as the smoke and heat come out they do not ascend right on to the bacon, but curl round it, Three days may be taken to do the smoking, but that is a matter of taste. Of course, a better smoke house can be made by building a small place about four feet square and six feet high, with a few bars running over at the top to which the bacon can be hung, and a small ventilator on the roof; but that may be considered too expensive for the small quantity’’ handled. Smoked bacon will keep longer than pale-dried because of the preservative qualities of the smoke.

Co-operative bacon curing is a more extensive business which may be carried on by farmers associating themselves together for this particular purpose, and I propose to devote a special article to it, which I hope may be published in the next issue.

I shall be glad to answer any questions which may reach me, or give more detailed information on the subject of bacon curing, either in the small or the large way.

All such inquiries should be addressed to me care of the Department of Agriculture, Cape Town, and may be sent in unstamped envelopes.


(1 ) A foinmon rope pulley block is all that is wanted for hoisting. (2.) A sticking knife should be sharp and straight, and about ten inches long in the blade. (3.) A straight ten-inch shop knife is the one most commonly used for general purposes. (4.) A back saw with 20 inch blade is indispensable. (5.) A pig scraper of the flat type jinswers all purposes. (6.) The salinometer is necessary for testing the strength of the pickle, which should be about 100^^. (7.) A Smithfield cleaver of about 10 inches blade is a necessary tool. (8.) Gambrels may be made of wood or galvanised iron.

This one is galvanised iron, with a swivel ring, but a simpler one would do. (9.) There are many kinds of pickle pump, but on the farm a small pump or syringe will be sufficient. (10.) The meat testing thermometer enables the temperature of the meat to be taken. This is very useful sometimes, as meat of a high temperature (over 50° F.) will not cure with any degree of safety. (11.) The mixture of dry antiseptic and saltpetre can be put on the bacon or hams by the hand, but a more certain way of obtaining equal distribution is by means of the hair sieve. (12.) A pickling tub can be of any shape so long as it is roomy enough. Those made of oak or other hard wood last a long time. (13.) A common spring balance will answer all purposes. One to weigh up to 250 lbs. will be best. (14.) A steel is a very useful tool. It enables a keen edge to be put on the knives. (15.) The ham and bacon trier is very useful. By inserting it into the cured meat and smelling it after it is withdrawn it will be easy to tell if the meat is tainted or not. After withdrawing the trier, always close the opening made with the finger.”


The indigenous Kolbroek pig

Tamworth Pig Characteristics & Breed Information

The Agricultural Journal of the Cape of Good Hope, Volume XXXI.  July to December 1907  Cape Times Ltd..  Government Printers

Anderson, A. A..  1887.  Twenty-Five Years in a Waggon in South Africa. Nick Hodson of London

Barrow, J..  1804.  An Account of Travels Into the Interior of Southern Africa, in the Years 1797 – 1798.  Cambridge University Press.

Brooke, T. H..  1824.  History of the Island of St Helena from its discovery by the Portuguese to the year 1823.  Kingsbury, Parbury, and Allen.

Brown, D. L.. 1969. A Study of the Animal and Crop Production Systems and Potential of the Bantu Ciskeian Territories. M.Sc. Agric. (Natal)

Cape of Good Hope (Colony). Department of Agriculture.  1906.  The Agricultural Journal of the Cape of Good Hope, Volume 28, Townsend, Taylor & Snashall.

Cotton, E.  Edited by Fawcett, C.  1949.  The East India Company’s Maritime Service. The Batchworth Press.

Cullen, L. M.. 1968. Anglo-Irish Trade, 1660-1800. The University Press, Manchester.

Darwin, C.  1868. The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication.Volume II. Chapter XIII.

Jackson, E. L..  1903.  St. Helena, The Historic Island from its Discovery to the Present Date.  Ward Lock & Co.

Lee, R. Private correspondence.

The Leeds Mercury of (West Yorkshire), 1883

Le Vaillant, F..  1796.  Travels Into the Interior Parts of Africa, Volume 2. GG and J Robinson.

Livingston, D. and Livingston, C.. 1866. Narrative of an Expedition to the Zambesi and Its Tributaries, And of the Discovery of the Lakes Shirwa and Nyassa, 1858-1864. Harper & Brothers.

Marryat.  1873.  Newton Forester. George Routledge and Sons.

The National Live-stock Journal, Volume 1. (Devoted to improvement in stock and the interest of stock raisers. 16 December 1884. Chicago, Ills.

North Wales Chronicle, 1849

Park, M.. 1799 and 1815.  Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa: Performed Under the Direction.   London Printed for John Murray

Porter, V., Anderson, L., Hall, S. J. G., Sponenberg, D. P.. 1942. Mason’s World Encyclopedia of Livestock Breeds and Breeding, 2 Volume Pack. CPI Group.

Raven-Hart R.. 2011. Cape Good Hope 1652-1702. A.A. Balkema, Kaapstad

Richardson, H. D.. 1857. Pigs; their origin and varieties, management with a view to profit, and treatment under disease. Wm. S. Orr & Co.

Shoeman, J. H..  1974. Military History Journal, Vol 3 No 1 – June 1974, St Helena is a Tiny Island.  (

Sheffield and Rotherham Independent, 23 June 1891

Sparrman, A. 1786.  A Voyage to the Cape of Good Hope.  GGJ and F Robinson, London

“Stack of the Artist of Kouroo” Project

Swart, H.  2010.  Microsatellite Based characterization of southern African domestic pigs (sus Scrofa domestica) and breeds.  University of Limpopo.

Trow-Smith, R.. 1959. A History of British Livestock Husbandry, 1700-1900. Routledge.

Upham, M. from First Fifty Years – collating Cape of Good Hope records.

Visser, D. 2012. Die Kolbroek. Kejafa.

Newberry, P. E.. 1928. The Pig and the Cult-Animal of Set. The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. 14, No. 3/4 (Nov. 1928), pp. 211-225 (17 pages), Published by Sage Publications, Ltd.

Photo references:

Berkshire pig photo: and’s_farm_annual_(1882)_(19888961623).jpg

The Tamworth Pig:

Yorkshire Pig:

Poland-China: and

False Bay Map by John Gribble & Gabriel Athiros