Chapter 06.02: Kolbroek (A Follow-up)

Introduction to Bacon & the Art of Living

The story of bacon is set in the late 1800s and early 1900s when most of the crucial developments in bacon took place. The plotline occurs in the 2000s, with each character referring to a natural person and actual events. The theme is a kind of “steampunk” where modern mannerisms, speech, clothes, and practices are superimposed on a historical setting. Characters interact with one another with all the historical and cultural bias that goes with this. The period of technology it covers is breathtaking. Beginning in pre-history, it traces the development of curing technology until the present, where bacon curing is possible without adding nitrites.

Kolbroek (A Follow-up) 
December 1990
By Eben van Tonder
(Latest review: 25 December 2022)


When my journey was done, my travelling days were over, and I was living in Cape Town. Tristan and Lauren encouraged me to bring all the letters I wrote together in a book for their children. Over the years, as I sent copies of my letters to co-workers from around the world to comment on and evaluate, they thought it a good idea to put everything together in a book form since a comprehensive treatment of these events does not exist.

I, therefore, interrupt the date sequence of the letters from time to time to insert something I wrote many years later when I felt the need to bring more information to bear on a subject. One such example is the letter I did on the Kolbroek.

Here, I set out to leave everything I have learned to generations to come which is far more than the story I told in the previous chapter. Then, again, when all is said and done, noting could be the more complete truth than the story I told as it is the story of the symbiotic relationship between a special animal and humans.

A Follow-up From the previous chapter, Kolbroek

Fantastic photo by Mike Crewe-Brown from his farm. Mike is the founder and project coordinator at Wickedfood Earth Farm and County Cooking School and charcuterie. He lives in Hekpoort.

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

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)

I met Dr. Danie Visser, the father of the Kolbroek and his wife at their Pretoria home.  After a fantastic afternoon, I was hooked.  I loved their dedication, energy, and passion.  When they spoke about their Kolbroek, it was with insight and affection.  I was eager to get to know this unique animal and where better to begin than right at the beginning?  Where did they come from?

Visser (2012) mentions that a colleague investigated the evidence. He concluded that there is no evidence of pigs swimming to the shore, but Visser does not give the evidence.  So far we have evidence of the sinking of the ship and despite the work of the former colleague of Visser, and without seeing his evidence, it is, indeed almost sure that there were pigs on board the Colebrook that possibly made it to land.

The letter I did on the Kolbroek (Chapter 06.01: Kolbroek) together with this one is my own personal journey of discovery into the fantastic world of the development of pig breeds cast into the dramatic events that lead to the creation of the legend when the Colebrooke sank off the Cape Hangklip coast one very stormy and fateful afternoon in 1778.  Actually, solving the mystery of the origins of the Kolbroek, as is always the case in these matters, is not nearly as valuable as the journey of discovery itself. The prize is the journey! I have been involved in the pork processing industry for the most significant part of my working career and this was a chance to learn about pig breeds and meat quality. 

Pigs in Africa:  Broader Historical Context

Before I got stuck into the matter of the Kolbroek in particular, I thought it a good idea to set the scene for pigs in southern Africa more generally.  Swart summarised the matter of the origins of pigs in the region 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 was 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 pastoralists 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, post the landing of the Dutch.

Direct References to the Kolbroek

The oldest written reference to the complete story that I have about the legend is from the work of Lawrence G. Green in 1968.  This is apart from the reference by Arnoldus Pannevis (ca. 1880) and the tobacco cards that were published in SA early in the 1900s. I discuss these references in

The oldest written reference to the complete story that I have about the legend is from the work of Lawrence G. Green in 1968.  This is apart from the reference by Arnoldus Pannevis (ca. 1880) and the tobacco cards that were published in SA early in the 1900s. I discuss these references in Chapter 06.01: Kolbroek.

In Green’s book, Full Many Glorious Morning, published by Howard Timmins, Green tells the story of his visit to Keimoes in the Northern Cape on the Orange River. Several fascinating aspects emerge from his recollections related to pigs. In his story about pigs, he gives a remedy for stomach troubles that has elements in it that are very similar to ancient Chinese medicine and involves the use of saltpetre. He talks about meat curing and wild pigs. Importantly, he gives the legend of the Kolbroek. His account on the Kolbroek comes courtesy of a local at Keimoes, Frikkie MacDonald. Keimoes is situated on a part of the Orange River where there are many islands. (Green, 1968)

MacDonald was a self-declared expert on pigs. In his own words, “on all sorts of pigs.” MacDonald had a farm on what was referred to as the German side of the Orange River in a place called Vaaldoorn. His neighbour was a German called Richter who was farming with pigs.  Richter studies pigs in America.  A scheme was concocted between the two neighbours to dig for diamonds on one of the islands in the river after information they received from an old San (Bushmen). They planted vegetables on the island, but these were dug up one night by pigs. Not bush pigs, but “black and white spotted pigs, the sort they call Kolbroek pigs in Cape. They had got away from some farm, perhaps during the war between the Germans and the Hottentots (Khoe) when a lot of farmers were murdered. And here they were on our island mixed up with the bush pigs and spoiling our vegetable garden.”  (Green, 1968)

This was where MacDonald’s education in pigs started. Richter set out to catch the Kolbroek and relocate them to his farm. He set traps and caught many pigs, but never any of the wild pigs. “Richter told Frikkie (MacDonald) that there were no indigenous pigs in southern Africa, only the wild ones. He said the Kolbroek pig, which some regarded as indigenous, was really a descendant from pigs from a ship called Colebrook, wrecked on the Cape Coast in the eighteenth century. Kolbroek pigs had a strong Chinese strain.  According to Richter, the first pigs to be domesticated were the small pigs from Asia.”  (Green, 1968) The historical accuracy of Green’s stories has many times been called into question due to his method of investigation. Green was a reporter by profession and exactly as he discovered this account of the pigs, he would most often find his best stories in bars from locals and his objective was simply to re-tell the stories without investigating their veracity.

The account of the Kolbroek pigs at Kaimoes is, however, like the legend itself, filled with very specific information about the pig breed that is in complete agreement with reports from the earliest travellers in South Africa and current scholars and the areas of likely exaggeration are for the most part easily spotted. Green’s books were enormously popular and this account went far to establish the legend of the Colebrook and the Kolbroek pigs in South African folklore. So, as far as it goes, this remains a very good starting point to set the background of the story and my quest to determine if it is lore, legend, fact or fiction.


Naively I wondered where the pigs would have come from.  Since the ship sailed from England to the East, it is safe to assume that she took on English pigs. Where in England would the pigs have been from? I know about the famous Smithfield Market in London.  In those days, all animal roads led to Smithfield. What was the distance between Gravesend and the Smithfield Market? I plotted the distance on a map showing the proximity between the Smithfield Market and Gravesend. It is unlikely that the pigs came from London.

smithfield to Gravesend.png

I was just starting my quest and was eager to identify important chessboard pieces. I wanted to be careful not to look too intently at any particular aspect of the story.  I was only getting familiar with the environment. Facts soon emerged that made me think I was entirely on the wrong track when, suddenly, this line of mental wondering unlocked a key in the story without which, this mystery can not be considered!  So far, the essential pieces that we placed on the chessboard are the Smithfield Market in London, Gravesend, and the Colebrooke that was lost close to Hangklip on the Cape Coast.

As I was looking around in England for clues, I wondered if there were other names that sounded similar to Kolbroek. An attractive 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 travelled the journey on hoof. The pigs travelled through two crucial 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. I was questioning my “scouting around” until I learned where Calne is situated. I do not know many of the English pig breeds, but I do know one and as it happened, it is the same county where Colnbrook is located: Berkshire!

The Berkshire Breed

It turns out that Colnbrook is in present-day Berkshire, and with one fell swoop, I was slap bang in the middle of the epicentre of pig breeding in the 1700s and 1800s on Earth. Berkshire is the place of origin for the most famous English Breed, Berkshire.

Knowing very little about the development of pig breeds, I wondered if the pig that made it to Kogel Bay at Cape Hanglip was Berkshires. In reality, if the legend of the pigs swimming from the Colebrook is accurate, and even if there is a written record that the pigs were Berkshires, it would still not tell you anything since the Berkshire of today and the ones in 1778 were vastly different animals. Why they would not have loaded pigs from Kent, the county where Gravesend is located was a logical question that I was not ready to consider. There was still too much to learn about the general landscape. I knew that Berkshire and Kolbroek share essential similarities. This made me sit up and pay attention when I stumbled upon the Berkshire. Could it have been an early form of the Berkshire who swam ashore in False Bay, in 1778?

I put this particular question aside for a moment, opting to go for gold. Could the pigs that were aboard the Colebrooke (if this is what happened), have been named after the town of Colnbrook? Is there a naming connection through the Berkshire Breed to the town, Colnbrook. Could the Berkshire, have been called Colnbrooks? Or was there an ancient pork breed that originates from this small English town and which, like the Berkshire, was at one point famous enough to have been the origin of the pig breed that ended up in South Africa and known by the name Kolbroek in reference to Colnbrook?

No matter how silly the rabbet trail was, I was following anyone who popped into mind. The mental meanderings seem counterproductive, but it is a great way of learning an environment. 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. There were lots of pigs in Colnbrook, as there were many in the south-west of England, but the only breed that Colnbrook was ever associated with, is the Berkshire.

Making no headway with the naming connection with Calne, I turned to the breed.  What are 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 a close association with the wild boar.

The Unimproved Berkshire, 1840.jpg
The unimproved Berkshire, c 1840

A breeders association targeted a longer, straight-back animal as opposed to the more arched backs of the original Berkshires. There is an excellent 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 significant developments of the breed in the mid-1800s was Richard Astley, Esq. of Oldstone Hall. Another important breeder of this time was an Irishman, 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 was 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 1700s and 1800s. The main difference between the two relates to colour. The Siamese is black, and the Chinese, are 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 mature early. The Chinese are almost identical to the Portuguese and many people thought that the Portuguese breed of the 1800s is actually the Chinese proper. We will see the potentially important role that trade with Portuguese ships along the southern African coast could have had on the development of an indigenous South African breed like the Kolbroek. I am, however, getting ahead of myself.

Trow-Smith (1959) summarises the state of play well when he writes, “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, is it far-fetched speculation to imagine that this pig made it onto the Colebrook?  I wondered to myself as I worked through countless documents. 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 (the sinking of the Colebrooke took place in 1778).

A description of the Berkshire in an 1891 newspaper may add another bit of evidence. The statement is made that 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, why 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 it may have been used on the ships.

The Berkshire is, therefore, a candidate to have been on the Colebrook. I wonder if the Berkshire of the late 1700s could not have been sufficiently different from the animal we know today by the same name that it could have been the animal that later became the Kolbroek. Experts like Dr. Visser will have to be consulted on this particular question.  More about this later in this article.

The Buckinghamshire Breed

The question of a possible link with the town of Colnbrook and our sea swimming pigs from Cape Hangklip introduced me, a novice to pork breeds, to the Berkshire breed. I was scanning through countless newspaper articles on Colnbrook when, quite unexpectedly, another breed popped into the scene. Far less famous and essential than the Berkshire but nevertheless as key for our purposes, the Buckinghamshire.

There is no shred of evidence of a breed that is ever called Colnbrook. The breeds were given names of shires or counties and not of towns. 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. Large breeds are Berkshire, 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 fascinating about this reference is that Colnbrook also lies within the historic boundaries of Buckinghamshire. It is today in Berkshire. The fact that a breed called the Buckinghamshire existed, a lard pig as opposed to a bacon pig, is fascinating. The Berkshire became a bacon pig, but the Buckinghamshire was 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 goals clearly between bacon pigs on the one hand and ham pigs on the other. He also advises the farmer to select for breeding pigs, animals with small bones as they produce the least amount of offal. (North Wales Chronicle, 1849)  The Kobroek is a lard pig.  Could it be, if the original breed was not the unimproved Berkshire of the late 1700s, that it was a Buckinghamshire lard pig?

Visuals to compare the present Kolbroek with the Berkshire

When we talk about the unimproved Berkshire of the late 1700s, is there any indication we have what this would have looked like?   Below is a contemporary photo of a Berkshire pig.


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 of a Berkshire pig from Burpees Farm Animals.  The development and improvements to the breed are apparent.


The question then remains if it is possible that the first Kolbroek pigs to set foot on land in South Africa were Berkshire pigs, crossed with Siam and Chinese pigs before the stranding of the Colenbrook in 1778 and the legendary swim to land. Evidence is there that such crosses between the Berkshire, Siam and Chinese pigs proper did take place before 1778.

Visser (2012) points out to 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 the 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, the 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 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, expressed by someone of the status of Bonsma, gives credence to our current study.

The extensive treatment of the Berkshire is essential. 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 have set different breeding goals, which may have meant that at some point, they were closely related, if not almost identical and then developed into what became a bacon and a ham/lard pig respectively.

The Buckinghamshire was never referred to as the Colnbrook (pig breeds were never named after towns by the English). Still, it would be an interesting coincidence if pigs from the town of Colnbrook could have been loaded onto the English ship, the Colnebrook at Gravesend, before it departed for the East, sank at Cape Hangklip, the pigs swam ashore and were later called the Kolbroek! I smile to myself as I wonder about this.  Reality is seldom this neatly packaged!

What is in no dispute is that both breeds probably had strong Chinese influence. Lawrence Green quotes Richter, as told by MacDonald that there are no proper indigenous pigs in South Africa, that the Kolbroek is really of English origin and that it had a strong Chinese strain. (Green, 1968)

The Bristol-West London Pork Corridor, the Epicentre 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, where the Harris brothers started up their bacon empire and passed Colnbrook to the Smithfield market. There was a substantial supply of imported pigs from Ireland. Between 1770 and 1800, exports of Irish pork to England increased eightfold. 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 to London. Along the way, it was necessary to rest the animals and give them a chance to graze to ensure good meat quality when they arrived in London. The small town of Calne, in North Wiltshire, was a convenient stop-over on the long walk.

It will be interesting to see which of the breeds from this area would be ideal to be loaded on ships. Gravesend is situated just East of London. Off these pigs in this crucial corridor, how many were lard bigs and how many were spotted? This will turn out to be the most important question I could have asked on the subject of the identity of the ocean swimming pigs of False Bay, and we return to it later.

Bristol to London.png
The counties that the road from London to Bristol takes are laid out on this map, known as the ceremonial counties.

The south and southwest of England were, for a time, the area with the largest concentration of pigs. Henderson, in his work A Treatise on the Breeding of Swines and Curing of Bacon with Hints on Agriculture Subjects (1811), tells the story of how pigs were introduced to the north of England during his lifetime.  The Bristol, London corridor runs through or next to the following English counties, each one with its unique pig breed associated with it.

  • Buckinghamshire

The Buckinghamshire breed is the only one in this region bred as a lard pig.  I do not have a picture of it, but I will post it here as soon as I get it.  I have, for example, no knowledge if it was spotted.

  • Berkshire

From early on, the Berkshire was bred a bacon pig.

Berkshire 2.jpg
A Berkshire
  • Oxfordshire

The Oxford Sandy and Black breed is from Oxfordshire

Oxford Sandy and Black

It, too, was bred as a bacon pig.

  • Wiltshire 

Not to be confused with the breeding done by the Harris brothers in Calne. The greed associated with the county is the Wessex Saddleback (which no longer exists as a pure breed). Again, it is traditionally a bacon breed.

Wessex Saddleback - Farmer_and_stockbreeder_(1920)_(14774931601).jpg
Wessex Saddleback
  • Gloucestershire

The pig from this county is the GOS or the “Gloucestershire Old Spots.” I quote the following from the Gloucestershire Old Spots Pig Breeders’ Club.  “The Breed Society was formed in 1913. “The originators of that society called the breed ‘Old’ Spots because the pig had been known for as long as anyone could remember. The first pedigree records of pigs in the UK began in 1885, much later than they did for cattle, sheep and horses because the pig was a peasant’s animal, a scavenger, and was never highly regarded.” (

No other pedigree spotted breed was recorded before 1913, so today’s GOS is the oldest such breed in the world! Little is recorded of the breed’s development but Victorian writers such as William Youatt in ‘The Pig’ and HD Richardson in ‘The Pig – Its Origins and Varieties’ seem to conclude that it was derived from crossing the original Gloucestershire pig – a large, off-white variety with wattles hanging from its neck, with the unimproved Berkshire, a sandy-colouredThe breed originated around the Berkeley Vale on the southern shores of the river Severn in south west England (click here for more detail Map showing Foundation herds with Boars). It was usually kept in the cider and perry pear orchards of the area and on the dairy farms. Windfall fruit and waste from the dairies supplemented its grazing habit. Local folklore says that the spots on its back are bruises from the falling fruit. Besides its correct title and variations such as Gloster Spot or just Old Spot, the breed is also known as The Orchard Pig and The Cottager’s Pig.”  (

Gloucestershire Old Spots

Each of these counties has pig breeds associated with them, and due to the large concentrations of dairy farmers and breweries in this area, pig breeding in the South of England was, as it is today, big business.  They bred them for different purposes, either for bacon or for lard.  That this area would have the epicentre of pig breeding around the world at least till almost the end of the 1800s is evident. It is not surprising that farmers in South Africa, as they did around the world, eagerly imported the animals.

On the other hand, the fact that it was from the South of England that the pigs originated and made it onto the Colbrool in the late 1700s en route to southern Africa stands to reason. Most probably from Kent. It was here, where Gravesend is located and where the Colebrook took on livestock, but the pig breed associated with this county is the Large Black Pig. If the pigs came from the Colebrook, they were definitely not large blacks.

Large Black Pig 2.jpg
Large Black Pig

The fact that they were put on a ship raises another question. What breed did the Captains and the English East Indian company prefer on their ships? As a matter of interest, what breeds did the Admiralty prefer on their ships?  A big difference between the English and the Dutch and Portuguese ships of the 16th and 17th centuries was that the English ships were very clean with very strict discipline and protocol. The opposite was true of the Dutch and the Portuguese. I am sure I will be able to get this information.

There is, of course, a possibility that in the latter half of the 1700s, Captains took pigs that they could buy from the local markets may have been common village pigs. These would most certainly have been lard pigs. Intensive breeding in pigs in terms of breed formation was relatively new in the 1770s. It also seems unlikely that we will be able to link a particular breed to the Colebrook; at least a pig breed as we know them today. The success of the pig breeder’s associations was such that the breeds that we know today looked very different from what they did at the beginning of the 1800s.

Breeding of pigs and the development of breeds started in the 1700s with the advent of the Industrial Revolution when shape and functionality started to gain importance.  Radical changes in pigs only started happening in the early 1800s. Until this time, the village pig received very little attention, and there was no real incentive to improve on the animal’s characteristics. It was the last of the farm animals to improve upon through breeding, and they were, by and large, left to their own devices. (Lutwyche, 2019)

Pig breeds started being developed only in the middle of the 1800s. Before this, writers referred to many different county “types”. Different methods of husbandry and the influence of certain boars resulted in animal variations from county to county. The villagers would take their sows to their landlord’s boar to produce the next litter, so the types of pigs in the region would be influenced. (Lutwyche, 2019)

Toward the end of the 1800s, pig production entered a new phase, and research became a scientific business. It was the Danes and the Americans who first started breeding pgs for an industrial application. Pedigrees were first recognised towards the end of the 1800s. Before this time, the development of what we would think of as breeds was through agricultural shows. (Lutwyche, 2019)

To look for a breed from 1778, as we understand it today, would be an exercise in futility. Exactly what breed the Kolbroek was when it left England (if this is what happened) is the wrong question. In this case, I doubt it was any pig associated with any particular country. It makes sense that the developing breeds were sold, dearer than common village pigs, and these would have been preferred due to cost differences.  This is conjecture, of course, but the assumption is sound.

A Picture Survey of Pigs:  1500 – 1800

I was wondering how one could see what the animals looked like. I realised that old paintings and sketches from the time would allow us to look back in time. So, since pig reeds were being created in the 1700s and 1800s, all we have to do is look at art from the Middle Ages and compare it with pigs being portrayed in the late 1700s and 1800s.  If we do this, it is immediately apparent that something changed in the pig population of the UK between the 1500s and the 1800s. Some paintings may represent a wild boar, but for the most part, it depicts pigs, mainly in England, but one or two may be from Europe.

->  Pigs portrayed in the Middle Ages

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An image of a spotted pig from the 14th century Luttrell Psalter illustrates its close similarity to a wild boar.  (Credit:  White, 2011)
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Painting by the Flemish artist Jan Brueghel the Elder – a detail from a 1615 painting which shows multicoloured guinea pigs and a very old European pig breed.
Sancho Sleeping In A Pig Trough Before A Farm is a drawing by Caspar Luyken And Pieter Mortier
Sancho Sleeping In A Pig Trough Before A Farm is a drawing by Caspar Luyken And Pieter Mortier, 1696.
H. Jerome in prayer, Willem van der Vliet (ca. 1584)
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landscape with herdsmen: November, Jan van de Velde (II), 1608 – 1618
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The prodigal son as a swineherd, Julius Goltzius, Hans Bol, Claes Jansz. Visscher (II), c. 1560 – 1595.
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The swineherd, Holbein

The image of the swineherd above is one of Holbein’s earliest designs for stained glass windows, dating from when he lived and worked in Lucerne. The design might be part of a series on the theme of the seasons or the story of the Prodigal Son (Müller, 198),  c. 1518–19. Hans Holbein (1497/1498–1543) Alternative names Hans Holbein der Jüngere.

Of course, many more images must become part of the collection of Middle Ages pigs to compare them with the pigs of the late 1700s and 1800s, but what is certain is how clear it is to see that by the late 1700s, something changed in the pigs of England.

->  Pigs portrayed in the late 1700s and 1800s

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Robert Henderson, 1811, from his work Treatise on the Breeding of Swine and Curing of Bacon.
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The Smithfield Club Cattle Show 1867
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George Morland, Feeding Time, 1792
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Sketches of peasant life in Youghal, County Cork, 1831, by Sampson Twogood Roch.
Farmyard Pig.jpg
Pigs in a Farmyard, George Morland
Two Pigs in Straw (Barn with Pigs) George Morland.jpg
Two Pigs in Straw (Barn with Pigs)
George Morland
Outside an Inn, Winter George Morland 1795.jpg
Outside an Inn, Winter, George Morland, 1795
Farmyard Scene - George Morland
Farmyard Scene – George Morland
Pigs at a Trough, George Morland.jpg
Pigs at a Trough, George Morland
Girl with Pigs, Thomas Gainsborough, 1782.jpg
Girl with Pigs, Thomas Gainsborough, 1782
The Piggery George Morland 1791.jpg
The Piggery
George Morland, 1791
The swineherd.jpg
The Swineherd, James Ward (1769 – 1859)
Ward, James, 1769-1859; A Chinese Sow
Chinese Sow, James Ward (1769 – 1859)
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Pigs, James Ward (1769 – 1859)
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Pigs, James Ward (1769 – 1859)

Foreign pig breeds were introduced to English, and aggressive crossbreeding took place. There is a comment from Lawrence in 1805 who said that at that time, “every pig being spotted and having pendulous ears is called a Berkshire.” (Wiseman,  2000) One can state this differently – there were MANY spotted pigs on the Island at the close of the 1700s and the beginning of the 1800s.

In 1811, Henderson wrote that “the Chinese, or Black breed, are now common in England.  They have short legs, are smaller and their flesh whiter than the common kind. It is said this species is found in Guinea, and that they are very numerous in the Friendly, Society, and many of the other newly discovered islands in the South Sea.”  (Henderson, 1811)

Breeds from Asia were introduced, and this, together with the fact that pigs were starting to be bred (where the initial focus was on sheep, horses, cattle and other farm animals).  The effect can be seen in the beautiful paintings and drawings of the time.  It is undoubtedly true that many of the breeds had spots, and they were lard pigs. Only during the middle to late 1800s did the straight nack and back bacon pigs develop with their long, very economical loins, suited for industrial bacon production. It was certainly true that many of these pigs were village pigs, sold at pig markets that developed all over England.

I guess that the pigs for the Colebrook were bought at such a pig market that it is difficult to say more than that they were spotted animals from the south of England.

Before we move on from the subject of pigs being depicted in the Middle Ages and during the Industrial Revolution, there is a painting I want to add that somewhat depicts the subject at hand, namely pigs swimming in the sea, presumably during a storm and after a shipwreck in a 1792 painting.

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Sailors Getting Pigs on Board a Boat in a Choppy Sea 1792–3

Trade with Passing Ships

I was intrigued by the lesson on the history of breed formation in England, but if the Kolbroek is English in origin, how did it get on land?  What other options are there to consider besides that they could have swum ashore? Are there other examples of this ever happening? Even if it is a Portuguese or Dutch pig breed, how did they get into southern Africa? Could it have been imported from Holland or some other location?  What is the possibility that the Kolbroek came from Dutch or Portuguese pigs traded with the native tribes in the Cape area? Raven-Heart writes that the natives that the Dutch encountered 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 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) Even if the animals were traded with the local populations, they, in all likelihood, killed and eaten as a novelty. They did not use them as “breeding stock” to start farming with them.  The indigenous population did, as a well-established fact by now,  never ventured into pig husbandry.

How likely is it that the pigs swam off the sinking ship and made it to land? There were many shipwrecks along the Cape of Good Hope coastline, 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 onto land?

If this happened, why did it never result in the establishment of large pork breed communities? Early travellers through southern Africa would have noticed it and, as many were ardent observers of nature, would have described it in detail.  It would have been a novelty that was worth reporting on. We will let some of these early writers speak for themselves. Still, we begin with a quote that directly addresses not the fact that natives and visitors from Europe traded with each other, which included pigs from Europe and England, but in particular, pigs swimming to land from sinking vessels.

–  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 (at the Cape of Good Hope), 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.

Was the “ordinary European type” that Mentzel refers to in 1787 the one we saw in the work of “Sancho Sleeping In A Pig Trough Before A Farm”, drawn by Caspar Luyken And Pieter Mortier?

Sancho Sleeping In A Pig Trough Before A Farm is a drawing by Caspar Luyken And Pieter Mortier.png
Sancho Sleeping In A Pig Trough Before A Farm is a drawing by Caspar Luyken And Pieter Mortier, 1696.

Did they resemble the pigs in the Don Quixote illustration by Mortier and Luyken in 1696? I suspect so, but more research is required.

There is a good record of pigs swimming ashore from the sinking ship. I suspect that most times if there were human survivors and when, as often happened, the pigs made it to shore, the human survivors would have eaten the pigs, as we will see later, which happened with the sinking of the Grosvenor, also an East Indiaman which sank on the southern African coast. There is little doubt for me that this would have been the standard operating procedure of the highly organised English ships of the time, namely to allow the pigs off the ship early on precisely to become dinner for the survivors.

There is another question of how a breed like the Kolbroek, if it swam ashore from the Colebrooke, (or any other ship for that matter), managed to continue to exist as a more or less homogenous breed over such a long time. We can examine the distribution of Dutch, English, German and French farming communities and plot how this changed and expanded over time. We can plot the shipwrecks where and when they happened, and determine the likelihood for farmers to have “received” the pigs that swam ashore, kept them more or less together, and bred them. Unless pigs were traded or swam aboard and were not immediately killed and eaten, and unless they were farmed, they would probably not have survived in a form resembling anything that originally came from Europe of England. Besides this, I wonder what the survival rate of such domesticated animals would have been in any event in the African environment.

Mentzel elucidates the fate of the 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.

Apart from the bias of the local European and English farmers, Green records Richter, as reported by MacAdams, that “pigs easily revert to wild state. . .  and all over the world, there were droves living in forests and bush and raiding farms and plantations. They bred fast like guinea pigs mastered the law of the wild and move silently about their destructive business. After years of this life, they lost their civilised look and developed large heads with long snouts and narrow, arched backs. They were far more alert than farm pigs and more ferocious. Richter declares that they were almost as intelligent as the great apes. They became hairier and regained the colour and shape of their wild ancestors with stripes on their sides.” (Green, 1968) Green’s account must be tested by the works of writers who had the motivation to give the most accurate information possible and not just to re-tell a story. Nevertheless, the account raises very interesting questions. It mitigates against the thought that a particular breed that was traded or swam ashore would continue to exist in a somewhat homogenous unit that may even vaguely resemble a breed outside a formal farming and animal husbandry environment.

We return to Mentzel, who wrote that “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 worthwhile 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.” The continued survival of such a breed would, therefore, be dependent on the very early involvement of European or English farmers.

The fact that there are records of pigs swimming ashore from sinking vessels at the Cape sets the precedent for the Colebrooke legend. It would naturally follow that the pigs that swam ashore would have been English since she sailed from England towards the East (if they came from the Colebrook). Two very good contenders to have been aboard the Colebrook are the old Berkshire pigs before the breed improvements of the 1800s and, more probable, the smaller lard pigs of the Buckinghamshire breed, but there is no need to be this exact.  In all likelihood, it was spotted English village pigs, bought at the closest pig market.

The other question, of course, is if they were not imported into the colony.  We know that pigs were deliberately imported. The first instance was aboard the ships brought by Jan van Riebeek.  Another one was importing it from St. Helena, which was ahead of the Cape, as a refreshment station for the Dutch on important trade routes and was used as a breeding ground for export pigs.

– Pigs imported from St Helena – 1685

The journey takes on unexpected twists.  I did not expect to find the small island of St Helena playing such an important role in the 1600s as the refreshment station at the Cape of Good Hope was being established. One of the features of St. Helena was its own European pig population. St Helena entered the chessboard of the Kolbroek story when I learned that some pigs were traded to South Africa from the island of St Helena at the end of 1685. (Swart, 2010). My quest to unravel the origins of the Kolbroek, now leads me in a fascinating direction. The island had no pigs on it when the first Westerners arrived there, and the pigs that were introduced flourished. Better stated, there were no humans on the island and pigs, and humans arrived there more or less at the same time.

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 return 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 Cavendish discovered it 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 the pigs sent to Cape Town in 1685 have been from this herd? A hundred years have passed since the landing of Cavendish, and there would have been ample time to stock the island with English breeds. Still, 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 due to problems that the Dutch had to raise pigs in the harsh African climate. The pigs that arrived with Van Riebeeck all died soon after the landing. Settling pigs from St Helena on other islands and locations was known to have happened in other instances besides the export to the Cape of Good Hope. These pigs may have been tougher than the domesticated pigs from Holland.

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 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. Did all the pigs on the island die out, or did some survive, as expected, and the island was re-stocked with pigs in 1643, which would have been an addition to the existing pig population? Another question arises regarding 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 learned 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. Even if it were one of the wild variety, these pigs would have existed on St. Helena without inbreeding with wild boars or other pig species that existed on the island because there were none (unlike what the situation was in Africa, where both wild boars and the African pig variety existed in abundance).

In June 1652, 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 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 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 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.

The rabbit trail down the history of St Helena was fascinating. I continued to read old writers who travelled across southern Africa. Let’s return to more quotes from some of the adventurers.

– Other quotes by Upham Covering quotes from 1655 to 1710

Upham gives us several quotes where pig keeping is mentioned and the attitude of the locals towards it.  He places his references all within the context of the experience of slaves, a fact that may be more important in solving the riddle than one initially thinks.

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 were despised for precisely 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 to have a hereafter.  (see The Pig and the Cult-Animal of Set, P. E. Newberry, The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. 14, No. 3/4 (Nov., 1928), pp. 211-225, Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd., DOI: 10.2307/3854298,

The Dutch continued to make pigs part of the farms from the earliest dates, even if it was not a massive part of the Cape economy then.  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]”

The fact that there were pigs imported by the Dutch into the colony is clear. 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…” [Mansell Upham]

– Livingston 1858 to 1864

Livingston reported 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)  This description reminds me of the middle age glasswork and the abovementioned drawing.

– 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 reasonably 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.” Much has been written on a possible link between the African Hut pig and the Kolbroek. Authors are adamant that these should not be confused with each other and that the origin of these “Hut Pigs” should be examined carefully. We park the issue to investigate as another possible point of origin of the Kolbroek.

– 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 27. His travels relate to the time between 1780 and 1785. He said that the Khoi (Hottentots) were unfamiliar 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 to kill them, one had to hunt them down.

– Andrew Sparrman 1776

Andrew Sparrman is one of the earliest South African writers who lived between 1748 and 1820. He was a Swiss naturalist and abolitionist. He is essential for our study for several reasons. We know that the Chinese hog breed proper and the Siam variety played an essential role in the development of the Berkshire and the village pigs in Kent, which may be the ancestor of the Kolbroek. In 1765, Sparrman, a medical doctor, went on a voyage to China as a ship’s doctor.  He returned two years later and described 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. As a sea captain, he made several voyages to the East Indies and China. He brought back reports of the tea tree and wrote several books.

Sparrman sailed for the Cape of Good Hope in January 1772 to become a tutor. James Cook arrived at the Cape in 1772 on his second voyage, and Sparrman joined his expedition as assistant naturalist to Johann and Georg Forster. After the voyage, he returned to Cape Town in July 1775 and practised 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 travelled 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. Here, 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 paper Aethiopicus or the desert warthog. The animal was extremely dangerous, and the Bushmen said 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 this 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 exciting to note.

There is good evidence that local pig breeds were crossed with wild pig species. Sparrman also showed a remarkable interest in pigs. He makes a fascinating reference to the pigs that he is familiar with. He says 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 side note, 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; 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 essential and delicate mission to settle the government of the newly acquired colony of the Cape of Good Hope. Barrow was entrusted with reconciling the Boer settlers and the native Black population and reporting on the country in the interior. During the trip, he visited all parts of the colony; when he returned, he was appointed auditor-general of public accounts. He then settled 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 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 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, people were not fond of eating them.

Barrow is another author who mentions that there were no pigs in the outer regions, 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 commented about the Khoe (Hottentots), whereas Barrow spoke about the Xhosa.  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 intended to explore by 1860.  Exaggeratedly and poetically, 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 Bechuanaland. 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 imported into the region, came from trading activities with locals by visiting ships, or the pigs did indeed swim from a sinking ship and somehow ended up with a farmer.

Pigs Under the VOC

The Dutch East Indian Company (VOC) introduced European pigs into South Africa in 1652 from Holland (Mentzel 1921: 53; Robertson 1945a: 10; Thom 1952: 121,123)

Heinrich (2010) submitted an excellent study for his PhD entitled  A Zooarcheological Investigation Into the Meat Industry Established at the Cape of Good Hope by the Dutch East Indian Company in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. His work beautifully elucidates the pork industry as established by the Dutch East Indian Company, and he records the fate of the first pigs that were brought over from Holland and what breeds they were.

He writes that the pigs that came with Van Riebeeck “started to die within months of landing, and early records of pig breeding mention that few of the young survived more than a few days from birth (Robertson 1945b: 10; Thom 1952: 121, 123). Pigs are generally reliable stock since they can feed on a variety of items and produce several young per pregnancy, which would have provided a greater rate of increase compared to the single or double births observed in sheep and cattle.” (Heinrich, 2010)

Two varieties of pigs were present at the Cape, the typical Dutch breed and the Chinese breed, which had “dainty” meat and claws like a dog (Kolben 1731b: 117; Mentzel 1944: 213). Though they were cheap to rear, farmers mainly kept them for personal consumption since there was no local market for pork. Though Mentzel (1944: 101, 213-214) insisted that there was no market for pork, he mentioned that they were generally slaughtered at six to eight weeks of age and that pig’s heads and smoked meat were sold quickly.” (Heinrich, 2010)  Before 1712 Javan/Chinese pigs were introduced to the Cape (Kolben 1731: 117; Mentzel 1944: 213).

Heinrich confirmed what other authors have stated: that in the Cape Colony’s early existence, the pork industry was very small. The Dutch settlers were preserving beef through pickling and salting, and they did this with some pork. They were relatively unsatisfied with Cape salted pork, so the imported European salt pork was highly desired. (Personal correspondence with  Heinrich, 2014)

Did the Kolbroek originate from these pigs imported from Holland? A thorough search of Cape Archives is underway by determining the earliest reference to the Kolbroek. If it was between 1652 and 1778, the Kolbroek did not come from the Colebrooke. It could have been that the spotted pigs were called Kolbroek in the Cape, generally referred to as “animals with spots on their trousers”, which is what the word Kolbroek means in Afrikaans. Were such pigs ever referred to as such in Holland would be the follow-up question? The Green reference suggests this was not the case and refers to a group of pigs with similar observable characteristics.  Similar to what we today refer to as a “breed”.

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 the older Berkshire pigs were also closer to a lard pig than a bacon pig it developed into. Besides the Berkshire and Buckinghamshire breeds, the pigs that were taken aboard the Colebrook were likely spotted village pigs bought from the local pig market. We have also seen that pigs swimming ashore from sinking ships were common 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 definite, and the chance that they were Berkshire or Buckinghamshire pigs is equally possible. More probably, they were commonly spotted village pigs. 

The 1925 Line Related to the Kolbroek/Berkshire Cross

I had to deal with the issue of Berkshire genes in the Kolbroek. A natural line is drawn in time, namely the 1925-line of separation. Morkel established it when he did his article and claimed that Berkshire had no impact on the Kolbroek. Visser (2012) demonstrated that at some point, Berkshire genetics entered the Kolbroek gene pool. This created the line.  It could mean 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 shifted away from lard pigs to bacon pigs, which was 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. Botha passed away in 1919, but the focus and spirit of his work remained and impacted the farming development of South Africa for many years following his passing.

Breeding pigs for bacon and not 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 deliberateness and purposefulness from the highest authorities.

The priority was set by none other than the leader of the Union, Louis Botha. He was involved in the “deliberateness and purposefulness” that became clear from a pamphlet published that 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 exciting quote 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 travelled 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 involved himself in establishing the meat trade from South Africa, and his interest included pork, which is clear from the fact that none other than Louis Botha himself unveiled the cornerstone of the Cooperative Bacon Curing Company, established in Estcourt, Natal in 1917.

The fact that this was an important movement in South Africa is further evidenced by the fact that JW Moor, the chairman of the company set up in Estcourt, established cooperative pork industries in Natal and the Western Cape.

I located this pamphlet among documents in the Western Cape Archive of J. W. Moor and his Farmer’s cooperative, where they applied for permission to erect an abattoir and a bacon curing company in East London on the harbour. Interestingly, 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; 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 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 were wholly occupied by establishing a pork industry after the English and Danish models. These models called for cooperative farming and developing breeds favouring bacon production, not ham or lard.

There is a complete lack of evidence in the literature of any such cross to have been done during 1925 or subsequent. This was when the British Empire used its collective muscles in every part of the world to 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 astounded the modern reader. That such an important event, at this time, would have gone unnoticed is unlikely.

The model used in South Africa for quite some time before 1917 and 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. However, The farmer’s cooperative established in Estcourt in 1917 gives us another very important clue. The farmer’s cooperative became known as Eskort Ltd. Eskort, to this day, says 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 were situated (C & T Harris and their Wiltshire bacon cure)

In Denmark, developments have been underway since 1896 to create their own super-bacon-producing breed, the Landrace. The first registered herd was established in 1896, with the first progeny and sibling tests in 1907. Denmark established a National Committee for Pig Breeding and Production in 1931. They managed the breeding of the Danish Landrace Swine. They restricted their exports to England (which would have included the colonies and former colonies) until after World War 2 to protect their industry.

In England, the Harris brothers worked 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.

The importance of the Smithfield Market in London as the centre of the English meat trade should also not be ignored. This was where South African beef was exported and 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 travellers 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;

I can find the earliest reference to Berkshire in South Africa 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 near 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 in 1906 on the farm Wagons Drift in the Uitenhage district.


The animal is so beautiful that I included 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 of 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

Good evidence shows that many big breeds were 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 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

So, South Africa imported a wide variety of the best breeds available worldwide at the beginning of the 1900s. Still, the main drive and focus into the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s and beyond was to focus on bacon pigs. The Kolbroek is a lard pig. Crosses between Kolbroek and breeds imported into the country would have been a natural progression, as was the case worldwide, and it is impossible to say for certain what occurred during this time. Personally, I suspect that if the Kolbroek would have been crossed long before 1925 with conventional and established breeds. There is only now, for the last few years, a resurgence in interest in non-bacon, heritage pigs like the Kolbroek.

The fact that this is precisely 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 by 1907 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 (in South Africa) on the pig and new authorities on the pig have.” Following 1847, others emerged as pork experts in the country, 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. 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

Very rudimentary techniques were initially used to breed better quality pigs in the ancient past. Heinrich (2010) reports that documents reveal aspects of animal husbandry not visible in the archaeological record. “With increased control over breeding, castration was practised on male animals that were not suitable for breeding though they were still useful for meat. (Anonymous 1650: 95, 99).  An element of superstition also played a part in Medieval animal husbandry, where it was believed that the sex of the offspring could be predicted based upon the certain weather conditions such as the direction of the wind (Anonymous 1650: 98).” (Agricultural Journal of the Cape of Good Hope, 1907)

The fact is clear that pig breeding was done in the late 1800s and early 1900s in South Africa with the same meticulous approach as in other countries. 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). One of the breeds that “no one wanted” was then 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 shows 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)  All other archaeological records of pigs date to post-European contact (Plig and Badenhorst, 2010).

The existing genetic condition of existing domestic livestock populations is the result of previous selection and is not always the best for the population (Maree, 1994). Interaction between environmental and human selection have led to the development of genetically distinct populations.  Pig farming in different environmental conditions has resulted in pupulations with traits such as heat/ cold tolerance and disease resistance, which favour their survival under environmental stress (Maree, 1994).  Farmers have also selected for a variety of attributes with a major focus on productive traits such as meat yield and fertility.” (Swart, 2010)

The Pig Breeder’s Society of South Africa was formed in 1919 and has been affiliated since its establishment with the South African Studbook and Livestock Improvement Association. The South African Pig Improvement Scheme was established in April 1956.” (Swart, 2010)

The National Pig Breeders’ Association in England

The concept of a Breeders Association is very interesting. The first step towards forming 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 the concept was relatively new and arrived on the South African shore in 1905.

The National Pig Breeders’ Association of England aimed to register the pedigrees of the various pure breeds of pigs in the United Kingdom. Captain Phillip Green was the chairman at the founding meeting. The society promoted the breeding of purebred pigs and established a herd book for recording the pedigrees. The Earl of Ellesmere was asked to be the first president for the first 12 months. (The Ipswich Journal, 1883)

  • Lastly, there is the possibility that Morkel is correct and that 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 was bacon pigs. So, still, the possibility remains that a Berkshire cross could have been done only after 1925, but I seriously doubt this in light of all the evidence we presented.  It seems much more plausible that such a cross was done well before 1925.


This was an epic adventure! Meandering through the countryside of old England, travelling abroad an East Indiaman, anchoring at St Helena, Cape Point, and Kogel Bay – this was one of the greatest thrills of my life!

I met breeds I never knew existed! I visited towns and markets that I never heard of before! 1778 was a time when the Berkshire was gaining tremendous fame across England and around the world with the myth and legend of its discovery adding to its mystique. The English 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 breed, quite possibly from pre-1925.

The one major agricultural 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 may be 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. It is, however, more probable that if the Kolbroek is indeed the breed that swam ashore in 1778 from the Colebrook, as I suspect, they were not Berkshire or Buckinghamshire pigs, but English village pigs bought at the local pig market in Gravesend. The Berkshire genes that are part of the current makeup of the breed probably became part of it in the early 1900s. Brown (1969) refers to it as a breed that existed in the Cape, consistent with the Colebrooke hypothesis.

My sincere thanks to Dr. Danie Visser and his wife for allowing me into your world. This is by no means the last word on the subject. There is another completely different line I must inquire into and that is the link between the Kolbroek and its closest relative, a very special pig breed from New Zealand. The Guinea link is so well established that by itself, this will become a thrilling line of inquiry.

This is then a butcher’s evaluation of the origins of the Kolbroek.

The Complete Kolbroek-works

The following chapters form the complete work on the Kolbroek:


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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.

A Zooarcheological Investigation Into the Meat Industry Established at the Cape of Good Hope by the Dutch East Indian Company in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries by  Adam R. Heinrich.

Rooiels, A history and other stories by Rita Blake

A Treatise on the Breeding of Swines and Curing of Bacon with Hints on Agriculture Subjects, by Robert Henderson (1811)   Leith : Printed and sold by Archibald Allardice

Pig Husbandry in New Guinea by Hide. R., published by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, Canberra 2003

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 Agricultural Journal of the Cape of Good Hope – Cape of Good Hope (Colony). Department of Agriculture


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Photo references:

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

The Tamworth Pig:

Yorkshire Pig:

Poland-China: and

Map of England counties:

Large Black Pig  from Lutwyche, 2019


Gloucestershire Old Spots


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