5 Hog Breeds for the Backyard Homesteader

Pig Farming for Beginners – Advice to Get you Started

5 Hog Breeds for the Backyard Homesteader

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Raising pigs for meat is a great step toward self-sustaining living, and there are several hog breeds that appear on guides to pig farming for beginners. When we first acquired pigs, I gave little thought to breed, and just selected some hybrids, hoping they wouldn’t be too hard to raise and would be prolific breeders (they weren’t).

While hybrids have their advantages, if you want better predictability in your sustainable meat, then purebred hog breeds might be a better choice. There are several hog breeds to choose from in the United States, each with their advantages and disadvantages.

Primarily, when selecting swine, you should look for hog breeds that are easy to raise to harvest weight and that have good temperaments, especially if you have children. You should also consider how big the pig will get; if you’re brand new to homesteading, then a smaller breed will be less overwhelming. Look for a breed that easily converts food into flavorful meat, and if you have some room, consider a pork breed that does well in pasture or forests to reduce your feed costs.

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If I were to choose a breed to raise today, it would be Tamworths. If sustainable and easy to raise hog breeds interest you, then you can’t do much better. Originating in the United Kingdom, Tamworth pigs were imported into the United States by Thomas Bennett in 1882, according to the Livestock Conservancy.

They have possibly the easiest natures of all the hog breeds and are excellent foragers that love nuts. But the best part of raising Tamworth pigs is they’re the easiest to pasture of all the hog breeds, and they thrive on grazing grass and forests. If much of your property is forested, then Tamworth pigs might be a great way to make use of it.

Most pigs willingly eat grass, but require supplementary feed, such as commercial grain, corn, or kitchen leftovers, to reach harvest weight. Tamworths, on the other hand, do very well on pasture, reaching a harvest weight of more winner 500 pounds. Despite their large size, their easy-going natures make them perfect for a first-time pig farmer.

Tamworths are well known for their excellent bacon because they can reach heavy weights without too much fat. They are light boned, so you’ll get better hanging weight when you butcher them, too!



Hampshire pigs are one of the most popular hog breeds to raise in the United States because of their efficiency turning feed into flavorful meat. According to the National Swine Registry, they were imported into America between 1825 and 1835 from Hampshire County in England. They became popular in part because of their vigorous natures, which could easily withstand some of the colder climates in America, and their ability to forage for food.

Hampshires are black with a white belt and are large but lean pigs, so their meat has little fat. If you’re looking for a meat pig that yields a good carcass weight and has flavorful meat, then Hampshires might be for you.

The sows are reputed to be good mothers that are able to breed longer than other hog breeds. The males are said to be slightly more aggressive than other swine, so if you have small children, then other hog breeds might be better.



Berkshires are the oldest of the hog breeds, and possibly the easiest to identify. They’re black with white splashes on their face, feet and tail. Because their flavor is similar to pig breeds raised in industrial farming, Berkshires are great to raise if you eventually want to raise pork to sell to other people.

According to the American Berkshire Association, Berkshire pigs are the most influential swine breeds the world. Although originally produced as a “lard” breed, meaning the pigs were prized for their fat, the American Berkshire Association lauds the “great strides of improvement toward meeting the demands of the industry.” The organization has strived to meet market demands by breeding for “fast and efficient growth, reproductive efficiency and leanness and meat quality.”

If you are looking for lean meat with good marbling, then an industrial strain might work well for you. If you wish to raise heritage Berkshire hogs, try looking for a small-scale breeder for more traditional bloodlines.

Hog Breeds


Mulefoots are the rarest of the hog breeds, and the most critically endangered. But for a beginning pig farmer, they’re an excellent choice. Called Mulefoot because they have a single hoof like a mule’s instead of a cloven trotter like most hog breeds, the Mulefoot is a compact pig that is easy to raise to harvest weight. They’re typically all black.

They have easy going temperaments and are good mothers. Friends of mine raise Mulefoot pigs, and they get a good amount of flavorful meat, and the hogs are easy to process because of their compact size. While Mulefoots can reach as much as 500 pounds, I’ve seen them harvested at smaller weights. They’re also easier than other hog breeds for two people to maneuver during butcher time.

Mulefoots are known for their hams and for their lard. They’re good foragers, and easy to raise in pastures. I’ve seen Mulefoot pigs enjoy belly rubs, and graze easily with other livestock. If you want to raise them, check with the American Mulefoot Hog Association for breeders to ensure you get pure bloodlines.


American Yorkshire


When you think of pigs, you probably think of American Yorkshires, which are pink-skinned hogs. They are the most popular swine in the United States and prized for their fast growth, large litters, and hardiness. Yorkshires are also economical; they’re well-documented to have the highest feed to meat conversion ratio of all the hog breeds in the U.S.

The breed was first developed in Yorkshire, England, and came to the United States in 1830.

They’re probably the most prized of the hog breeds because they produce lean, flavorful meat with little fat. They’re longer than other pigs, so they will yield more meat, but for a small-scale homesteader, you will need something like a tractor to pick them up if you plan to butcher them at home. Unlike the Mulefoot, American Yorkshires are more difficult for two people to maneuver without help from a machine.

For homesteaders, however, American Yorkshires are a great option because they produce large litters of 13 piglets on average, which you could sell as feeder pigs. They’re also excellent mothers. If your plan is to butcher your pigs, because of their size, you could easily sell half of your hog to another family (while following USDA regulations, of course.)

Raising pigs is fairly easy for any homesteader to start. By choosing the right breed for your needs, you will have self-sustaining pork in no time!

16 thoughts on “5 Hog Breeds for the Backyard Homesteader”
  1. I am looking for buying American Yorkshire piglets to breed , can you tell me where to find the best and original Yorkshire piglets?.

    1. Be careful of Yorks. They easily get 800 pounds and slightly aggressive with age. I disagree with this as far as Yorks go for a ‘small’ farm. Your little piggies will be intimidating at feeding time. Berks are more gentle and better meat. Yorks and Hamps are not the way to go as far as “backyard pigs”. Do the Guinea, IPP, or even Duroc not mentioned. I have done Yorks and Hamps. Not the best advice.

  2. Love the idea of getting people to raise their own. What about the American heritage hog — American Guinea Hog (AGH). They are small, friendly, and outstanding foragers. Buying from registered stock will help ensure sound animals. I love the meat from the AGH.

    1. Absolutely agree! Guinea hogs are a great size for homesteading. Thrifty, delicious and durable. These others are too darn big!

      1. Jill and Keith: Yup, agreed. They’re the best hog for the homestead, but somehow, Countryside seems to think they are piggies non-grata.

  3. The one breed that no one ever mentions on Countryside is American Guinea Hogs. Why?

    They’re easy all around, small (can be home-processed by one or two people) and have the best meat. They do take more time to grow out but are hardy and don’t need farrow crates, sows are great mothers who do all the work alone.

  4. American Guinea Hogs should definitely make the top 5! They have amazing personalities and do well foraging which makes them a low maintenance hog to raise. Not to mention the fact that the meat is amazing!

  5. Good article. Would like to note the Hampshire you have pictured looks like a Wessex Saddleback which have the floppy ears or possibly a Hampshire cross. The Hampshire that we and others in our area raise always have erect ears.

  6. What about Idaho Pasture pigs. They seem like they would also fit right in with the rest of these. Might what to check them out.

    1. You are correct! I thought when I saw this article they were sure to mention the IPP or Guinea. Notta. Let’s keep it to ourselves and the profit! Just kidding!!!!….. Kinda.

  7. Agreed! Idaho pasture pig, Guinea hogs, and Herefords were left out. 3 of my favorites. I’ve owned the Hamp and York. Not the best backyard piggies. Doesn’t beat the IPP or Guinea. Thank you though!

  8. In my little honest opinion, Yorkies/Hamps/ Blue Butt (Blue Butt is cross between York and Hamp- not a curse word) make an OK backyard pig. They are BIG, get aggressive, and root to China. It’s ok if you have 3 on a couple acres. I have done this. You have to slaughter the parents and start over before they are full grown. I wanted to keep the parents to keep things running…. Not unless you want an 800 pound pig that gets aggressive. Even the sweetest hogs can get a little intimidating at 800 pounds. BEWARE. Hamps and Yorks are not good for this. I’m not trying to be rude about the article, please. I appreciate piggy info, but unfortunately disagree with some of this information due to experience. I can still publish this, right? Even though I disagree a little?
    The mule pigs are impossible to find.
    Did we forget about the redwaddle?

  9. You are correct! I thought when I saw this article they were sure to mention the IPP or Guinea. Notta. Let’s keep it to ourselves and the profit! Just kidding!!!!….. Kinda.
    And as far as the pictures go, it is true that some may not be correct. Any pig with “Shire” at the end of it has erect ears. Maybe that York had some Duroc in it. Was a simple mistake. I think someone else mentioned this. No big deal, but Durocs make good field piggies as well and have wonderful red marbled meat. I love pig talk!

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