American Guinea Hogs
A Friendly, Easy-to-Manage Hog Breed
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American Guinea hogs could be the best choice for homesteading families. The all-black, small-sized hog is a champion at foraging for food and requires little to no additional grain feeding. Guinea hogs are a popular choice for homesteads for their easy-going, non-aggressive disposition.
Today’s American Guinea hog bears a slight resemblance to the guinea hog of the late 1800s. A previously imported Red Guinea hog was much bigger and of course, red. The consensus is that today’s black guinea hog is a heritage, landrace breed developed in the United States in the years before World War II. It most likely has some shared history with the British Improved Essex hog. The breed became threatened with numbers of less than 100 after the war. As our food system became more commercially produced, the homestead breeds were left to die out.
By 1990, the American Guinea breed was a threatened, rare breed hog. Its current conservation status with the Livestock Breed Conservancy is still threatened. The non-profit, American Guinea Hog Association, is working to build up the numbers of this breed while preserving their unique genetic makeup.
Height – Males typically are 22 to 27 inches tall and females might be a little shorter. The hogs are small with a length of 46 to 56 inches from head to tail.
Weight – For adult hogs is between 150 and 200 pounds. The breed tends to put on too much weight so careful monitoring of scraps and any additional feed products is important.
Coloring – Predominantly or exclusively black. Small amounts of white points are acceptable for registered hogs. There is a rare recessive gene for red hair. The hair is coarse.
Ears – The ears on American Guinea hogs are upright.
Tail – One curl in the tail is the accepted standard.
Temperament – One of the best features of this hardy hog is the pleasant, easy-going temperament. For a small homestead setting, a calm, friendly pig personality is a must, particularly when children are present.
What Are American Guinea Hogs Used For?
This breed adapts well to rough forage, pasture, and garden cleanup. Their tendency to become overweight if fed commercial feed makes them an ideal homestead hog. They normally thrive without any additional feed cost than the forage grown on the property. They adapt well to a barnyard setting and get along well with other farm animals. In addition, the Guinea hogs may help rid your barn area of rodents and snakes.
The primary purpose of the American Guinea hog is meat production. The yield for a typical full-grown hog is 75 pounds or higher hanging weight.
What Makes Smaller Hogs In Demand With Homesteaders Today?
Smaller hogs fit the needs of homesteaders raising food on smaller acreage. Many homestead families are raising their own meat. A large hog would return too much meat for one family, along with a varied diet of other proteins for the freezer space.
Rebecca Saul, of Glimfeather Farms in Central Oregon, chose the American Guinea hog as the pig breed for their family homestead. Rebecca states, “We chose the American Guinea hog for several different reasons. We have smaller children so we wanted to make sure whichever breed we got would not be too overwhelming for them to help out with. We liked that they are a hardy breed, as we live in the high desert of Oregon where temperatures and weather can fluctuate significantly even in a single day. I am also a soap maker, and the AGH has a high yield of lard which I then render and use in many of my bars. When a friend of mine had a couple of piglets available, we jumped at the chance to add them to our homestead.”
Other Small Hog Breeds
In addition to the sustainable meat source, small-scale farming families are increasingly aware of the benefits of regenerative grazing practices. Hogs in general, and particularly hog breeds that forage well, fit perfectly into a scenario using rotational grazing and foraging. The American Guinea hog can fill the need for land clearing, kitchen scrap recycling, rooting up the depleted garden, and pest control. In return, the hogs chosen for butchering supply a healthy protein for the family table.
Lard from the carcass fills other sustainable fat needs. Cooking, baking, candles, and old-fashioned lard soap are a few uses for rendered pig fat.
Smaller Hog Breeds Are More Economical
American Guinea hogs are smaller than traditional full-size hogs, meaning that they require less feed. Also, their excellent foraging and grazing conversion means they do not require much if any, additional grain. This saves the owner a good amount of money over the year.
Feeding grain is an expensive way to raise meat. The meat from grass-fed livestock has a superior taste, marbling, and texture that is not found in grain-fed livestock. If you plan to raise pork for market, grass-fed meat is in high demand, due to taste, and the higher presence of omega-3 fatty acids.
Farmers raising smaller pig breeds praise their temperaments. Easy going, calm, gentle, and loveable are terms often used to describe the American Guinea hog and other smaller pig breeds.
Is the American Guinea Hog Right For Your Farm?
Rebecca Saul says, “I would hesitate to recommend any breed of pig to a new homesteader, as pigs can be more difficult to contain than other animals and their temperaments can be finicky; especially when there are piglets involved. The American Guinea hog is the one I would recommend to someone ready and willing to take on the adventure of welcoming a heritage small-size hog breed onto their homestead.”
For the most part, the Saul family has found the breed friendly and calm. Some of the pigs will flop over for belly rubs when they approach. They love back scratches and are fun to watch rolling around in the mud. I prefer working with gilts or barrows, as boars and sows can get somewhat pushy and aggressive as they get older, and we have found the sows to be extremely protective of their piglets. The females do co-parent if they farrow in close time to each other, which is a really neat thing to see; but it also means you have two angry mommas chasing you when you need to catch a piglet!
The American Guinea hog might be just the right pig breed for you. As with any breed of animal, reach out to experienced breeders in your area, like Rebecca, and ask many questions. Once you realize all that is involved in raising a small breed pig, adding pigs for meat production is a good way to add a sustainable meat source to your homestead.
What breeds of hogs do you have on your homestead? Are American Guinea hogs included? We would love to hear from you in the comments below.
Originally published in the January/February 2021 issue of Countryside & Small Stock Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.