The Oxford Sandy & Black Pig

The Oxford Sandy & Black Pig, sometimes referred to as the “Plum Pudding or Oxford Forest Pig” is one of the oldest British pig breeds. It has existed for 200-300 years. The exact origin of the breed is lost in antiquity but the original Oxford Sandy & Black is believed to have developed some two centuries ago in Oxfordshire.

The Oxford Sandy & Black or OSB has reached crisis point at least twice in the past when numbers dropped so low that extinction was a real possibility. As long ago as the 1940’s, boar licensing had dropped to one or two a year for OSB’s.

Vera Bosley and Ernest Holloway were the last original breeders in Oxfordshire along with the Blackwell family. Ernest Holloway died in 1962 and, as his son did not want to breed OSBs, the Jack boar went to the Blackwell family just down the road at Dean (Charlbury) and lived until 1967. Many of Ernest Holloways gilts/sows went indirectly to a farmer at Chasewoods farm, next door to Ernest Holloway’s farm at Leafield and thence to Andrew Sheppy. The Chasewood farmer obtained his first gilt 53 years ago from the Blackwells eventually building up to 15 sows. In 1990 this uninterrupted bloodline was dispersed and the final 8 gilts then went to Joe Henson of Guiting Power.

In 1973, the Rare Breeds Survival Trust was formed giving hope for the breed, but the Trust decided not to recognise the OSB meaning that the dedicated breeders remained alone in conserving the breed and the decline continued to the brink of extinction.

Very few boars were being licensed but a few enthusiasts continued to keep the breed and numbers revived to such an extent that a Breed Society (The Oxford Sandy and Black Pig Society) was formed in 1985 after the Society’s founder Secretary, Steven Kimmins, contacted all known breeders. With the help and support of Chairman Andrew J. Sheppy and President Geoffrey Cloke, the first herd book was put together. Both Andrew Sheppy and Geoffrey Cloke were dedicated to the breed, the Society and it’s continuation. The breed owes its’ survival to them.

There were 29 herds listed in the first herd book with 15 boars and 62 sows. Sadly some of the bloodlines were lost but dedicated, enthusiastic breeders are determined to save the remaining lines.

Recognition by, and transfer of herd book management to the BPA from the Oxford Sandy and Black Society in 2003 brought the benefits of increased publicity and the opportunity to compete in the shop window of BPA recognised shows. Breed numbers have been increasing over the last few years and is now recognised by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust after work by Society members and President Dr Rex Walters and Marcus Bates of the BPA proved beyond any doubt that the breed had not become extinct as some professed and was, without doubt, a breed in its’ own right.

There are 4 male and 13 female bloodlines within the breed.

Bloodlines: Boars: Alexander, Alistair, Clarence, Jack Sows: Alison, Clare, Clarissa, Cynthia, Dandy, Duchess, Elsie, Gertrude, Gloria, Iris, Lady, Mary & Sybil.

The current picture is very encouraging with the rarest bloodlines slowly increasing. Hopefully the Breed is at last safe (although still relatively few in number). The Society remains dedicated to conservation of the breed and is keen to ensure that breed quality is maintained.

The Society works closely with the BPA Conservation Committee and Deerpark AI in selecting boars for AI, funding the purchase, isolation and export of the boars so that fresh semen is available for purchase by breeders and to be frozen for future use in the event of a disease outbreak or use in future conservation breeding programmes.

The BPA carries out an annual audit to monitor numbers within the breed and each of the bloodlines and the BPA Breed Representatives monitor numbers and registrations throughout the year to ensure that no line becomes at risk.

The Oxford Sandy & Black Pig Society

The Oxford Sandy and Black Pig Society was formed in 1985 by a group of enthusiasts who realised that the future of the Oxford Sandy & Black depended upon proper documentation and identification. Breed standards were set and all pigs inspected and recorded.

Membership of the OSBPS is open to all those with an interest in the breed, whether they keep pigs or not.

From 1st August 2003 the registration of all Oxfords has been carried out by the British Pig Association, an organisation founded in 1884 committed to pedigree pig breeding, which has produced the official herd books of several breeds for many years. This move is of enormous benefit to the breed, and breeders are encouraged to join both organisations.

The Breed Society currently has over 100 members (October 2015), several of whom do not keep pigs. The Society will continue to support the breed in many ways, the Committee keeping members informed through regular newsletters, providing details of stock for sale, boar availability, events planned etc.

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