Animals

By Hayley Pugh

Anyone walking past this farm would be forgiven for thinking it’s home to a flock of sheep but the woolly creatures you see here, are in fact PIGS.

Hooze Hollow Farm, in Cheshire, is home to seven Mangalitsa pigs – a rare breed often mistaken for sheep, thanks to their unusual fleecy coats.

The ‘woolly‘ pigs originated in Hungary with very few making their way to the UK – making this pack of porkers all the more extraordinary.

Farmer, Peter Barker-Morgan, plans to breed the pigs to improve UK stock and hopes to see his first litter this Summer.

But the 32-year-old admitted keeping tabs on the pigs can be hard as their thick hair means they don’t always feel the effects of the electric fence.

He said: “They are wonderful pigs to look at. My favourite description of them to date is ‘knitted pigs‘.

“Most pigs don’t have much in the way of hair, so an electric fence is usually a good way to keep them in.

“The thick coating of hair on the Mangalitsa pigs means they can exploit the electric fence. We have two in particular who keep doing that.

“My favourite thing about them is their temperament. They are lovely animals, and it makes me happy to raise them in a very ethical, high welfare environment.”

Mangalitsa pigs have hair all year round meaning they don’t get sunburnt like normal pigs, however, they do moult in the Summer to prevent overheating.

Peter, who has two more Mangalitsa pigs on order, plans to set up his own line in charcuterie and alongside that, hopes to produce English cider and sparkling wine.

He added: “Pork, apples and wine seem to go hand in hand by my way of thinking.

“The Mangalitsa is a traditional breed of pig, so compared to a ‘modern’ pig, they are very slow growing.

“The build of the pig is also substantially different to a ‘modern’ pig – woolly coats aside, if you look at them closely, they have substantially more powerful shoulders and are more pear-shaped.

As a breed, they originated in Hungary as a ‘lard pig’ and have only been present in the UK since 2006.

“There is a permissive path we keep open most days a year, that runs through the centre of the farm.

“This runs next to the field the pigs are in so lots of people tend to stop off on their walks and this is how most people meet the pigs.

“One woman said that she thought the pigs did a great deal for people’s mental health over lockdown.

“To me, a major aspect of the farm is educational. I want people to know where their food comes from, and that it can be produced both locally and ethically.”