In early 2018 Berkshire pigs were reintroduced to Billings Farm after a long absence, however they are not year-round fixtures. We know that George Aitken bred, bought, and sold Berkshires during his tenure as Farm Manager in the late 19th century. The 1880 Federal Census listed “4 pigs on hand,” and at least some of these were purchased from Biltmore Farm, the Vanderbilt family estate in North Carolina.
Originally from the county of Berkshire, southeast England, the breed rose in popularity in the 19th century, and for many years Queen Victoria and the Royal Family kept a herd at Windsor Castle. The breed was first exported to the USA in 1823, and the American Berkshire Association was founded in 1875 as the world’s first swine registry. Unfortunately, increasing demand for lean bacon from light-skinned pigs, led to a decline in popularity following World War II and Berkshires are now listed as “vulnerable” by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.
Known for their black coloring (which reduces the chance of sunburn) and white markings on their face, tail, and legs, Berkshires weigh around 600 pounds at maturity. Voracious eaters, they eat a balanced diet that includes milk from our cows, pig grain, kitchen scraps from the 1890 Farm House, and stale bread from local businesses.