The Tamworth is an English breed of hog that was of distinctly bacon-type. The exact origin of this old English breed is not definitely known, but a Tamworth Swine Association booklet says:
The Tamworth originated in Ireland where they were called "The Irish Grazer". About the year 1812 it is said that Sir Robert Peel, being impressed with the characteristics of them, imported some of them and started to breed them on his estate at Tamworth, England. They have been bred quite extensively ever since they were imported into that country.
Tamworth is in Staffordshire, England, and the major improvement in the breed took place in that county and the surrounding counties of Warwick, Leicester, and Northhampton in central England.
Improvement in the Breed
The body type, coloring, and general temperament of the Tamworth suggest that it is more a direct descendant of the old English hog than any of the other breeds of English origin. Concerning the very early Tamworth, E. Day wrote:
It is of ancient and uncertain origin, and there seems to be no well authenticated account of where it came from. As first known, it was an extremely leggy, narrow type of hog, but it has been greatly improved during the past thirty years. Whether this improvement was wrought wholly by selection, or whether cross-breeding was resorted to is uncertain.
Most authorities seem to agree that there probably was some cross breeding to improve the original Tamworth, although there are no actual existing records of this infusion of outside blood. It has been suggested that the blood of the Yorkshire and the blood of the Berkshire may have found their way into the breed at an early time. There has never been any radical change in the type of the Tamworth, so whatever influence any outside blood may have had has not been extremely marked. It can be said to the credit of the Tamworth breeders that improvement in the breed was made through gradual selection for the kind of hog that would make the most desirable bacon-type carcass.
The popularity of the Tamworth in its own country has varied through the years. There have been times when its popularity has waned to the point where people have predicted its extinction in its native country, and again its popularity has increased until it was considered one of the valuable breeds of the country. The Tamworth was first given a separate classification as a breed at the English Royal Show in 1865. The breed has been exported to practically all the English-speaking countries of the world.
The Tamworth in the United States
The first Tamworths were brought to the United States in 1882 by Thomas Bennett of Rossville, Illinois. During the next five years many other Tamworths were imported into Canada, and hogs from the Canadian importations and others from England have found their way into the United States.
The Tamworth, like the Yorkshire, was slower in becoming as popular with the American hog producer as the thicker breeds, although there have been some strong advocates of the breed. Major interest in the Tamworth has usually been confined to those periods when packers were emphasizing greater amounts of lean meat in the carcass rather than excess lard production.
The Modern Tamworth
Tamworth are very deep-sided hogs are uniform in their depth of side. They carry a strong, uniform arch of back, and while not as wide of back as hogs of the thicker breeds, they do have a very muscular top and a long rump. The ham is muscular and firm although it lacks the size and bulk found in most other breeds.
In general appearance and type, the Tamworth is not particularly impressive to people who have been looking at other hogs, because it is comparatively long of neck, long of leg, and lacks in width of body. On the other hand, no one can fail to admire the breed's smoothness and quality as shown by the firm, trim jowl, firm underline, and firm fleshing. The depth of side is also most commendable.
The head of the Tamworth is rather striking as compared with that of many other hogs in that it is long and has a snout that is moderately long and quire straight. When seen from the side, the face usually has a very slight suggestion of a dish, but a short or turned up nose is unacceptable. The ears are of medium size and should be carried erect; a slouching or drooping ear is regarded as undesirable.
The Tamworth has a very practical red coat. The color may vary from a golden red to a dark red. Large and numerous black spots in the hair are considered quite objectionable, as are curly coats. The coat should distinctly indicate quality, and animals with swirls are not eligible to record.
Evaluating the Breed
The Tamworth is a rugged, thrifty, very active breed of swine that is favored by many persons who are interested in raising a lean-type hog. The sows, like those of the Yorkshire breed, are excellent mothers and do a good job of suckling their litters. The Tamworth is an extremely high-quality breed and is the most active breed of swine that we have in America. People who particularly want hogs that will rustle behind cattle or harvest or salvage crop sometimes prefer Tamworths. The Tamworth has the reputation of producing the best bacon of any of our breeds and is uniform in type. It is one of the most prepotent of the breeds in fixing its type of offspring.
Breed Associations and Registries
Tamworth Swine Association
621 N CR 850 W
Greencastle, IN 46135
Briggs, Hilton M. 1969. Modern Breeds of Livestock. Third Edition, MacMillan Company
Briggs, Hilton M. 1983. International Pig Breed Encyclopedia. Elanco Animal Health