There were 3,990 Large White swine registered in England in 1981, ranking them as the top breed of their native country. Furthermore, it is easily the leading breed of the world if one considers that swine called Yorkshires in the United States and Canada are the direct descendants of the Large White. Virtually every country in the world that values swine has made importations of the Large White. The extent of importation seems to reflect the importance placed on swine production by the various countries.
Large Whites are distinguished by their picturesque bearing, erect ears, slightly dished faces, white color, pink skins, and long deep sides. They have been valued for their bacon production since the inception of the breed. As their name suggests, they are characterized by large size.
The breed originated in Yorkshire County, England, but the history is difficult to trace. The large, coarse-boned and leggy white pigs of the region were crossed with other breeds. Davidson, in The Production and Marketing of Pigs, has suggested that among these were the Cumberland, Leicestershire, and the Middle and Small White. Specimens of the new breed first attracted attention at the Windsor Royal Show in 1831. The stock used in the development and improvement of the pigs of that area is not as important as what was finally produced as a breed. The Large White has since become a well established and prepotent breed which has truly left its mark on world swine production. It is found throughout its native country of England and is also popular in Northern Ireland.
The Large White is regarded as a rugged and hardy breed that can withstand variations in climate and other environmental factors. Their ability to cross with and improve other breeds has truly made them a factor nearly everywhere commercial swine are produced. They have been known for decades as a favorite market animal where high quality bacon and pork are sought. Their tendency to grow and not lay down excess fat have made them favorites, not only when swine are marketed at relatively light weights, but also when they are carried to heavier weights.
Large Whites are known for large litters, heavy milk production and for having excellent maternal instincts. They are not only lean and active, but are also quite sound in feet and legs. They carry their considerable length with ease and grace. Their extra height, or length of leg, helps them to remain active and have long useful lives in the breeding pen.
While the Large White was originally developed as an active and outdoor breed, they do very well in concentrated or confined conditions. They and their descendants, the Yorkshire, are to be found in practically all crossbreeding and rotational breeding programs using two or more breeds, not only in their homeland, but throughout the world. The sow component of such commercial programs usually has half or more of their blood. While the sows of the breed have an enviable reputation as dams, the boars are not to be overlooked as sires. They can definitely stamp uniformity and quality in a pig crop from almost any breed or type of dam. While the majority of such pigs may go to market, the best young sows are most likely to be selected as mothers for the next generation of market pigs. This is further proof of how much commercial swine producers of the world value motherhood.
The Large White has been registered since 1884, or since its establishment, in the National Pig Breeders' Association, 7 Rickmansworth Road, Watford Herts WD1 7HE, England.
Reference: Briggs, Hilton M. 1983. International Pig Breed Encyclopedia.