Country mouse inspects a litter of British saddleback pigs

This little piggy.

Never shine the torchlight in a fox’s eyes, but just above them. Then, they’ll keep coming.’ This pearl of wisdom was delivered by our new friend as we stood in the middle of his farmyard surrounded by geese, ducks and chickens of all colours and varieties. Useful though this vermin-control tip was, we were really there to inspect a litter of saddleback pigs and to choose two of them to pick up in a couple of weeks’ time. We fell in love with the two gilts straight away, but decided against having any boars. Their mother seemed very good-natured and the charming oinking of her diminutive offspring was utterly winsome. We will keep them over the summer and early autumn, when our surfeit of apples will form their diet before slaughter.

The British saddleback is an amalgamation of the Essex and Wessex saddlebacks, the latter having been improved by Lord Western when he brought back a pair of Neapolitans from Italy in the mid 19th century, when he must have been on the equivalent of a farming Grand Tour. Unmistakable by their black markings fore and aft with a white band round the middle, it’s their famed good nature that also appeals to us. We now have a week to make sure their shelter and field are up to standard for an iconic British breed.