Hobby farming: choose your breeds

Which breed?

Britain’s oldest-recorded pig breed produces flavoursome meat and is placid, yet has personality. The RBST’s Claire Barber says they’re good with people with learning difficulties: ‘They react, whereas Gloucester Old Spots just lie there!’

Britain’s purest-bred pig has a comical, enquiring face and is good at rooting in woodland. Lively, intelligent-strong fencing is required, although this applies to most pigs-and a good mother.

The smallest domesticated pig (kune kune means fat and round in Maori) only arrived here in 1993 and is more like a dog than a pig. Limited meat production, but loves humans, makes minimal mess and doesn’t mind you handling its piglets.

Oxford Sandy & Black
The rare-breed, ‘plum pudding’ pigs are ‘friendly, easy to handle, characterful and attractive with their random markings, and they taste delicious,’ says Country Life Deputy Editor Rupert Uloth after his first foray into pig-keeping.

Small, hardy, dual-purpose crofter’s cow that doesn’t produce an unmanageable amount of milk or plough up the ground too much. They browse, too, so are useful for conservation projects and on poor grazing.

White Park
Strenuous efforts have been made to preserve this rare breed. The most elegant of cattle, they are surprisingly hardy and will convert rough forage into lean, well-marbled beef. Useful for conservation grazing.

A native Irish, dual-purpose cow, this is the smallest British breed, which comes in short- and non-short-legged versions. Easy to calve and long-lived-they can breed for 14 years.

The world’s second most
popular dairy cow (after the Holstein), known for quality of milk. A small, charming animal that calves easily, is less prone to disease-it has particularly hard feet-and is well-behaved in the parlour.

Manx Loaghtan

If you want something a bit different in the paddock, try this rare primitive sheep, which produces gourmet meat. It’s self-sufficient, can be quite a character, and the horns are useful for grabbing.
www.manxloaghtan sheep.org

Versatile, fecund, straight-forward, small primitive sheep breed that produces fine meat low in cholesterol and amazingly varied fleece. Even better, its bouncy lambs have a strong will to live.

Black Welsh Mountain
Striking, tough, self-reliant sheep with in-built resistance to disease. Maternal, and, say aficionados, the least troublesome breed to lamb. Useful for herbage control and produces succulent, lean meat.

Wiltshire Horn
Sweet-faced sheep with elegant, backwards-curving horns. The big advantage is that it sheds its own fleece, thus saving considerable time and effort. Produces full-flavoured meat and can lamb inside or out.

Golden Guernsey

Ideal house goat, as its output is lower than other dairy breeds. Can be kept on a very small plot-even a yard-and is affectionate and docile.


Another lower-yielding goat, the result of a breeding programme to re-establish the native goat after it became swamped by foreign imports. Economical to keep and pretty to look at.