It is not known for certain where its origin lies, but we know what mother breeds it comes from. These three breeds are: The European Wild Boar (“Sus Scrofa”), the Mediterranean Wild Boar (Sus Mediterraneus) and the Asian Wild Boar (Sus Vittatus). The Iberian races spread over the Mediterranean and African coasts, settling principally in the peninsular southwest, in zones where the pasture formed by oaks, cork trees, oak woods and chestnut-trees are found. These regions occupy the areas of the South of Salamanca, the whole of Extremadura and the North of Andalusia, in addition to the provinces of Algarve and Alentejo in Portugal.
From the Romans, pigs were considered as an animal that could not be absent in the best banquets and celebrations. Soon they turned this animal to a symbol of wealth and abundance, which was a great social badge. During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance epoch, the pig became domesticated and since then the same products from this animal have been produced.
Throughout time it has been a question of increasing the infiltration of fat into the muscle of these animals, in order to favour the preservation of the products derived from the Iberian pig in periods and areas where their ideal conservation was not possible. This additional fat provides an extra quality to the final product and it is responsible for transmitting the aromas of the products derived from the Iberian pig. These fats prevent the dehydration of the products and provide juiciness and tenderness to all the products that are made. In addition, it has been demonstrated that these fats have a beneficial effect on the health, due to the high percentages of unsaturated oily acids that contribute to the reduction of cholesterol.
The racial characteristics of the Iberian pig make it different in morphology from any other animal of its kind and of course this difference is most striking when compared with the white pig. It is an animal of average size, always with pigmented skin, with variations from intense black to red. It can have short hair (“Entrepelado”) or be hairless (“Lampiño”). The back, shoulders and legs of the pig are parts with strong muscle tissue. Its limbs are slender and strong thanks to their continuous exercise.
The common characteristics of the pure Iberian breed can be differentiated in the following:
They are rustic pigs, specialists in taking advantage of the resources of the Mediterranean fields.
Females do not produce a large litter (with an average from 4 to 6 pigs for childbirth).
They are animals adapted to living in freedom and to the special ecosystem of the pastures.
Their size is average, with lengthened snouts to be able to scour the land and look for food. They have average sized ears, with a short neck and with an abundant dewlap.
Their limbs are tall, which favours free movement between the pastures.
There is a classification accepted by the scientific community of the different varieties of the “Iberian Trunks”, which refers to the different races of the Iberian pigs. These varieties have arisen depending on the pigmentation of the cap of the animal and on the major or minor presence of hair in this cap. Depending on their pigmentation, we can distinguish:Black Varieties, which are:
“The Black Lampiño”.
“The Black Entrepelado”.
Coloured varieties, which are the following:
“Rubia Andaluza”, also known as “Campiñesa”.
“Retinta” or “Colorada”.
“Machado of Jabugo”.
PURITY OF THE RACE
In order to improve the Iberian race, new races have been bred from other countries such as the English Large Black, which improves the fertility. Another outstanding race is the American Duroc Jersey, widely used in the Peninsula due to its high wildness and the quality of its meat. These cross-breeding give different types of Iberian pigs depending on the pureness:
50 % of Iberian blood.
75 % of Iberian blood.
100 % if the animal is purely Iberian.
In terms of reproduction, the first fertility period appears from 6 or 7 months old, though as a general rule it is better to wait until 8 or 10 months old when the female weighs 90kg. These females have a useful breeding life of approximately 4 or 5 years. The period of gestation lasts 114 days, or in other words, three months, three weeks and three days.
Diet is what determines the different qualities of ham and meat. Not all Iberian pigs reach the top flight when it comes to quality of food, sometimes due to the scarcity of pastures, a bad acorn crop and also to market requirements, demanding cheaper products.
There are different Pig classifications depending on the type of food that they have consumed:
– Iberian Acorn-Fed Pig (Bellota): Its life is spent in freedom feeding on grass, roots, etc. until it reaches 90 Kg., when it is then transferred to “Dehesa”, where its staple food is acorns from oaks until it weighs 160 Kg.
– Iberian Free-Range Pig (Cebo de Campo): Its life is spent in freedom in the field, feeding on grass, roots, etc. and also natural fodder.
– Iberian Pig Fed on Natural Fodder (Cebo): They are fed with natural fodder (wheat, barley, corn and oats).
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