Cathy R. Payne's Story and Process

Hogs with Heart: Stories, History, and Care of the Guinea Hog

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When I first set out to write a book about the Guinea hogs, I came up with a working title, Stories and Care of the American Guinea Hog. I was in the process of researching the breed and obtaining my first breeding stock, but found very little information “out there.” I discovered that, while some books devoted a section or chapter to the hogs, and articles had been written, there were not books devoted to the breed.

I decided to do the research on my own, in order to learn what I needed to begin raising the hogs myself. I love to read personal stories, and needed to learn basic care, so that is where I started. My doctoral dissertation was an interview project, so I had that research and writing background. I decided to interview those who had raised the breed and elders who had memories of the breed in the past. Those were the stories that I found especially interesting.

I found after getting started that there was truly so much to learn about the hogs. Little was recorded about the source of the 11 foundation hogs that contributed genetics to registered stock. There were disagreements about how they should be fed, what size they should be, and about color variations within the breed. Breeders had difficulty marketing a small hog. This was a factor that contributed to their decline at the turn of the century. I wondered how pervasive and well know had they been in the Southeast within memories of the elders. And I wanted to encourage professional chefs to employ their delicious meat. So much to put into a book!

So after some reflection, I decided to break this down into a series of books. These would be more manageable and would meet various individual needs. The first one would include stories of the hogs and their daily needs to thrive in a pastured setting. The second, from interviews of elders, homesteaders, and chefs, would include reviews of the meat and lard along with recipes and uses of the hog from snout to tail. A family member suggested that I start with this one since cookbooks are so popular. The last one I envisioned would include more about the history and genetics found in pedigrees of the registered hogs. What were these hogs like, where did they come from, and what did each contribute to today’s herd?

Due to a serendipitous turn of events that happened in 2015 when I was two years into my research, I will be writing the “last” book first. I never imagined that in a rather short time I would have so much information about history and genetics. It seemed so far out of reach when I began. And I certainly never thought that I would become involved in a genetic recovery project that would help add additional founder genetics into the gene pool of these very special hogs. Not only that, but three other breeders and I would network and own some of those genetics and personally observe the impact they brought to our personal herds. We would study together to increase our knowledge of breeding methods, guided by staff and advisors of The Livestock Conservancy. What a privilege it was to have this experience.

So the Stories and Care book will have to wait. There are many Facebook pages now and articles devoted to this topic that will guide beginners’ questions. I have many stories, knowledge of care, and chef interviews that will contribute to future books. I will be starting with the history, including my personal memoirs of what I learned from 2013 to 2018 and the activities I pursued on behalf of the Guinea hogs. I’ll be sharing snips on this blog, so please stay subscribed to the newsletter and share a link to the website with your interested friends.

Please check out the American Guinea Hog Selection Matrix in my store. This tool will help you choose those piglets in your litters that are likely to be most suitable as breeding candidates. Feedback on how you use this tool is encouraged. Sales also help fund this informational website and my research costs. Thank you!

 

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