Book Information and Availablity Historical Information

Blue Hogs: A Southeast Jewel Hanging by a Thread

Blue Hog sow, two years old. She will be bred again for the next breeding season.
Blue Hog boar shoat about five months old to be used for breeding next season.

The background portion of this article is by D. Phillip Sponenberg DVM, Ph.D. The rest is by Cathy R. Payne based largely on her most recent interview with Freddie Brinson. The photographs are by Freddie Brinson. Sponenberg reports on the history of Blue Hogs or Woods Hogs in southern states and Brinson’s efforts to locate and conserve the remaining remnants of this little-known hog. I was very intrigued by this and think that my readers will find it interesting, too.


Traditional local hogs with a distinctive blue color have long been known in the Southeast of the USA. Many old-timers in the region have stories of local Blue Hogs, usually way back in their early childhood. Nearly all of them then comment on how the hogs are now gone for good and how much they miss them.

While some blue hogs have been called “Sapphire,” the main thrust of Sapphire hogs was an attempt at breed standardization in the early 1900s up in Massachusetts. The Sapphire project was a mixture of available breeds, with a final goal of a uniform blue color. Breeds in the mix included Yorkshires, Hampshires, Berkshires, Essex, and Chester Whites. These, then, are not the same as the old, traditional, local Blue Hogs of the southeast that came from long-term local breeding. Other breeds that include at least some blue ones include Choctaw hogs, even though most Choctaw hogs are black. Choctaw hogs also usually have mule feet and wattles on the sides of their necks.

Many folks remember the traditional Blue Hogs of the southeast. Byran Childress, the long-time supporter of The Livestock Conservancy and long-serving board member, was raised in far Southwest Virginia. He clearly remembers Blue Hogs. He and his father went over to the Fugate region in Kentucky to pick up a Durham cow and calf in the early 1920s. These are the famed “blue Fugates” of Kentucky, and at that time, they had two types of hogs. One type was the large Poland China, which was kept close up near houses where they were fed and cared for.

In contrast, the smaller Blue Hogs ran wild in the neighboring woods or were kept on pasture. The two types of hogs were kept separately and managed as two distinct groups. Around 2016 Jausonne Spencer found a few Blue Hogs still remaining in that area of Kentucky. Unfortunately, later trips revealed that this thread seems to have played out and is no longer available.

A few other leads on Blue Hogs have similarly vanished. One blue boar was entered into the Guinea Hog registry. This was a blue boar from Fred Keene’s hogs in Georgia. Billie Frank Brown brought the boar to his farm in Mississippi. From there, the boar went on to Arie McFarlane’s long-successful breeding program for Guinea Hogs. While his genetic influence persists, the blue color itself appears to be gone now from the Guinea Hog. [Note from Cathy R. Payne: A blue Guinea Hog was passed from Fred Keene to Billie Frank Brown. It was an offspring of that pig that went to Arie, who named it Brown’s Blue Boy. A sow from that boar had pigs born blue, according to two people who owned her. Descendants were registered in 2017 as part of the American Guinea Hog Association’s Genetic Recovery program.]

Freddie Brinson’s Blue Hog Project

Freddie Brinson of Georgia is another one who fondly remembers the Blue Hogs of his childhood. While many folks equate these with Guinea Hogs, he remembers them clearly as two different sorts of hogs that were considered separate by the folks back then. Freddie’s parents were married in the 1930s. They started life together with a few chickens and one Blue sow. His father remembers that sow as the best he ever had, producing litters over several years which provided pork for the growing family during extremely hard times.

By the time Freddie entered the picture, the family had replaced the traditional hogs with more industrial or “modern” types: Duroc, Hampshire, and Yorkshire. Then in the 1960s his father found and purchased a pair of Blue Hogs and kept them going for a while. Freddie found a traditional Blue gilt when he was a teenager and kept the line going until he started college. By then, the sow was quite old.

Freddie has a long track record of success in ferreting out the last thread of multiple interesting and important genetic resources. His list of accomplishments include acquiring the last polled Barnes cows and one of the last Pape Spanish buck goats. Freddie set out to find some traditional Blue Hogs to get them started once again. Fortunately for breed conservation, never bet against Freddie finding success!

After a year-long search, Freddie’s efforts finally connected with some traditional blue hogs in South Georgia. He was able to get a boar and six gilts. He raised them until they could produce litters. Two of the gilts produced 12 pigs each in their first litter! The others produced 10, 9, 6, and 4. They all proved to be great docile mothers and easy to handle. The litters included both blue and black piglets, which is not all that surprising because many traditional breeds still produce a range of colors rather than a single one. A few of his Blue Hogs have mule feet, which is a characteristic that pops up from time to time in several local strains in the USA. This trait was used as a defining trait for the Mulefoot breed, but also occurs in Choctaw hogs, these Blue Hogs, and several local strains of feral hogs in the region.

As the pigs from these early litters grow out, Freddie is still searching for other overlooked sources of Blue Hogs. He hopes that others will start to raise them and expand their numbers from the current precariously rare situation they are in. While successful leads are becoming more and more infrequent, each one can help to secure this old local breed with so many good qualities.

Cathy’s Interview Notes

My readers may recognize the name, Freddie Brinson. He is featured on page 44 of Saving the Guinea Hogs: The Recovery of an American Homestead Breed where he tells about his family’s small, blue hogs. In the book, he calls them Guinea Hogs, but In our interview on November 2, he asserted that “In my family, they have never referred to Guinea Hogs. Other people have. My vet came out to look at a cow right after one of my blue gilts had pigs. He looked at her and said, ‘You’ve got a blue Guinea Hog.’ Or something like that. But my family never called them Guinea Hogs. Never.”

Freddie has been looking for the elusive, small, Blue Hogs or Woods Hogs for over a decade. He’s made contacts in six southern states trying to locate them. He reached out to livestock markets, county agents, and friends. We first connected around 2014 when I placed an ad for Guinea Hog feeders in our local Market Bulletin and he asked me if I had any blue Guinea Hogs. Freddie concentrated much of his search in south Georgia and east central Georgia. People remember them in Jenkins and Scriven County. His search expanded to Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, and South Carolina.

He finally hit pay dirt in “very rural” south Georgia. He doesn’t know how long the breeder had raised Blue Hogs, but they were not captured hogs. He started his own breeding project with six gilts and a boar from that breeder. The boar and gilts are probably half-siblings, but they do not have the same sire. The boar has since been butchered, as he did not have the characteristics that Freddie wanted.

Freddie has noticed variations in docility and temperament. He described one of the original gilts, now a sow with pigs. “She came up and laid down in front of me, wanting me to scratch her belly. I thought that was real good. She really liked that belly rub. She is the most docile thing you’ve ever seen. I like a docile animal,” he continued. If I go out there, and they come up to me, that’s a good sign. I don’t want anything that’s dangerous or anything like that.”

He also noted that the most docile sow is mule-footed on the front, something that he had not noticed until she came home with him. “Well, you know Choctaw are mule-footed, too,” Freddie stated. Dr. Sponenberg hooked me up with the main Choctaw man before I bred my gilts. He actually wanted to sell me a blue male, but I didn’t want to put Choctaw blood in ’em. The more I think about this one, she possibly has Choctaw in her.” In addition to variations in feet and temperament, nose length, stockiness, and body length vary.

“They gain weight very easily,” he told me. “But they don’t get ‘gobby-fat.’ One boar I’m keeping is shorter and blockier than the others. I don’t think they are a lard hog, though. The sows lost [condition] while lactating. Freddie admitted that he’s not good at estimating pigs’ weights. However, he thinks that the 18-month-old breeders are about 250 pounds. Litter sizes were an average of 9, with two gilts producing litters of 12.

Breeding blue to blue, the litters produced include blue, black, and reddish-white offspring. It’s common to find large white spots on the inner legs. “Everybody in the family,” Freddie said, “when they see what I have, they remember my Blue Hog. It’s been quite a task just finding out if any are out there. I’ve been really shocked at how they’ve disappeared. I thought for sure there would be some nearby where I live. They were in my county when I was growing up. They were in the neighboring county. These would be very good for producing feeder pigs for the market. I would definitely like people to keep the Blue Hogs alive. The man in south Georgia said you can get some blue if you breed the Blue with a Berkshire. And a black Guinea Hog, I guess.”

Contact Information

Freddie Brinson’s email address is He has selected some breeding-quality shoats about five months old that are for sale. He will be screening buyers.

Guinea Hog Books Update

It has been eighteen months since I published on the blog. My apologies! I spent that time planning for and implementing a five-room remodeling project and then unpacking. I also started and completed a year-long census of the Gulf Coast Sheep for The Livestock Conservancy. Both of these projects took up much of my time. I’m back now, ordered books for inventory, and have everything in my online store priced at 15-25% off from November 19 to December 11. See the store at Print books will be autographed and have award stickers. Media Mail shipping is free, but expedited mail is an add-on. Enjoy your holidays, and let me hear from you! Orders placed by December 11 should be delivered by December 22.



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