The History of The Oxford Sandy and Black Pig – Part I

Picking and choosing your breed of pig is one of the most mind blowing exercises your brain will ever go through, well it was for me! 19 years ago I settled on the Oxford Sandy and Black Pig.

As the Charity has over 2000 members on facebook I thought it was about time we re-visited the history of our wonderful Oxford Sandy and Black Pig. I will split it up through the week so it is not too much to take in and my goodness i have already done two paragraphs. Best get a wriggle on!

The Oxford Sandy and Black Pig (#osbpig), has been recognised with the Rare Breed Survival Trust (RBST) since 2012. A breed qualifies with the RBST if it has 40 years breed history or has six generations of pedigree. DNA testing to research the purity of the breed is undertaken, bloods are sampled, checked and then confirmed that they are undiluted. Suffice to say that our breed was tested and confirmed that bloods were undiluted. Perhaps it may be time to do this again, who knows.

How it all began

In 1956 a young man by the name of Andrew J Sheppy of Cobthorn Farm, Somerset (now known as the Cobthorn Trust) took an interest in pigs, in particular the #OSBPig where his commitment and dedication to the breed is evident in what we see today.

Tomorrow we will cover how it all began.

As a footnote. All information we shared on the dialogue title “The History of the Oxford Sandy and Black Pig” was directly given to myself (Kim Brook) by Mr Sheppy. This information was also shared at a talk Mr Sheppy attended by invitation of the #OSBPG in March 2016.

Photo: from source 





It’s always busy and fun at the Oxford Sandy and Black Pig Group Foundation Charity.   We introduced one of our exciting new projects, the OSBPG Genetic Spread Allowance, which has proved very popular with our breeders. By following certain guidelines we are able to help introduce new bloodlines and spread the vital genetics geographically around the UK.  Fiona and Tristan MacLennan did just that.

August 2020 Fiona & Tristan MacLennan took a journey totalling 22 hours to introduce bloodlines not yet in Scotland.  With their commitment and dedication and the help of the OSBPG Charity it was triumphant.   We had to get it right, with many phone calls, messaging, who had what, who had boars, who had gilts were they related and most importantly, working with C-19.  Could it work?  YES it can!
Their journey started at 04:30 hrs on a Saturday morning from Argyll in the beautiful Scottish Highlands, to their first stop, Wales. Then they headed North to Lancashire, with the final leg of the journey and the last pick up at Dumfries.  Eventually they arrived home and fell into bed at 02:35 hrs Sunday morning!   Social distancing, hand sanitising and facemasks were all adhered to successfully.


The bloodlines introduced into Scotland is a monumental achievement. The MacLennan’s now have a Duchess line (the second in Scotland), Iris and an Alistair boar, both a first for Scotland.

Today, we are now proud to announce that an Iris/Alistair farrowing happened on 8 May 2021, with 2 boars and 8 gilts. A first for these proud parents and a fantastic first for Scotland!

It is with great thanks to Fiona and Tristan MacLennan for their devotion to our breed and the breeders of the OSBPG Charity who helped to make this happen!

Find out more about the OSBPG GSA programme by visiting or email



No photo description available.

The sow’s offspring sex ratio is a subject of considerable interest from both the theoretical and the practical point of view. In domestic animals, including pigs, the offspring sex ratio is also a feature of economic value. The gilts from litters with a higher proportion of females can deliver and feed more piglets as they have more teats, a higher fertility rate, and a better reproductive performance. But we already knew that, right?

A study conducted to assess whether litter size, maternal age and parity, paternal breed, maternal birth year and month, and litter birth year and month influenced the offspring sex ratio in domestic pigs. A total of 436 litters on 21st day of life were considered. It was found that paternal breed and litter size significantly affected the offspring sex ratio (fewer males in larger litters). Also maternal month of birth had a significant influence on offspring sex ratio (sows born in September-February delivered litters with a higher male proportion than those born in March-August). There was also a correlation at a marginally significant level between the offspring sex ratio on 21st day of life and proportion of stillborn piglets (more stillborn ones in the litters with the future higher male proportion).

Another study found that females with abundant resources would produce more females, as sows are territorial and would benefit from these resources. Conversely, if resources are poor, sows would favour male offspring, which disperse upon reaching maturity and move into new ranges. This theory has been supported by demonstrating that under normal conditions perinatal (immediately before or after birth) mortality is female biased. In support of this suggestion, it was reported that reduced embryo development and decreased female embryo survival were associated with differences in the variance of epigenetic (non-genetic influences) traits in the surviving litters at Day 30.

Different factors have been shown to be associated with birth sex ratio in mammals, such as nutrition, season of birth, diseases, stress, female’s age and parity, social status, levels of different hormones, type and time of insemination, oestrus synchronisation before insemination, habitat quality, population demography and sex of adjacent embryos in sows own birth litter.

So there seems to be no definitive conclusion other than knowing when your sow/gilts date of birth and monitoring if she was born from September to February or March to August and of course did she come from a litter that was higher in number of males and females. Pretty much similar to us humans i guess. As i know of one couple who in 6 generations from the male side have never had a daughter and all three brothers married and whilst the wives had sisters not one of them had a daughter but all sons!

The Oxford Sandy and Black Pig Group Foundation Charity are conducting a three year research to establish the sex ratio in seasonal farrowings, with quarterly reports being posted on their facebook forum here

OSB Pig Group Pig Diseases & Ailments – Salt Poisoning – water deprivation

With Summer fast approaching it is rather apt to cover this topic. It is not a common ailment but from time-to-time it does occur especially in the Summer months due to water deprivation or in some instances where whey is fed. The signs of salt poisoning can be tremors, lying stretched out, convulsions and sadly death.
Salt poisoning mostly arises from depriving pigs of water. The syndrome may occur, if say, after sudden unrestricted access to water after interruption by drought, low water pressure or freezing.
It is thought that dehydration of tissues and an increase in the sodium content of the brain occur. High sodium levels in the brain inhibit anaerobic glycolysis and acetyl chlorine esterase levels (tissue respiration) and appear to be responsible. Sudden rehydration may exacerbate the condition.

Degenerative nervous systems salt poisioning
Clinical signs
Peracute (very severe) salt poisoning occurs after the ingestion of massive amounts of salt and results in prostration, running movements, coma and death.
Acute salt poisoning following restricted water intake is most common.
Pruritus, thirst and constipation are followed 1-5 days later by blindness, lack of interest in food or drink and failure to respond to external stimulus. Affected pigs may bump into obstacles and may circle, pivoting on one foot. Head pressing may occur. Convulsions occur regularly (every 7 minutes).
The condition may occur in any pig with an inability to reach water.
Treatment and prevention
Spontaneous recovery may occur. The feed should be replaced and water intake controlled by giving small amounts of water at first to unaffected pigs and gradually increasing the amounts. Convulsing animals should be allowed to recover naturally.
Water should be offered and the pigs may be sprayed with water and placed in the shaded area and be undisturbed for at least 24 hours.
Also, it is wise that when moving pigs to new pens/homes do ensure that pigs can find the drinking water and please ensure that water is freely available, particularly in hot weather.
Personal note:
Every year contact is made to the charity’s trustees whereby fellow pig keepers have experienced their pigs shivering, convulsing and panting rapidly these phone calls/emails are particularly common in the summer months. So please be aware, especially those that use nipple drinkers outside, to ensure that there are plenty of water vessels to go around the paddocks. You can never have too much water.
Photo: Rachel Rivers, Pig333 and Kim Brook

The Oxford Sandy and Black Pig Coping in all Weathers

We, humans, cope quite well. We have a warm dry house, waterproof clothing, we can change our clothes and most importantly turn the heat up in our house or place a fan on to cool down.
In Summer our pigs do suffer from the heat and this we may have observed and experienced by certain behaviours.

Suffering the heat, effects their eating habits by a decreased feed intake which in turn is compounded by slow growth and milk production, but we often fail to realise that younger pigs suffer equally or to a greater extent during the cooler times of the year. Harmful results of chilling include slower growth, poor feed efficiency, loss of body fat, greater susceptibility to diseases such as scours and pneumonia, higher  mortality and even an increase in aggression.

When conditions are too cold, the pig will attempt to adapt by increasing heat production within its body and by minimising heat loss. Shivering increases metabolic heat production, and increasing feed intake increases heat production from digestion of feedstuffs which helps make the pig feel warmer, yes it is common sense but sometimes there is always one that will slip us by. It is also true to say, when pigs are stressed, they eat less rather than more so their heat production actually decreases. This is especially true at weaning time and when weaners are bought/sold and taken to their new homes in the winter or spring.
Common sense prevails and it may not surprise you that great care must be taken to keep them warm during transport and for at least 1-2 weeks after they arrive.
Particular mannerisms to look out for when our pigs are trying to minimise heat loss include: huddling together, tucking their legs beneath their bodies to limit contact with the floor and seeking shelter or the warmest, least drafty area in their pen. You may observe that the younger pigs may even alter their dunging and sleeping habits and lie down in their excrement because faeces and urine provide a temporarily warm floor. But, in the long run, this behaviour gets them wet, increases heat loss from their body and just makes them feel even colder.
Lower Critical Temperature is the temperature below which a pig must expend additional energy to maintain normal body temperature and essential body functions such as eating, drinking, playing and moving about.

The Upper Critical Temperature is that which adversely effects pig performance and normal bodily functions including decreased feed intake and rate of gain due to heat stress. The range 

This is especially true for the Lower Critical Temperature, which is much higher for younger pigs than older ones. Young pigs up to 18-22kgs are very sensitive to low temperatures and become chilled quickly. On the other hand, finishing pigs and lactating sows are much less sensitive to cold but do not tolerate high environmental temperatures, 2019 was testament to that as there was many losses due to the hot summer we had due to heat stress.between the both is called the Thermo- neutral Zone or Comfort Zone. The Comfort Zone varies by the age and size of our pigs with larger pigs generally tolerating
extremes in temperature.
As mentioned in previous dialogues, the temperature that pigs feel is seldom the same as what we read on a thermometer or that we as humans feel in the same environment. The temperature that the pig feels is called EffectiveTemperature. First of all, it is critical that we measure temperature at pig level since that may differ several degrees from a reading made at eye level on the wall several feet away from the pigs. For nursery pigs, this would be at a height of about 8-12 inches inside the animals’ pen. Even if measured properly, the reading on the thermometer is probably not the temperature that the pigs feel because there are several factors in addition to age and size that influence EffectiveTemperature. Therefore, the animal may not be comfortable and productive even if the temperature on the thermometer is within its Comfort Zone.
EffectiveTemperature is influenced by losses of heat from the body in at least four different ways.
  • Air moving across the animal’s body due to drafts, poorly designed or improperly managed ventilation or use of open-sided shelters for young pigs in autumn, winter and spring.
  • Radiant losses to cold surfaces such as poorly insulated walls, and ceilings, even though the animal is not touching the surface. An analogy of this is the feeling you get when you sit beside a single pane glass door in winter time as compared to sitting beside a heavily insulated wall. Your body heat is being used to warm that glass door.
  • Convective losses to surfaces the animal actually touches, especially floors. Concrete and metal floors are much “colder” than plastic, rubber mats or wood. Pigs lose half as much heat to a wooden floor as to concrete and only one-sixth as much to a plastic floor. However, wood is impossible to clean and disinfect so it is not recommended as a permanent flooring material in indoor production. Slatted floors are much colder than solid ones, regardless of material.
  • Evaporative loss of heat from the surface of the pig’s body occurs whenever our pig gets wet. Evaporation of water from the skin takes heat with it. We experience this when we exit the bath or shower and step into a cold room. Examples include accidentally spraying pigs while washing down facilities, pigs lying in their own faeces and urine, wet floors from leaking water vessels or using water to clean pens. However, we do use some of these methods when weaners/sows/boars need to keep cool in summer ie; spraying or hosing down our pigs.
How much do these losses of heat influence the way the environment feels to the pig; i.e., the Effective Temperature? For example, a slight draft of 40 ft/minute feels chilly to a 3-4 week old pig and makes an 26º room feel like 22º. This minimal draft is often not even detectable by people. A draft of 100 ft./minute will make that same room feel like 19º. Poor insulation in walls and ceilings and wet, cold floors will drop the Effective Temperature by 7º with each circumstance.
Therefore in a room where the thermometer at pig level reads 26º but there is a slight draft (-7º) and the concrete floors are wet (-7º), the pigs will feel like its 18º. Lack of insulation will drop Effective Temperature another 7º to 15ºC.
But as we know, providing a deep, dry straw bed will increase effective temperature by 8-12º. Therefore, pigs in a pen at 21º will feel more like 26º. As a general guide, dry straw bedding will make up for most of the wet and wintery months and the harmful effects of cold, wet floors and lack of insulation. However, drafts can still be a major problem, especially for 13-22kgs pigs in winter or spring when night temperatures can still be a little chilly, even if a deep straw bed is provided. At best, even with no drafts, the effective temperature will be 12-18º and pigs will feel chilled and probably get sick. Most other types of bedding, including shavings, are not nearly as effective as clean, dry straw. Ground or finely chopped straw is also less effective than “long” straw.
We know that older/heavier pigs are more resistant to cold and less resistant to heat and we, therefore, are more concerned with their comfort and well-being in the summer. Younger/lighter pigs up to about 8 weeks of age or 50 lbs can tolerate heat but are extremely sensitive to cold.
Since cold stress can be very harmful to the health and productivity of young pigs, what can be done to minimize it and make these smaller pigs as comfortable as possible? The following list is not exhaustive but includes some of the most important steps for pigs from birth to 22 kgs.
Learn how to identify cold-stressed pigs. Shivering pigs huddled together or lying with their feet tucked beneath them are sure signs of discomfort. Many of these pigs will get..
  • skinny and develop long rough hair coats (which we have seen from time to time. It is not a critisim of the breeder) if the cold stress continues for more than a few days.
  • Keep pigs dry at all times and replace or add new dry bedding frequently.
  • Eliminate drafts. Decrease ventilation during the cooler months, plug holes in walls and ceilings, replace broken roof profiles or windows. Use solid pen dividers. Never leave doors or windows open.
  • Add insulation to walls and ceilings.
A few ideas to prevent heat loss and maintain the minimum Effective Temperature, is create a micro-environment. Combine zone heating areas such as heat lamps or creep boxes and/or kennel-type rearing pens.

 “Whats in your barn Video” which can be seen in our video files on our facebook page. Features common to all three are lids or covers, solid floors, and they are made of “warm materials.” Do not use steel, aluminum or concrete.
Limit multiple stressors. Do not wean, vaccinate, change feed, transport, change environment and mix pigs on the same day. Doing more than two of them simultaneously will make the pigs more susceptible to chilling and health problems such as scour (diarrhoea).
Examples of good practices to limit stress
  • At weaning, just remove the sow and leave the pigs where they are for 1-3 days.
  • Make sure tagging, notching and tattooing and vaccinations are done well before weaning or transport.
  • When purchasing weaners/breeding gilts/sows and boars, bring them home and put them in an light, clean environment. Do not change feed, mix pigs or impose any other management stressors for about a week.

Oxford Sandy Black Pig – The Characteristical and Evolutionary Observations of our Breed

I have been invited to one or two farm visits and with good bio-security and the government guidelines of social distancing and wearing of masks it has been possible and it has again made me ask one or two questions…

When you are out on your rounds and tend to your pigs take a minute to observe them all, look at the shape, length, height and colouration and perhaps share your observations…

(Please note: This is NOT a fault anaylsis of the OSB Pig breed but an observation anaylsis, whereby i hope our good senses will of course adhere to our better judgement)
In general the evolution of British pigs have come a long way thanks to Robert Bakewell and not just the characteristics of the breeds but the formation of bloodlines, pedigrees and of course the structure and evolution of each of our British Pig Breeds which we have come to recognise today.
What about our breed, the Oxford Sandy and Black Pig, has it changed over the years? Are there noticeable changes, are these changes good or bad or are we just recognising the breed as the years go by and just taking the breed for granted.  And that what we own, breed or being sold is just good enough because the breed is evolving and our observations are dictated to us by experience. But what if our experiences are limited. Should we be forever looking to embrace changes in the Oxford Sandy Black Pig breed and are these changes good?
We all look at our sows, boars, gilts and weaners everyday but because we own them we tend not to look at them with a critical eye and if we do look at them with a critical eye are we being too critical. So is beauty in the eye of the beholder?
The observations over the years have been:
  • Colouration: 16 years ago OSB Pigs were particularly light in colour. In particular, the Clarence Pig Bloodline did suffer such a problem and this has improved over the years whereby we now see the Clarence bloodline a nice sandy colour. But do not be mistaken when you see older sows/boars lighter in colour, like us they do go lighter with age whereby some keep their colour and some go even darker with age.
  • Markings: The breed is seeing black flecks instead of patches or blotches and in some cases not very many patches or blotches. REMEMBER THE “BLACK” DEFINES OUR BREED
  • Length: Observation of the breed being long in length, sometimes too long giving problems when serving and seeing heavy dips in the back.
  • Facial points: Long snouts are common place as is suppressed eyes leading to sight problems. Wrinkly eyes are also a trait being observed. This may be due to over weight or that the face is too dished.
  • Feet: The actual feet have been recognised as being very lean whilst others very thick set. Noticeably on boars. Also an increase in nail growth.
  • Litter sizes: We have seen an increase in litter sizes over the years. Whereby the average litter size would be eight. We are now seeing litter sizes of 16 and 18. This does fluctuate from year to year. With the largest size being mentioned by the late Andrew Sheppy coming from a Mr Brickell Chasewoods Princess who had Oxford Sandy Black Pig litter sizes of 20 and 22.
  • We have seen through observations over the years from the Oxford Sandy and Black Pig Group Charity, that the overall Oxford Sandy Black pig live litter size has been considerably larger with the average common size being 12.
  • Teat alignment: boars and sows with 16 teats are now developing within our breed with 14 being more common. When we would see 12 observed say some 14 to 16 years ago.
  • Size – our pigs have been getting larger BUT these last two years my observations have seen small OSBs this is a breeding fault as the Oxford Sandy and Black Pig has recognition as an all purpose, versatile breed and if they become small we will loose its value as a good meat pig.


Pig Teat Placement
A gilt is born with a set number of teats (as are boars); selection for replacement gilts by teat numbers can be as early as five days after birth.
The heritability of teats on a sow comes from her parents. So, this is where the importance of a boar’s teats comes into play. He will have 14 teats, and his genetic tendency to have a certain number of teats is highly heritable.
If a gilt’s parents carry the genes for 8 teats each, it is likely she will be born with 8 teats and will struggle to feed a larger litter of pigs.
As we have seen on our charity, the average sow has 10 to 12 baby pigs (piglets). The average sow has 14 teats (of which it is our breed standard but is stipulated more is desired). Selecting for 14 teats in replacement gilts will gradually increase the average number of teats in future gilt litters whereby we have seen 16 teats coming to the fore.
Boar teat numbers are equally important; selecting for optimal teat numbers in boars will influence the herd’s genetic progress, this is why our breed conformation for boars is 14 teats, of course more is accepted.
There are several factors related to the ability of piglets to survive on a sow:
  • robust piglets,
  • ability of the sow to produce milk and
  • having a teat to latch on to.
The goal of a piglet after birth is to emerge with great gusto, dry off and find its first meal of warm colostrum.
Selecting gilts to enter the reproductive herd that possess 14+ teats and breeding and then to boars with 14+ teats will increase the probability of the following:
  1. Sows will potentially have daughters with 14+ teats,
  2. Sows will potentially raise daughters with the genetic makeup of 14+ teats
  3. Sows will potentially raise boars with the genetic makeup of 14+ teats
Selecting for teat number is just as important as selecting for litter size. Both are highly heritable and genetic progress can be visualised in just a few generations.
Pig Teat placement
Teat positioning is important for piglet access. The teats should follow two parallel lines and be equally spaced, with no extra or odd-numbered teats or ones that have merged. When teats are poorly placed, such as being close to the hind leg area, they are less available to the piglet at birth.
Sows with large girths also exaggerate the teat placement. When a piglet is born the teat placement will stay with it for its life. IE poorly aligned, good parallel teats, blind nipple, inverted nipples.
Pig Teat Development
Ducts from the gland lead to a nipple or teat and there may be a sinus where the milk collects before being suckled – see below diagram.
The hormones oestrogen and progesterone stimulate the mammary glands to develop and prolactin promotes the secretion of the milk.
Oxytocin from the pituitary gland releases the milk when the piglet suckles.
The first milk is called colostrum. As we know, it is rich in nutrients and contains protective antibodies from the mother.
Milk contains fat, protein and milk sugar as well as vitamins and most minerals although it contains little iron.
Photos: UC Davies library and at source. 

OSBPG Disease and Ailments – Erysipelas

Image result for erysipelas pigs
Did you know that there are 31 Bacterial diseases? 
One such bacterial disease is…
Caused by a bacteria called Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae.  
It is estimated that up to 20% of healthy animals carry the organism in the tonsils, and it is passed through faeces or saliva. It also can be found in many other species, including birds (especially turkeys) and sheep. Erysipelas can survive outside the pig for a few weeks, mainly in flooring where sand and sometimes wood shavings are used as bedding, it mainly affects growers and finishers.
The disease is not evident in pigs that are 8 to 12 weeks old or less due to the protection provided by the sows colostrum.
Erysipelas can be identified by diamond shaped skin lesions. Please note it is not always identified as a diamond shape but also as a reddish raised skin lesions resembling an aggressive rash.
photo: Egan Brockhoff

Oxford Sandy and Black Pig – January 2021 Farrowing

Research is healthy and informative.  Therefore, the OSB Pig Group is running a three year research which is to be conducted over a three year period to ascertain the sex ratio in seasonal farrowings and to conclude if indeed there are more boars or gilts born in the summer/winter months.
January 2021 findings are as follows:
170 born = 18 farrowings
78 Boars
92 Gilts
Our OSBPG Supporters have been tremendous in supporting our research by taking part and making it a fun and interesting study to help establish and reach new conclusions.  It makes fascinating reading.  Should you wish to catch up on how our bloodlines have been doing over the years then please check out our bloodline data here 
Photo – Oldlands Herd – Ian Lawrence

Bloodlines of the Oxford Sandy and Black Pig

Today we have 13 Sow lines and only 4 boar lines.

The sow (female) Pig lines are:  Alison, Clare, Clarissa, Cynthia, Dandy, Duchess, Elsie, Gertrude, Gloria, Iris, Lady, Mary and Sybil

The boar (male) Pig lines are: Alistair, Alexander, Clarence and Jack

The bloodlines that are now extinct are:

Boars:  Boris and Henry

Sows: Alice, Buttercup, Henrietta, Pippi, Polly, Princess, Sandra, Sandy and Sarah

To learn more about our the Oxford Sandy and Black Pig bloodlines and how they originated please pop along and listen to our Oxford Sandy and Black Pig podcast on sow pig bloodlines by clicking here

Or should you wish to listen about the Pig History of the Oxford Sandy and Black Pig then you are welcome to download our pig podcast here 

Photo: Hannah Coad