Red Wattle Hogs
The Legend of the Red Wattle Hog
Like many of the best things in history, and particularly common amongst the ornaments of history we call heritage breeds, the Red Wattle Hog’s origins are shrouded in mystery. There are generally two accepted stories from whence these magnificent beasts came:
The first and most likely story is as follows: Originally brought to the island of New Caledonia, a string of islands in the south Pacific near Australia, the French were practicing an age old colonization technique. When you move into a new area, several stock of desired animals were left to fend for themselves. Over time, the new diseases, climate, and predators eliminate the animals unsuited for the new location, and what you are left with are a slightly new breed of land race animals that you can now rely on for food in that region. While nature was taking its course, it added to the mix the local island pigs already there, whom had the odd and unique trait of wattles instead of tusks. When the French were ready to move on, in following their ever elitist culinary history, they selected the best of this new breed before moving on to stake their claim in the colonization of the new world. It was particularly in their occupying the gulf coast where these hogs, adapted for the comparable climate, found their new home. Eventually the keepers of the “porcines avec des caroncules rouges” or “hogs with red wattles” dispersed, leaving the beasts to run feral, finding their ways to the vast Texas countryside where they remained until they were hunted to what was thought to be extinction by the nineteen forties.
The other popular story is: Once upon a time, a long time ago, there was a wealthy individual whose passion it was to travel the globe hunting the biggest, most ferocious game ever to be seen. Whilst on his travels, he heard tale of a legendary monstrosity of a hog that lived only on the island of Espritu Santo not far from Australia, said to be the size of a rhinoceros, with odd growths hanging from its neck instead of tusks. After some time spent on the hunt, he happened upon these unbelievable creatures. Sure enough, the boars were in upwards of fifteen hundred pounds! As shocked as he was to find truth in the existence and size of the hogs, he was equally shocked to quickly find that the hogs came right up to him, sniffed a little, and then moseyed right on by. Being a true sportsman, he realized this was no great beast to be acclaimed to hunt, but more like a Dodo. He had however already spent a considerable bit of time and money in pursuit of the hog to not go home with no trophy, so he proceeded to kill and slaughter the animal to harvest the head and feed the hunting party for the remainder of the trip. After tasting the unprecedented meat of this already shocking creature, the hunter decided to spend the rest of the trip rounding up specimens to take back with him for breeding. Thus the first Red Wattle Hogs were domesticated. Eventually, not uncommon in Texan tradition, the man was killed in a raid on his Texas ranch. In the process his herd of hogs escaped and ran off to roam feral through the hills of Texas until hunted to presumed extinction by the nineteen forties.
It stands to reason that the first story could also lead into the second story. There is usually some truth in any version of a legend, but you can decide which story to believe. Either way, from there the modern history takes over and leads in to where we are today.
Probably through a combination of over hunting for the amazing meat and size of carcas, and through the rise of feedlot factory farms that rejected the hogs for their inability to survive in close confinement, the Red Wattle Hogs were thought to be extinct by the nineteen fourties. Then in the early nineteen seventies, a Texan rancher by the name of H.C. Wengler located a small feral herd in the remote mountains in a stand of scrub oak. He managed to capture enough to start the Wengler bloodline. Not long after, a Texan named Elvis Kirsch managed to as well catch enough to start the Timberline bloodline. It is from these two bloodlines, that all Red Wattle Hogs today originate. That is how endangered these animals are. Literally coming back from presumed extinction to give us one more chance to cherish these gifts from the culinary Gods.
The Red Wattle Hog Association, in combining with the Red Wattle Project, serves today as the registry organization tasked with keeping track of these endangered treasures. Using the same recovery program utilized by zoos for endangered animals, each registered animal must be screened for who is a comparable mate. Great lengths must be taken to ensure that no more inbreeding and bottle-necking of the gene pool will occur, so that the hogs can enjoy a long, bright future. This does translate to what is a higher than average cost for both meat and animal, but then again, this is not your average pork chop…
The Red Wattle Experience
As Neil was approaching his last days at the Broadmoor Hotel and Resort in Colorado Springs, he was accepted as a finalist for a position at the coveted Woodlands Inn and Resort in Summerville South Carolina. One of only three five star/five diamond restaurants located in a five star/five diamond hotel, they embody the highest level of culinary standard in the country. Neil was flown down, and put up in the Inn for a weekend. While Saturday and Sunday would be working interview days, Friday was to be all about experiencing the Inn from a guest’s view. The culmination of this lavish empiricism was nothing short of a fourteen course meal with wine pairing. Needless to say this was one for the ages, seconded to no culinary experience pre or proceeding. Of all the entree courses, the one that stuck out as the most memorable was one with the chop of a suckling Red Wattle pig. It was the color, texture, and most of all the incredible succulence and flavor that set this off as an unprecedented culinary experience. It was down right unbelievable to think that this was pork. Now would be the time to mention that this was also the first time trying true Japanese Kobe beef, often deemed the highest level of meat experience. However, what stuck out even more was the Red Wattle pork.
It was about 6 years later that we find ourselves here at Arcadian Acres and our other farm Quipus Alpaca Ranch. Once settled here in Athens County, one of our first moves was to get the breed of chicken Neil learned about as the classical French standard breed, the Black Copper Marans. After many months of waiting to receive our first rare birds, and as our bio page explains it was through the Greenfire Farm in Florida that we were reminded of the Red Wattle Hog experience and learned about endangered heritage breeds. Not four seconds had passed before the resolution to obtain and produce our own pastured organic pigs for the ultimate Red Wattle Hog experience.