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Euskal Txerria - History of a rare breed

An Euskal Txerri sow enjoying the forestTraditionally, there had been three indigenous breeds of pig in the Basque Country until approximately 1974, when the last known individuals of the Baztan and Chato Vitoriano breeds disappeared. The extinction of the Chato Vitoriano occurred with spectacular speed: In 1952 there were 157.000 mothers and by 1974 it was considered extinct. The revered fatty bacon that fed so many families in the years following the Spanish Civil War was now the scourge of “progress.” This, along with its rural nature and low productivity at a time when mass, industrial food production was taking off, sealed the fate of a large number of Europe's heritage breeds. With the extinction of the Baztan and the Chato Vitoriano, the only remaining Basque rare-breed pig was the Euskal Txerria, or Basque Pio Negro.

In 1929 the census registered 159,000 head. By 1989, only 25 remained, most in the Aldudes Valley, in Lower Navarre, in the French Basque Country, with a few others scattered in Biscay, Gipuzkoa, Navarre and Huesca.

Today there are close to 400 sows (mothers) and 70 boars or breeding males; about 2,000 are slaughtered annually.

In 1996, Pello Urdapilleta came to fully understand the meaning of his surname, and began this marvellous adventure to bring this breed back from the brink of extinction. He began artisan production of the traditional pork products of the Basque Country as his ancestors had taught him on the Elola farm in Gipuzkoa, here on the south side of the Pyrenees. .

Now we have our own herd of these idisyncratic heritage hogs, enjoying our extensive fields and woods of beech, chestnut and oak, as well as stands of scrumptious hazelnut.

 

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