Four Legged Explorers

Posted December 03, 2007

I have always thought it was particularly cool, and particularly Spanish, that some Ibérico hogs were passengers on the flagship Santa María when Christopher Columbus set out on his voyage of discovery. Even though the convoy of ships was loaded with hundreds of essential provisions, he embarked with Ibérico pigs as well, since he wanted the ship’s company to be assured of excellent fare! Although they have received no recognition, you might say the Cerdo Ibérico were four legged discoverers - almost as much as their two-legged keepers (and diners)!

The pigs explored North America too, as they accompanied Hernán de Soto in his pursuit of the Fountain of Youth. Somewhere along the line the pigs must have realized that de Soto’s quest was a fool’s errand (hare brained?) and strayed away. They made their way across Alabama and Georgia with many making their home along the outer banks of Georgia. Their descendents are the Catawba pigs which are of interest to American breeders today.

In the 17th Century some of the Catawba Ibérico cross-breeds lived on the plantation of George Washington at his plantation at Mount Vernon, Virginia, where their descendants still reside there today. Some migrated to the Jamestown area, the site of the first English Settlement where Colonial Williamsburg maintains a small herd even now in the 21st Century.