Pigs in Early Times

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About
In prehistoric Europe, pigs flourished in the woodland environment. Whether domestic pigs were introduced to Britain by early farmers or tamed from native stock is unknown; at any rate, there must have been much interbreeding between domestic and wild pigs, as they roamed the woods and were only caught when their meat was required. Under Celtic law, a herd consisted of twelve sows and a boar.
Archaeological finds show that two types of pig developed in Europe: the ‘sty’ pig, short legged and bred for keeping in small spaces; and longer-legged pigs roaming the woods with a swineherd, living on ‘pannage’ (wild foods, especially acorns and beech mast). Sty pigs were kept by the Romans, who studied their breeding, rearing, and fattening, cramming them with dried figs and honeyed wine. Pigs provided various luxury foods for Roman tables, including cured products. Hams were exported from Gaul (modern France) to Rome.