© Spence Farm 2012

Photo of Surprise by Lisa Predko ©  2008

Heritage Breed

Animals at Spence Farm

        Imports from West Africa and the Canary Islands were recorded by Thomas Jefferson and other Virginia farmers in 1804. Weighing less than 300 pounds, these small hogs were hardy and efficient grazers.  However, their numbers declined as small homestead farms also disappeared. In the 1980’s new herds were established in order to save this small rare hog. Today they are still listed on the “Critical” list by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (click for more info on ALBC).

        Spence Farm acquired our two lovely pigs (Sammy and Swee) with the help of breeder Kevin Fall in Iowa. They are both registered with the American Guinea Hog Breeders Association (click for more info).

        Sammy (the boar not pictured) has curly hair with a reddish tinge (red hogs are extremely rare for this breed). He loves to have his stomach rubbed. Swee (short for Sweetie seen with her first litter) is three months older with straight hair and a timid personality and a love for dandelion greens. They are both pastured at the farm, creating new garden areas by tilling with their snouts. We now have another five gilts (girls) to begin breeding next year and some boy for butchering. Our goal is to keep increasing this rare breed and passing it on. Now there are four farms in our county that have American Guinea Hogs.

American Guinea Hog


     A small, black breed of swine unique to the U.S., Guinea Hogs were once the most numerous breed found on homesteads in the Southeast. Today there are just over 1,000 registered hogs.

     These “yard hogs” were kept in the yard where they could eat snakes, rodents, grass, weeds, roots, and clean out garden beds.

Dexter Cows


     Dexters are a native of Ireland with an obscure background. It is thought they originated from a cross between the Kerry and some other breed, possibly the Devon. The first Dexters were imported to the U.S. between 1905 and 1915.

     These hardy, gentle cows are one of the world’s smallest bovine breeds. They require less pasture than larger breeds and do well outdoors all year round, needing only fresh water and shelter. Calves are typically born right in the field without difficulty. The ideal size for a Dexter cow, according to the American Dexter Cattle Association, measures between 36 to 42 inches at the shoulder and weighs less than 750 pounds.

        Known as a triple purpose breed (for milk, meat and work), these small cows can produce more milk for its weight than any other breed, averaging between 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 gallons with 4 to 5 percent butterfat. They mature for beef in 18 months with little waste.  All of these facts make them a wonderful breed of cow for a small homestead farm.

        Our girls (Surprise and her daughter Dini) are out on pasture most of the year. Dini (short for Houdini) is a little rambunctious still. Surprise is more mild tempered and loves to lick on leather shoes. We hope to breed them both later in 2010 and have even more of these pint size cows on the farm.



                 Marty and Kris would like to thank the Land Connection and Heifer International for their support in our receiving a loan for these rare heritage breed animals. For more information on giving the gift of livestock for life please contact the Land Connection (click for more info).

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