IMPORTANT INFO FOR THE EAST BALKAN SWINE
The East-Balkan Swine is the only "ancient" pig breed in Bulgaria.
According to experts, it has evolved entirely under the influence of natural selection with relatively low human intervention.
The East-Balkan Swine is is one of the few indigenous (autohtonous) pig breeds in Europe.
East Balkan Swine is of medium height and lives freely about 15 years completing its growth of around 3 years of age. It reaches sexual maturity around the ninth month after birth. Grown, sows in breeding condition weigh 60-70 kg., and boars (male) - about 80-90 kg. The animals from the East-Balkan breed have satisfactory fattening ability. Fattened pigs reach 100-130 kg. live weight.
The East Balkan swine are close-to-ground (i.e. relatively small) animals with a very strong skeletal system. The head of the typical specimen is middle-sized, with elongated and sharpened facial part, while ears are small, almost upright and very mobile. The body is middle-long to short, with a well-developed thorax. The back is slightly arc-shaped, legs are middle-long, very strong and generally well set. The skin is thick, dark-pigmented and covered with sharp, smooth and rough, usually black bristles that is longer upright in the backline section between the neck and the waist, and forms a “comb” which is a very typical feature of the breed.
Due to the severe reduction of the population in the whole area of production, a unification of the appearance of breed’s specimen has been observed – currently all of them look almost the same. The differences, typical by the 70s-80s of 20th century in the so called “sub-breeds”, are no longer present.
BREED ORIGIN AND NAME
There are various theories existing about the origin of the East Balkan swiine. According to the most popular one, this unique kind of animal appeared in today's Bulgarian lands as far back as 2500 years ago, together with the Greek colonists coming from Megara city situated at the Ionic Sea coast, upon their settlement on the Black Sea coast. According to another theory, the breed was introduced by the proto-Bulgarians with their arrival from the Caucasian mountains.
From our recent history it is known that before the industrialization of livestock breeding during the period of Bulgarian Socialism, black swine were among the main sources of income for Bulgarian population in the Eastern parts of Bulgaria. In Western part of the country the breed ‘mangalitza’, and ‘colored pig from Dermantzi’ (Dermanska svinya in Bulgarian), were more widespread.
After the mid 20th century, when concrete was used everywhere and became the favorite construction material during the socialism, those primitive breeds were replaced by new, “more modern” ones. The latter were created through zooengineering in order to achieve a higher meat/fat ratio, so keeping them in pig-breeding complexes was expected to provide food for the new urban population in a quick and inexpensive way. The other breeds - the aboriginal ones disappeared completely, only the East Balkan swine remained, with a current population of under 8,000. This fact makes the breed also officially recognized as endangered one.
There is relatively little information in literature about the prevalence and features of the East Balkan pig. The first message on this subject was by P. Germanov in 1901 in the official bulletin of the Bulgarian Ministry of Commerce and Agriculture – „Domestic Animals in various parts worldwide and in Bulgaria“, stating that in forest lands of Bulgaria, especially along the Kamchia river, pigs can be found, fully resembling to the “wild pig breed”.
A more thorough study was conducted in 1919-1920 by Acad. G. Hlebarov who initially called it ‘Kamchia swine’, due to the fact that it was produced mainly in villages along the Golyama Kamchia river and along the lower reaches of the Luda Kamchia river.
Later in his studies, he found out that the breed was produced in a pure condition also in the mountainous areas of Varna district, Anhialo district and some villages of Burgas district, comprising the whole area of the Eastern Balkans. In this regard, Acad. Hlebarov suggested naming this breed “East Balkan”.
ADAPTATION OF THE BREED TO BULGARIAN LOCAL CONDITIONS
East Balkan swine is fully accommodated to the local climatic conditions of Bulgaria, it is also easy adaptable and extremely durable. Even high temperature amplitudes do not affect the development and health of the animals. They have highly resistant genes and rarely suffer from illnesses. The dark pigmentation of their skin protects them from sunburns in summer, while their bristles and fat prevents them from freezing in winter.
The typical habitat of the East Balkan swine are deciduous forest terrains and uncultivated agricultural areas. Such places in Bulgaria are the regions of the Eastern Stara Planina, Sredna Gora Mountain and Strandzha Mountain. From a regulatory point of view, breeding of the East Balkan pig in pasture conditions is currently only limited to the areas of 13 municipalities in Shumen, Varna and Burgas districts in Bulgaria. In fact, due to considerations by some of the pertaining epizootic commissions, the possible areas are even more limited. Export of live animals is forrbiden outside Bulgaria.
The main food of East Balkan pigs are sevral types of acorns, roots, mushrooms (sometimes also truffles), berries, herbs, snails, worms.
These animals are quite mobile (they can travel up to 30 km a day), especially while securing their food. They have a predominantly gregarious way of life, between 60 and 300 heads per herd, with herds formed on a tribal principle. The ratio between male and female specimen in the herd is about 50:50. The lead structure of the herd is hierarchical, with the oldest and the most experienced female being a leader of the herd. She has the main role in determining the territory inhabited by the herd. East Balkan swine have a well-developed herd behavior, they will not let animals from other herds or other kinds of animals access their herd, by sticking to the area chosen by the herd. They defend by themselves against wild animals, most often jackals and wolfs. In irritated condition, especially when defending little piglets, they become dangerous also for humans. Having finished grazing, animals move to a new territory. Swine navigate easily while trying to find their food.
The East Balkan wine, similarly to the wild boar, features late maturity. Usually females give birth twice a year – in spring and in autumn. Younger mother-sows generally have a lower number of newborns – between 4 and 6 piglets, while older mothers give birth to 7-8 piglets and more. Recently, a trend has been observed of increasing the number of piglets born. Pregnancy, with some very rare exceptions, lasts 114 days (3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days). About 1-2 days before giving birth, every pregnant sow goes alone, separates from the herd and decides where to give birth. Usually she chooses a cozy place, near a natural water pool, and prepares it herself by bringing foliage leaves and shapes it by her head and hooves. The birth should take place without the farmer’s help. Pigs have a distinctive maternal instinct and instinct of self-preservation, and if they decide, they cleanse themselves the sick or prematurely born piglets. By 10 days after birth, the sow returns to the herd with her piglets. Breastfeeding continues for at least 2 months. The intensity of growth of this breed of pigs is rather slow, that is, their growth is extensive. In order to put on 1 kg of live weight, they have to eat up 7 and more kilograms of food.
When bred in conformity with nature, pigs reach about 100 kg for about 16-18 months, depending on the amount of available pasture and on weather conditions. In humid autumns, when it is easier for the pigs to root about, they put on weight and gain fat easier. In drier autumns or in the event of an acorn-dominant pasture, putting on weight gets retarded and the so-called “animal dryness” is observed – they gain mostly muscle mass.
During the first months after birth, piglets should be additionally fed by the farmer with a view of their optimal development. Exceptions are possible during plentiful grazing periods. Additional feeding, if needed, could start on 15-20 days after the birth, preferably with grains. Additional feeding could be used also in the final stage of fattening, prior to slaughtering. High-calorie mixtures and grains, as well as oil-yielding crops, such as sunflower, are not recommended, since they are not well digested by East Balkan swine and could result either in overeating or in deterioration of their general condition.