The main early breeds of pig imported from Britain from the 1840s were the Berkshire, Tamworth and Large Black. The Berkshire was a black pig, considered an excellent porker, although rather fatty. Imports in the late 1920s of Canadian Berkshires improved the New Zealand strain of Berkshires and made them suitable for bacon. The Tamworth was red and, being leaner than the Berkshire, was popular as a baconer pig. The Large Black was heavy and lean, essentially killed for bacon.
The Large White, considered to be the world's best bacon pig, was introduced into New Zealand in the late 1920s. However, although it produced well indoors, it was not suited to outdoor farms, and so became less popular. In the early 1940s, P. G. Stevens at Lincoln College, Canterbury, crossed the Large White and Tamworth to produce the Lincoln Red. This breed was popular for a time in Canterbury, but disappeared when the breeding herd died.
In 1959, Landrace pigs began to be imported from Australia. They were white and had floppy ears – unlike the pricked ears of those breeds which had until then been predominant in New Zealand.
The Berkshire pig has almost disappeared. In the early 2000s the favoured breeding combination was a Large White–Landrace female and either a Berkshire, Tamworth or Large Black, or one of the newer ‘terminal sires’ (used to produce the animal that will be sold to market). The main terminal sires used in New Zealand are boars of the Duroc and Hampshire breeds.
Individual breeds are becoming less important as the world’s major pig-breeding companies develop hybrids that grow faster and bigger on less food, and bear more live piglets.