The Mangalitsa (also spelled Mangalitza) has been dubbed the sheep pig but in fact, the Mangalitsa is a wooly-haired swine breed native to Mangalitsa (formerly Austria/Hungary) and of no relation to sheep. It began receiving a lot of notoriety when Emma Thompson appeared at a London premiere for “Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang” with a “sheep pig” at her side. The rare swine breed apparently became stressed from the screaming fans and “relieved itself” for all to see.
The Mangalitsa is a multi-purpose breed with its original use being for its bacon and lard. Unlike some swine breeds raised for meat production, the Mangalitsa has a tender meat with less shrinkage than other pork breeds when fried. The fat is also said to be more unsaturated than other swine breeds which produces a lighter fat. The marbling and type of fat from the Mangalitsa creates a pork meat that is better tasting and preferred over almost all other pork-producing breeds.
In the US, Mangalitsas are being farm raised for their meat which can cost as much as 40 percent higher than other breeds. The meat averages $10 a pound where Berkshire pork costs about $7 a pound. The Mangalitsa are also being cross-bred with Berkshire hogs which can still bring a hefty price. It costs more to raise Mangalitsas which is why they are mainly used for meat production in their native country rather than for breeding purposes.
The hardy characteristics of this wooly pig make it ideal for its native land. It is fairly resistant to disease, strong-hooved, and quite powerful. The wooly coat protects the pig from many types of weather conditions. The pigs will molt their wool during the summer months to prevent overheating.
However, it isn’t just the meat that has brought this breed to the attention of the public today. In 2010, three Mangalitsa pigs nicknamed “sheep pigs” were delivered to the Tropical Wings in Essex, UK as part of program to help save the breed from extinction. A similar breed in Britain, the Lincolnshire curly coat, became extinct in the 1970s. The Lincolnshire’s coat was shorn and was commonly used to make sweaters.
The Lincolnshires were exported to Austria and Hungary and were cross-bred with the Mangalitsa. This new breed was called the Lincolista. Some of these crossbreeds were obtained and exported into Britain with offspring from these crossbreeds being part of the program at Tropical Wings in Essex.
According to Tropical Wings, this breed is extremely rare in the UK and its native country. There are hopes that one of the trio brought to Tropical Wings is already pregnant which the zoo hopes is just the beginning for these “sheep pigs”.