Tamworth pigs - police pigs on the run!
The Tamworth is considered Britain’s oldest pure breed and is similar in appearance to the Old English Forest Pig. They came to public attention and gained a reputation for intelligence in 1998, when the ‘Tamworth Two’, Sundance and Butch, spent a week on the run after absconding from a Wiltshire abattoir.
The russet-coloured Tamworth was started by Sir Robert Peel, founder of the police force, on his Drayton Manor estate in Staffordshire. Its prick-eared, more streamlined form is closest to that of the original forest pig because it hasn’t been ‘improved’, partly due to being too far from the ports into which Asian breeds were arriving.
The sows are excellent mothers, being milky, docile as well as protective. As with all traditional breeds, the Tamworth is hardy and can be kept in environments ranging from rough pasture to meadowland. Of all the native breeds it is particularly resistant to sunburn.
Like other traditional pig breeds, the Tamworth suffered greatly in the years following the Second World War, as farmers were urged to concentrate on faster-growing, more economical breeds. Tamworth pig numbers became seriously low, but, thanks to the hard work of dedicated breeders, the Tamworth has been saved from extinction.
The breed came to public prominence in 1998, when a pair of five month old pigs escaped while being unloaded from a lorry at an abattoir in the town of Malmesbury, Wiltshire. They squeezed through a fence and swam across the River Avon, escaping into nearby gardens. The pigs (later named Butch and Sundance after Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) were on the run for more than a week, and the search for them caused a huge media sensation, as well as immense public interest, both in Britain and abroad.
The pigs were estimated to be worth £40–50 each, and their owner, Arnoldo Dijulio, a council road sweeper, stated that he still intended to send the pair to slaughter should they be recaptured. After making this statement, Dijulio was offered large sums of money by media outlets and animal lovers to save the pigs from the dinner table. Eventually, the Daily Mail newspaper bought the pigs from Dijulio in return for exclusive rights to their story.
Once captured, the pair, who were brother and sister, spent the rest of their lives, courtesy of the Daily Mail at the Rare Breeds Centre, an animal sanctuary near Ashford in Kent. They died at the ages of 13 and 24.
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