On Tuesday 20th July 2021, after a gestation period of three months, three weeks and three days, Cynthia, our Oxford Sandy and Black sow, gave birth to her first litter of piglets!
Head keepers Jamie and Charlotte stayed with Cynthia overnight to monitor the birth and can confirm that everything went really well. Cynthia is proving to be an amazing first-time mother to two spritely piglets, one male and one female. Typically, pigs have smaller first-time litters, so we are pleased that Cynthia can focus her attention on just two infants and gain all of the skills needed to be a successful sow.
The Oxford Sandy and Black pig has existed for around 300 years, making them one of the oldest British pig breeds. It is believed that the breed originated from the Oxfordshire region at least two centuries ago. The breed has twice reached near-extinction levels within its history. However, with the help of dedicated keepers, the breed is being managed responsibly to be kept safe, but still with relatively low numbers between 350 and 500 individuals.
Cynthia was impregnated via artificial insemination in March 2021, a method that has proven vital in bringing this breed back from the brink of extinction. AI enables conservationists to select breeding matches based on their genetic makeup, regardless of geographic location. Because there are so few OSB pigs remaining, it is important to ensure we have a healthy genetic population to survive in the future. AI also has a very high success rate and is much safer for sows than the mating process.
Classified as 'at risk' by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST), bloodlines registered today consist of just 4 boars and 13 sows. The Oxford Sandy and Black Pig Foundation Charity and the British Pig Association, maintain all of the original herd books for the breed. Here at the zoo, we are proud to be supporting the conservation of this rare breed through the birth of our two piglets. It is our mission to continue to inspire and educate our visitors on the importance of conserving our native farm breeds.
Battersea Park Zoo began promoting this stunning rare breed back in the summer of 2019 when the OSB charity introduced us to Clive Allcorn and Angela Pratt, dedicated OSB pig keepers. In late May 2019, Cynthia moved to BPCZ and was later donated to us by Clive and Angela for permanent residence. Cynthia quickly became a firm favourite with our keepers, members and visitors thanks to her friendly and mischievous nature! We would like to say a huge thank you to the OSB charity for all of their help during this project, particularly to Kim Brook for her expert advice and care throughout our journey of keeping this fantastic breed and inspiring our visitors.
To meet Cynthia and her piglets, be sure to visit the zoo this summer holiday! Head over to our specially built piggery every day at 2pm, where you can learn more about this stunning breed at our daily feeding time talk!
- The keeper team.