The Mulefoot breed is one of the oldest hog breeds and is critically rare; in fact one of the rarest in North America. Currently, there are around 300 registered purebred hogs documented, and there are fewer than 200 annual registrations. Most of these originated from the R. M. Holliday herd of Missouri, which is believed to be the last purebred herd in existence.
According to The Livestock Conservancy, the Mulefoot is an American breed that is named for its most distinctive feature, the solid, non-cloven hoof. The origin of the Mulefoot is unclear, but by 1900, the Mulefoot had become a standardized breed. It is valued for its ease of fattening and production of meat, lard and hams.The hogs are typically docile, friendly and exceptionally intelligent animals. Mulefoot hogs are compact in appearance and weigh 400–600 pounds at maturity. They are solid black with white points occurring rarely. The ears are pricked forward. Some pigs have wattles on either side of the neck, though this is not common. The breed forages well and thrives under extensive husbandry. They have litters of 5-6 piglets but may have as many as 12. The sows make excellent and calm mothers. (The Livestock Conservancy)
In 2006, Maveric Ranch, in South Dakota, took over the conservatorship of the Mulefoot breed. To date, they have the largest breeding group in the USA with over 50 breeding hogs.
Here is the information about the Mulefoot breed from the Maveric Ranch website:
“In 2001, we added Mulefoot hogs to our ranch. These pigs were different than the market hogs we’d raised, and not just in their appearance. The mulefoots were docile, easy to manage, and very entertaining. They didn’t get sunburned, enjoyed grazing and were gentle enough to hand feed.
The first litter of piglets born on our ranch were met with nervous anticipation. We’d read everything we could find about farrowing. But, when the time came, we did little more than ooh and ahh. The mulefoot mothers gave birth with ease, & the hardy piglets were nursing within minutes. At about 2 days old, the little ones were crawling out of the nest & exploring their pen.
The piglets grew rapidly, and each developed a distinct personality. We were so enamored with them, we decided to seek out more breeding stock and increase our herd. The following winter, we added six more females from two different breeders.
At that point, all our stock was 2nd and 3rd generation Holliday, and came from breeders who had started with pigs from the R. M. Holliday herd. I’ll admit, I was a bit jealous of the folks who had been to the Holliday farms and started with Foundation stock. In the late 1980′s, the R. M. Holliday herd of Mulefoots was the last documented herd known to exist. This herd has become the Foundation stock for all registered Mulefoot hogs. I had been told that no more pigs were available from Mr. Holliday. Still, I thought I’d take a chance, write him a letter to tell him about our Mulefoots.
I’d heard many a tale of Mr. Holliday, including how he disliked people from the parks and conservation groups. Some people told of how they’d tried to buy stock from him for years, to no avail. Yet others told of his sense of humor, friendliness, & how he loved to reminisce about his 40+ years raising Mulefoot hogs. I sent my letter and hoped. To my surprise and delight, I received a call from RM Holliday a few days later. We had many more phone conversations over the next few months, and became fast friends. I made plans for us to visit his farm in Missouri. Mr. Holliday also agreed to sell me a couple of gilts. I was thrilled with the opportunity to meet the Legend and to obtain Foundation stock of my own.
It was well below zero degrees when we arrived at the RM Holliday home in February 2006. We chatted about the pigs we already had, and shared pictures. Mr. Holliday told me the familiar stories of his grandfather, and the pigs being raised on islands in the Missouri River. He talked about his other two farms, his daughter and deceased wife. He made mention of the fact that he would be turning 89 years old in June. We took lots of pictures. Then we made a makeshift alleyway to round up the pigs and sort off the ones we were taking home. Mr. Holliday let me choose any and all I wanted. I was very pleased to head home with 8 gilts, 1 sow, 1 boar and two bonus piglets. In essence, we’d just doubled our Mulefoot hog herd.
Shortly after returning home, I sent Mr. Holliday a thank you letter and some of the pictures we had taken. He was deeply touched by this gesture, and said as much the next time we talked. I told him that if he ever decided to “officially” retire, we’d be interested in the rest of the hogs. He must have already been thinking about it, because he told me to come and get them! In April ’06, we made a second trip from South Dakota to eastern Missouri to purchase the remaining Holliday herd.
While there, we had the opportunity to talk with Mr. Holliday for several hours, and he told us many more stories of his childhood, hogs, neighbors and more. He was deeply concerned for the welfare of the Mulefoots, and their continued survival. When it came time for us to load up and leave, he handed me his notebook. This worn and tattered notebook was precious to Mr. Holliday, as it contained original registration paperwork for the first Mulefoot hogs he owned, details of the pigs he had sold, pictures and correspondence dating back to 1961. This notebook was a treasure trove of Mulefoot information, and a peek into the world of a man who felt deeply committed to raising this breed for more than 40 years. I was honored by the gift.”
For further information, please check out these websites: