By Karen Carruth

Photographs: Rob Haining

A childhood dream was fulfilled when Cara Cameron, from Shinness, near Lairg, saw a Large Black pig being unloaded at her croft in the autumn of last year.

Large Blacks are a native breed to the UK, from Cornwall initially, hardy and able to cope with most conditions, which made them particularly popular in the 1920s, however a focus on the Large White, the Landrace and the Welsh breeds for commercial production affected the Large Black. When the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) was founded in 1973, the breed was on the critical list.

It is now listed as endangered, with the current estimate being that there may be around 149 breeding sows left in the country.

None of this had entered Cara’s mind when she and her husband Don decided to take on another croft of 300 hectares, and needed the bracken cleared from the land.

Certain areas of the rough grazing weren’t suitable for large machinery, so Cara took the opportunity to voice her thoughts that pigs could sort the land out, using their more natural approach.

As a child she grew up on a council estate in Wales and over the summer, she volunteered at the City Farm. One week she had to clean out the pigs and was in beside the Large Blacks.


The Large Black Pig

With lop ears and a long deep body, the Large Black is Britain’s only all black pig.

They are extremely docile and hardy and suited to simple outdoor systems. Their placid temperament enables them to be easily contained by a single strand electric fence.

The sows are excellent mothers, with exceptional milking ability, and can rear sizeable litters on unsophisticated rations.

The Large Black is also much appreciated for its tasty succulent meat and eating qualities. It is superb as pork but excels when traditionally cured as bacon.


She just fell in love with them, their gentle nature and even though as a child they looked enormous to her, she never felt threatened, they have a lovely sociable nature, like ‘big Labradors’, she said.

She didn’t see them for years, then at Aberdeen Council Farm she spotted some, and had always joked about having them at the croft, and this was her chance.

The hunt was on. She managed to track down a rare breed pig breeder in Invergordon, Bob Pratley, not too far from her, and he had a Large Black sow, but no boar.

Cara and Bob managed to track down a boar, Billy, from Campbeltown. Cupid did his thing and Nonnie, with a little help from Billy, produced six adorable piglets.

The problem here is that Cara has fallen completely in love with this breed and had decided that all the hours wasted playing with Nonnie and the piglets in the shed was worthwhile. She now wants to start her own breeding programme and alert potential pig owners to the wonders of the Large Black breed.

Cara says: “Their docile nature is just lovely. On first sight their size is intimidating, but that’s really not the case, they love a belly rub and just being around people.

“I’m keeping this first litter and we will source some other Large Blacks to dilute the bloodline and try to get this breed off the endangered list. These pigs are not escape artists, if they bump into something, they just wander off in another direction, they are the perfect crofter or smallholders pig.”

The Large Blacks are excellent for meat too. At a recent charcuterie competition in England, the Large Black came out top, as the preferred meat which came from an animal that was 10 years old.

Cara and Don already sell their own quality Highland lamb raised on the croft through their website, and when their pork products are ready they will be added to the website to be delivered fresh overnight directly to customers doors.

Tullich Highland Rare Breed Pigs

At Bob Pratley’s place in Invergordon, pigs are number one and have been for a number of years.

He has registered breeding herds of both Oxford Sandy Blacks (OSB) and Large Blacks (LB), his prefix being Tullich Highland Rare Breed Pigs.

Bob encourages potential pig owners to come to his place and see the pigs, be around them, find out more about them with no obligation to buy. He introduces them to the weaners and they go away happy with a little more knowledge of what pig ownership entails.

Bob says: “Lots of crofters and smallholders can make good use of them to turn over the land, particularly in areas where machinery can’t get into. And no chemicals are needed.”

Bob also has a range of pork meat products for sale, the meat comes from the animals that don’t make the breed standard.

His ambition is to open a centre of excellence where people can come and learn all about pigs, be hands on, and as he says, listen to him boring them rigid about pigs.

He will be running courses, on which guest and veterinary speakers help owners learn more about the different processes involved, see examples of pig housing, types of fencing and drinking equipment. This is all part of his plan for a one stop pig shop, where people can find everything from pig arcs to pig ornaments, pig feed to pig books.

Between Cara and Bob, they have just bought some more Large Blacks up from Wales, to boost the numbers in Scotland so the breeding programme is underway.


Large Black meat is a darker colour, and much tastier as it takes longer to rear, however, it retains that recognisable pork flavour.

Bob says that customers are more than aware of food miles and want to buy local if possible. He lives by the ethos that he doesn’t give his pigs any unnecessary antibiotics unless prescribed by a vet for a veterinary condition, thus keeping things as natural as possible.

He understands that the commercial pig industry has been guilty of using antibiotics in pig rearing, and he understands why, but it's not how he raises his pigs. Bob sells his meat from the farm gate, but his primary objective is to breed healthy and happy stock that conforms to the breed standards in every way. He advertises in on his website and people turn up to buy it.

“I’m going to expand into pig equipment and paraphernalia, there are lots of piggy people out there. Together with friends from another croft we take a stand at Black Isle show and use it as an opportunity to educate people on pigs.

“We take along stock and people are always so amazed at how friendly our pigs are. They love a scratch and to interact with people, kids love to get close, as it may be their first time seeing pigs. I want to encourage the piggy people out there to look at rare breeds as a viable option for their land.”

We meet at Cara’s croft to take photos of the famous Nonnie and her piglets. Cara is right, she does have a lovely docile nature, rooting around looking for a snack, and she is an excellent mum to her piglets which are looking very healthy and robust.

The piglets will be split between Bob and Cara and with the new Large Blacks arriving the breed looks like it is in devoted hands in the Highlands.

For more information, or to hire a boar, contact or Bob on