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Chester White Pigs – Breed Profile, Behavior & Care


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Pig farming in itself is a craft that not many people can handle. It is the type of a craft that takes many years to learn, and even more to perfect.

There are a lot of things that you will learn along the way that will change the way you look at pig farming.

For example, the main question that every newbie asks when they get into pig farming is and will always be: What breed should I go for?

The answer that you will get here fully depends on the pig farmer themselves, but for the most part you’ll be recommended breeds such as the Hampshire pig, the Berkshire pig, the Duroc pig and the Yorkshire pig.

All these are great picks themselves, but as you work more and more in the field, you will learn that different breeds are better for different purposes.

And, one such breed that is often overlooked by beginners but adored by experienced pig farmers is none other than the Chester White.

This is a great option for the people out there that are looking for rear large, fatty pigs that they can use for commercial and domestic use.

On top of that, they tend to put on weight very quickly and as such are considered to be top tier for meat lovers.

Regardless of whether you’re looking for a good domestic or commercial crossbreeding pig, the Chester White breed will more than fit the requirements with ease.

But what exactly makes it so good and more importantly, should you invest into a Chester White pig as a complete beginner? Let’s find out together as we talk about everything there is to know about this wondrous white pig breed, starting off with its humble beginnings:

The Origins and History

Should You Raise Chester White Pigs

As the name implies, the Chester White pig breed is believed to have originated from the Chester County in Pennsylvania. It used to be known as the Chester County White, but before of its increasing popularity it was slightly altered.

Its origins are believed to stem around the years 1815 and 1818, as the breeders must have used different strains of large, white pigs from the Northeastern side of US.

These genes were then intermingled with a brand new breed known as the Woburn pig which was brought by John Russell Duke of Bedford, England.

Regardless, this breed was officially recognized when a judge saw two breeders bring a Chester White pig to a county fair back in 1848.

The standard for the breed back then was a totally white body with medium sized droopy ears. It instantly caught on as being one of the best breeds you could get, especially so thanks to the caring nature of the female Chester White pigs.

By the time 1884 rolled around, a breed association came into being, but it wasn’t the only one to appear around this time.

In fact, multiple organizations sprung forward all the way up until the 20th century, with each preaching different standards altogether.

One of the most notable competing organizations around was the International Ohio Improved Chester Swine Record Association. It came into being around 1891 and it renamed the breed “the Ohio Improved Chester”.

Even so, multiple different breeds were added to the mix, creating different strains that all went under the same name.

This was all about to change though as the Certified Pedigreed Swine Association came into being around the year 1997.

It aimed to combine the records of all of the strains, officially giving them all the umbrella name of “Chester White pigs”.

Chester White Pig – Origins
Photo by Box 6- 143 / Wikipedia.org

Nowadays you’ll find the Chester White breed to be considered one of the top choices out there. While it is not as popular as the Duroc, Hampshire or Yorkshire breeds, it still earns its keep for multiple reasons.

For one, it is a very popular choice for commercial crossbreeding operations thanks to its pork genes. Second of all, it is by far the most durable of the white breeds out there.

Third of all, it can pack on quite a lot of mass very quickly, with it being able to gain around 1.36lbs or 0.62kg a day and 1lb or 0.45kg for every 3lbs or 1.4kg of grain that it eats up.

It’s not all positives though as the pale color of the Chester White pig also works against it, making it more prone to sunburn.

This means that during the warmest of seasons you will need to provide it with plenty of shade so that it doesn’t have to worry about that damaging his health.

Chester White Pig Characteristics

Chester White Pig – Characteristics

It is believed that there are around two billion Chester White pigs around the world as of the writing of this article.

As such, they have been thoroughly researched over the years. This is why we know that Chester White pigs are by far some of the most intelligent creatures we could have around us.

They’re omnivores, meaning that they can survive off of both meat and plants alike, and on top of that they’re also quite large, being one of the largest commercial pig breeds out there.

Sadly though, this size does work against them due to the all-white hair and pinkish skin being easily irritated and sunburnt.

Its medium-sized ears are also worth noting as they can end up falling over its eyes a lot of the time, protecting it further from the blazing sun.

By far one of the most interesting characteristics of the Chester White pig is its snout though. That’s because through it they can detect food and smell.

The Chester White breed also doesn’t sweat all that much, so when the hellish hours of the day start scorching the earth, you will notice your big covering itself in a protective layer of mud.

That again showcases just how intelligent the Chester White pigs really are, as they will constantly think of ways to escape confinement and protect themselves.

Mating wise, you’ll notice the fact that it is the male that attracts the females, not the other way around.

It does so by producing pheromones that attracts the sows towards it. These pheromones are produced in its saliva, and as soon as the mating season begins the males start salivating everywhere to mark their territory.

The females will then use their snouts to find the scent and they will seek out the partner if they see him as a fitting mate.

This is another reason as to why we previously mentioned just how important of a tool the snout is for the Chester White pig.

The typical adult Chester White pig has a total of 44 teeth, although when they are piglets, they tend to have 28 or less.

Regardless, as they age, these piglets will start dropping all of their teeth down on the ground, with all of their mouth being replaced by the time they get to be 12 months old.

Chester White Pig – Characteristic

Interestingly enough, these teeth are very similar to our own, as they’re also covered in enamel, the substance that keeps our teeth strong and healthy.

But that’s not where the similarities end, as the Chester White pigs also chew their food just like we do. This is because their digestive system is incapable of going through unchewed food.

So, you will often times see them chew down on their food for long periods of time just so they don’t end up with indigestion later on.

As you can expect from a pig, the Chester White has four legs that are known as trotters. In some cultures they are considered to be a delicacy, so you can sell them later on for quite a profit on that market under the names “pig knuckles” or “pig feet”.

Their paws are also quite interesting looking, as they have four toes pointed downwards where the pig is walking.

Another interesting fact about the Chester White pig is the fact that they walk on their fingertips as opposed to stepping on their entire paws.

This is why they only really need its two middle toes to walk, as the other two are mainly used just to maintain their balance.

Chester White Feeding Habits

Chester White Pig – Feeding

Chester White pigs are still pigs after all, so you shouldn’t worry too much about what they put into their bodies.

For the most part, they will eat anything and everything you give them, including any random smaller creatures that may wonder into their territory by accident. This means that you need to keep your pets and chickens as far away from the pigs as possible.

Trust us, it won’t be long until your pig will have its very own special delivery KFC if you don’t keep them as far away from each other as possible.

Pigs are ravenous scrap eaters, they will literally consume anything and everything in sight until they can’t even more anymore.

Couple that with the fact that Chester White pigs are known for eating even more than the standard pig and you can quickly see why this isn’t the most cost-effective breed out there.

Chester White Swine

Luckily, this does end up working out in your favor as you can pretty much throw any scraps at them and they’ll be happy to get rid of them for you. They are especially fond of the following though:

  • Corn Husks
  • Potato Skins
  • Other Veggies

If you do decide to leave them free roam, these are the favorite meals that your pig will love to consume at any moment of the day:

  • Grass
  • Leaves
  • Fruits
  • Roots
  • Flowers

Do keep in mind however that if you will be keeping these pigs in confinement for the most part, you should feed them various foods such as corn with vitamins and minerals as well as soybean meals.

On top of that your pigs should also drink around 14 gallons of water every single day, so if you want your pig to grow big and fat, you will need to invest quite heavily in its food and water supply.

Chester White Health Problems

Chester White Piglets
Curiousfarmer / youtube.com

Chester White pigs can live up to be around 6 to 10 years in total. This makes the breed quite amazing for newbies as they won’t need to worry about having the same pig live on the farm for as long as 20 years, as is the case for most other pigs.

They are also exceptionally durable, although they can still end up with a vitamin C deficiency if you’re not careful.

These are the telltale signs that your pig has a vitamin C deficiency:

  • Internal bleeding
  • Swollen joints
  • Skeletal muscle bleeding

If your pig suffers from these conditions or other diseases, they will need to be rushed to the veterinarian immediately because they won’t be long for this world if you don’t do something about it.

You can tell if your pig is suffering from any of those afflictions based on their behavior patterns. If your pig is acting lethargic, weak and they’ve lost a lot of weight as of late for example, this could be a sign that something’s wrong.

At the same time, you can tell that your pig is going through something if they start to get diarrhea and their coats become rather rough to the touch.

The Advantages of Raising Chester White Pigs

Chester White Pig – Raising plus

There are quite a lot of advantages we already brought up by now when it comes to raising Chester White Pig.

Just to reiterate though, these are the main benefits that we believe you should be aware of before purchasing your very first Chester White Pig:

  • They produce a lot of pork and bacon, and the overall quality of the meat is amazing
  • They gain weight very quickly which makes them quite proficient investments considering just how fast you can harvest their meat
  • The sows are very good breeders that are born with inherently great mothering skills
  • The sows also multiply quickly and they’re known for producing a very large litter every time
  • They convert most of the food into a lot of meat, which is quite a huge benefit considering just how high-quality their meat is in the first place
  • They are easy to sell on the market and they do fetch a great price so you will easily make your money back

Do keep in mind however that you shouldn’t be raising your Chester White pig alone since they are social animals after all.

This means that you should invest into at lest two of them at a time, although they do best in a herd, even if it is quite a small one.

They do seem to thrive outdoors though, so you will need to provide them with a large area filled with mud so that they can cool themselves there when the summer hours come.

The Disadvantages to Raising Chester White Pigs

Chester White Pig – Raising minus

These are the main disadvantages that you’ll have to learn to live with as a new Chester White Pig owner:

  • As mentioned previously, because they are large white pigs, Chester Whites will easily get sunburnt so they will need a lot of shade during the summer
  • Vitamin C deficiency is very common for Chester White pigs. This deficiency will make them lethargic and weak, eventually leading to them passing out or becoming anorexic
  • They need a lot of room to live in and specialized housing during the summer so that they don’t end up getting sunburnt all that often
  • The pigs also don’t sweat so they will need a lot of mud around them at all times to make sure that their skin can breathe properly
  • The fact that they don’t sweat can also lead to many different health conditions which will be seen most commonly in their growth. If you don’t take proper care of your Chester White pig they will not grow anywhere near their maximum size
  • They can be quite aggressive if you don’t take proper care of them too, so make sure that you interact with them quite a lot during those early years to avoid problems later on down the line

Should You Raise Chester White Pigs?

Chester White Hog

Now the real question is simple enough, should you invest your time and money into raising a Chester White pig or should you go for a different breed?

Well, the answer is actually quite difficult to say as this breed has a lot of advantages and disadvantages going for it.

For one, it is not the most cost effective breed you could invest into, so if you feel like you don’t have the budget to raise two or more of these Chester White pigs, then you should probably look elsewhere for now.

But, at the same time, if you do invest in them a lot you will get that money back eventually. So, it’s a bit of a double edged sword.

For one, they are expensive to get, keep and especially to take care of. They have a lot of needs and they’re practically black holes when it comes to the amount of food they can consume every day.

And yet, they are also very beautiful creatures that taste amazing and most importantly, can guarantee you a good and hefty profit in a matter of a couple of years or so.

So, our answer may be a bit divisive, but at the same time it is our honest opinion here. Should you raise a Chester White pig? Yes.

But, do remember the fact that these Chester White pigs are social creatures that need to be raised in herds, so you can’t just buy one and keep it around just like that.

In most cases, if they are kept in solitary confinement, the Chester White pig will end up depressed which will make it eat less food and thus you will end up with a lot less meat by the end of the year.


Chester White Pigs
Schminke Genetics / facebook.com

Well, there you have it, that is all you need to know about the Chester White pig breed. It might not be the most popular breed around, but it’s downright amazing.

It’s lesser known and a lot more costly to take care of, but if you do end up spending your money for it, you can be sure that you’ll be making your money back in no time.

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About Leah Shelton

Involved in the “green” arena for over 20 years, Leah has worn many hats due to her diverse experience and knowledge in the field. In addition to writing for Agronomag, she’s also a sustainability consultant with a unique perspective on eco-friendly farming practices. Learn more about Agronomag's Editorial Process.

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