According to a world-renowned expert in rare livestock breeds, Dr. Phil Sponenberg, Choctaw Hogs are “smart, hardy, and agile,” and “remarkably self-sufficient in mothering and foraging in the rangelands of Oklahoma.”
The Choctaw Hog (Chahta Shukha) descends from Spanish stock brought to the Americas in the 1500s. Although Christopher Columbus brought a few pigs to Cuba in 1493, the Choctaw Hogs in America most likely descended from pigs brought to Tampa, Florida in 1539 by Hernando de Soto. He introduced the Native Americans to pork, and they loved it so much he had to keep giving them pigs to keep the peace. This was not too difficult, since the Iberian pigs adapted so well to their new world that in only three years, his original thirteen pigs had turned into seven hundred, not including the ones eaten, lost, stolen, or given away. In fact, Hernando de Soto was such a good pig farming conquistador that scholars refer to him as the “father of the American pork industry.”
The pig trade flourished, and it was not long before the Choctaws acquired some of these pigs. The Choctaws were gifted farmers; they bred their Spanish Colonial Mustangs into a beautiful and unique breed and did the same with the Iberian Hogs. The hogs crossed the Trail of Tears with the Choctaw Nation in the 19th century, and in the early 20th century, provided important sustenance to Oklahomans during hard times. These hogs played a significant role in American history and culture, yet they are now highly endangered and only around 100-150 animals remain. They are small in size, weighing about 120 pounds and are mostly black with occasional white markings. Their toes are fused, forming a mule-like hoof and many of them have fleshy wattles on each side of the neck. The combination of the distinctive hoof and wattles are consistent with the breed’s Spanish origin. The Choctaw Hogs are similar to the Mulefoot Hog, but the two breeds diverged over the past century and are now genetically unique from one another. The Choctaw Hog is a pure breed, distinct from other genetically mixed feral hog populations still found in the Southeast. They have been perfected over the years to a breed built for survival, with longs legs and heavier weight in the forequarters, making them fast and athletic. They forage for their own food, including roots, plants, acorns and berries. They can become quite tame in spite of their aggressive behavior.