Meishan is a breed of domestic pig named for the Chinese prefecture of Meishan. It is a sub-group of the Taihu pig, and is a small to medium-sized breed with large drooping ears and wrinkled black skin, particularly so on the face. The breeds imported from China are slow-growing and fat, but have a very good taste. They are resistant to some diseases when compared to many other domesticated breeds, and are able to consume large amounts of roughage. Native to Southern China, the breed is best- known for its large litters of 15-16 piglets. Due to its fecundity, it was imported to the United States in the late 1980s by the USDA Agricultural Research Service, which effort also imported Fengjing and Minzhu pigs from China.
A total of 144 pigs from these three breeds were shipped to the United States. Iowa State University, for example, received 22 Meishan females and 10 Meishan boars from this shipment on 27 July 1989. Unfortunately, however, the Meishan has not found much use in farms as a result of its slower growth rates and abundance of fat. On the other hand, it reaches maturity very early, with both boars and sows carrying traits that make them one of the most prolific breeds in the world. They are considered Taihu pigs, deriving their name from the Taihu Lake in their region of origin. This region lies in the Mid-Subtropic Belt, a narrow region between North and Central China in the Lower Changjiang River Basin and Southeast Coast. This area has a mild climate.
Meishan pigs are well-fed and managed, being fed farm by-products and water plants, as well as concentrates.
The Meishan breed is known for its wrinkled face and skin. Sows grow to be about 57.8 cm high, 100 cm around the chest, and 61.6 kg in live-weight. They have a backfat thickness of 2.5 cm and a dressing percentage of 66.8%.
Meishan pigs are perhaps one of the most prolific breeds of pig in the world. They reach puberty at 2.5-3 months of age, achieve high embryo survival rates, and a large litter size of 15-16 pigs. It is quite common to have two litters per year. Third and later parities of this breed had 17.0 pigs born, with 12.9 being weaned.
Today, the Meishan Pig is the focus of a major conservation effort involving the Livestock Conservancy and the American Meishan Breeders Association. The number of breeders in the US is rising primarily due to the Meishan Pig’s adaptability to smallholder farms.