Saving the Guinea Hogs: The Recovery of an American Homestead Breed

Saving the Guinea Hogs: The Recovery of an American Homestead Breed


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"These were the best hogs I've ever seen," said seventy-five year old Cohen Archer. He grew up with the amiable black Guinea Hogs in Washington County, Georgia. Cohen’s father died when he was just twelve years old, in 1954. His mother subsequently sold the hogs, and Cohen didn't see another one until he visited Cathy Payne's farm in 2017. Mr. Archer shares his memories of the hogs, his family's favorite breed, and how he remembered them building nests with sticks to protect their newborn litters in the woods. He also remembered their gentle natures, soft grunts, and amicable personalities.

Saving the Guinea Hogs, a narrative nonfiction book, is the first definitive history of the Guinea Hog breed. Rich in historically accurate information, it is easy to read and full of colorful characters. It is a comprehensive overview of the people who raised Guinea Hogs from 1940 to 1995, told in their own words and enlightening stories. These first-person stories reveal the subjects’ deep fondness for and attachment to the amiable Guinea Hogs. Some recall a time when their families did not have access to electricity or indoor plumbing. The Guinea Hog was utilized head to tail, providing meat, lard, and grease to meet crucial family needs.

The Guinea Hog is a small, black, hairy, sturdy, and gentle breed of hog kept in the Southeastern United States prior to the Civil War. The Guinea Hog has long been a part of America’s cultural history. Due to a confluence of factors, it was nearly extinct by the 1990s. The loss of any breed’s unique genetic material can leave the future of a species in peril. Saving the Guinea Hogs will bring the characteristics of the hogs to life, including what is known of their history and genetics, their unique characteristics, their temperament and personality, and how they benefitted generations of small landholders.

Additionally, socioeconomic and political factors that eventually led to the near demise of the Guinea Hog are reported. Around 2004, a group of dedicated conservation breeders, encouraged by The Livestock Conservancy, stepped forward to save the Guinea Hogs. Cathy Payne interviewed many of the breeders and reports their stories through their own words. Her diligent research over several years retraces the history of the Guinea Hogs while preserving the memories of those who kept them. These stories are rich in details including how livestock was kept on the homestead or run in the woods on shared land, how they were marked and trained to come home, and how in some cases they were driven to market on foot, sometimes across state lines, and traded for produce. There are also stories about home butchering as a community affair and how smokehouses and other now-forgotten food preservation techniques were used before the families owned either refrigerators or freezers.

When Cathy’s research brought her in contact with rare genetic bloodlines not preserved during the formation of the American Guinea Hog Association (AGHA) in 2006, she worked with a network of women to obtain these genetics and work with the registry to add valuable genetic diversity to the national herd.

Cathy takes what she has learned from her contacts with these breeders and focuses on strategies to preserve this breed and its distinct family bloodlines. Readers are encouraged to become active in the breed assocation and register their hogs to monitor their genetics and relatedness. Cathy states that she wants these hogs to still thrive in the year 2120 for the enjoyment of her great grandchildren. These homestead hogs are survivors worth preserving for future generations!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781733593205
Publisher: Cedar Springs Garden Enterprises, LLC
Publication date: 03/29/2019
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.51(d)

About the Author

Cathy R. Payne had a thirty-three-year elementary teaching career serving struggling students. She has three degrees in education from the University of Georgia in Athens. In 2010, at age fifty-seven, she retired from teaching and started a sustainable farm, Broad River Pastures, in Elberton, Georgia with her husband, Jon. The farm specialized in nutrient-dense food and heritage breeds of livestock. In her third year of farming, she discovered the Guinea Hog breed. It seemed like a perfect fit for an eleven-acre homestead. She became frustrated, however, about the scant information she could find about the hogs' history and bloodlines.

Cathy had experience with interviews, research, and writing from her doctoral studies, so she decided to write a book herself. To complete this monumental task, she interviewed dozens of key people who had memories of the Guinea Hog and those involved in their conservation. These conversations were recorded, allowing her to share their stories word for word, preserving rich details and nuance that bring a colorful perspective to this history.

The Livestock Conservancy has monitored Guinea Hogs since 1986. They opened their archives for Cathy to help her portray what was already known and recorded about the hogs, including summaries of DNA studies. Early members of the American Guinea Hog Association (AGHA) helped provide names of people she may want to contact. She spent over five years interviewing these sources and making connections between the various stories.

In the midst of this project, late in 2015, Cathy stumbled upon information about two long-time Guinea Hog breeders who were dispersing their herds. Through these connections, another discovery was made by a friend in early 2016. These dispersals represented genetics that had never entered the genetic base of the AGHA. Cathy and three other women breeders joined forces to form a communication network. Working together, they urged the AGHA to begin a Genetic Recovery program. They obtained the newly discovered hogs, completed DNA testing, observed their traits, and applied for recognition through the Genetic Recover process. After two years, the hard work was rewarded and the hogs richly enhanced the biodiversity in the national herd.

Cathy has been featured in several prominent podcasts to educate listeners about heritage breeds. She has presented talks about heritage breeds for the South Carolina Organization for Organic Learning, the 40th Annual conference of The Livestock Conservancy, and more. Cathy's farm is featured in a section on heritage breeds in An Ecosystem Approach to Sustainable Agriculture: Energy Use Efficiency in the American South, by Carl F. Jordan, Springer Press, 2013.

Cathy is enamored with heritage breeds. She has been an active member of The Livestock Conservancy since 2010 and the American Guinea Hog Association since 2013. This is her first book and the first in a series about the Guinea Hogs. Cathy recently sold her farm and moved to Athens, Georgia to be near family and community. She now divides her time between writing, consulting, speaking, marketing, gardening, and managing her website at Cathy can be contacted by email at

D. Phillip Sponenberg, DVM, PhD, has Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Texas A&M University and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Cornell University. His interests include rare canine genetics, coat color genetics, conservation of rare livestock breeds, and reproductive and diagnostic pathology. He raises Karakachan livestock guardian dogs and American fainting goats at Beechkeld Farm in Virginia.

He serves as technical program director for The Livestock Conservancy.
He has been bestowed the rare appointment of Honorary Member of the American College of Theriogenologists, and is a Professor of Pathology and Genetics at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Table of Contents

Part I An Introduction to the Hogs

Chapter One Meet the Guinea Hog

Chapter Two Issues of Black and White (And Red or Blue all Over)

Part II Raising Guinea Hogs 1940-1995

Chapter Three Era of the Southern Hog: Interviews with Elders

Part III Why did the Guinea Hogs Approach Extinction?

Chapter Four Vanishing Hogs

Part IV Organizing to Save the Guinea Hogs 1990-2006

Chapter Five Getting Organized

Part V Foundation Stock and Breeders in the AGHA

Chapter Six Bill Biggers

Chapter Seven J. Frank Baylis

Chapter Eight The Setty Line Hogs: Setty, Celesky, and Watkins Connection

Part VI Discovering the Missing Genetics

Chapter Nine Breeders of the Lost Genetics

Part VII Expanding the National Herd

Chapter Ten Genetic Recovery Begins

Chapter Eleven The Historic Herds Network

Chapter Twelve The Genetic Recovery Project

Part VIII Where do we go from Here?

Chapter Thirteen Keeping our Momentum: a Call to Action

About the Author


Resources and Bibliography




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Saving the Guinea Hogs: The Recovery of an American Homestead Breed 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
CloserToTheLandFarm 10 months ago
An incredible book packed full of informative interviews. It's a definite must-read for anyone wanting to raise Guinea Hogs, or even for those who just want a deeper insight into the history of southeastern America.
ReadersFavorite More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Kimberlee J Benart for Readers' Favorite If you’re interested in the history of American farming and hog breeds in general or preserving heritage hog breeds from extinction in particular, Saving the Guinea Hogs: The Recovery of an American Homestead Breed by Cathy R. Payne is for you. I found it to be an utterly readable, well-organized, very comprehensive, and informative presentation on a topic about which I knew almost nothing but found fascinating. Too many plant and animal varieties have already been lost to the American continent. Once common on family farms, especially in the southern United States, the Guinea Hog was almost lost to the modern agribusiness emphasis on larger breeds that can be taken to market quickly. “The American Guinea Hog is an old-fashioned heritage breed that was almost extinct in 2006,” Payne writes. “These homestead hogs are survivors and worth preserving for future generations.” In a preface to the book, Professor D. Phillip Sponenberg notes the importance of Payne’s work and praises her networking and teamwork approach as setting an example that could be used to save other local breeds as well. Payne wrote Saving the Guinea Hogs after she decided to become a small-scale sustainable farmer in her retirement years and wanted to raise this smaller, gentler, slower growing hog in part for its culinary appeal. Payne found almost no literature or research about the breed and set out to rectify the situation, especially when she realized that many of the old timer farmer breeders were passing away and with them a precious oral history. As a result, this book, other publications, and a web site now provide breeders, homesteaders, farm-to-table chefs, sustainable and hobby farmers, historians, and conservationists with valuable genetic information about this American landrace hog breed.