Maveric Heritage Ranch Co. owns the largest herd of American Mulefoot hogs in existence and we have started over 50 breeders with Mulefoot stock.
All our pigs are registered with:
The American Mulefoot Hog Association & Registry
Mulefoots are classified as “Critical” by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy & are the rarest American pig breed. There are about 300 purebred, registered Mulefoots, all with pedigrees tracing back to the RM Holliday herd.
Mulefoots from Maveric can be seen around the country at many breed preservation facilities, public zoos and sustainable farms. See our How to Buy Livestock page for available stock and start raising this truly American breed today.
Mulefoot Description from the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy:
The most distinctive feature of the American Mulefoot hog is the solid hoof, which resembles that of a mule or horse. Pigs with solid hooves (a physical characteristic called syndactylism) have attracted the interest of many writers over the centuries, including Aristotle and Darwin. The American Mulefoot is the only syndactyl breed with a documented history & breed standard. Mulefoots are solid black with occasional white points (feet or nose), medium flop ears & a soft body coat. They are typically docile, friendly & exceptionally intelligent animals.
In the early 1900′s, Mulefoots were considered premium “ham-hogs”, and were fed to great weights before slaughter. A typical Mulefoot today will reach 400-600 pounds by age 2.
A Brief History of Mulefoots:
A remnant population of the American Mulefoot has been owned by R.M. Holiday of Louisiana, Missouri, for nearly forty years. He remembers from boyhood that his family and others raised these hogs by putting them on islands in the Missouri and Mississippi rivers to forage during the summer and then rounding them up in the fall for slaughter. This practice was terminated by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1950′s.
In 1964 Mr. Holiday gathered together stock from all the known breeders and established his herd. During 1976 he swapped animals with a breeder in North Dakota, which introduced some undesirable traits such as prick ears, wattles and split hooves.
Nevertheless, Holliday’s strong and consistent production selection has maintained a generally uniform and characteristic herd. After his experience with this “exotic” animal dealer he sold no more stock except those contracted for slaughter.
During these years, the Mulefoot registries folded and all known copies of the herd books were lost.
About Maveric Mulefoots:
In 2001, we added Mulefoot hogs to our ranch. From the moment the piglets set hoof on our ranch, they were handled, spoiled and looked upon with awe. These pigs were different than the market hogs we’d raised, and not just in their appearance. The mulefoots were docile, easy to manage, and very entertaining. They didn’t get sunburned, enjoyed grazing and were gentle enough to hand feed. Our core group of pigs grew rapidly, and the following spring, they were mature enough for breeding.
The first litter of piglets born on our ranch were met with nervous anticipation. We’d read everything we could find about farrowing. But, when the time came, we did little more than ooh & ahh. The mulefoot mothers gave birth with ease, & the hardy piglets were nursing within minutes. At about 2 days old, the little ones were crawling out of the nest & exploring their pen.
The piglets grew rapidly, and each developed a distinct personality. We were so enamored with them, we decided to seek out more breeding stock & increase our herd. The following winter, we added six more females from two different breeders.
At that point, all our stock was 2nd & 3rd generation Holliday, and came from breeders who had started with pigs from the RM Holliday herd. I’ll admit, I was a bit jealous of the folks who had been to the Holliday farms and started with Foundation stock. In the late 1980′s, the RM Holliday herd of Mulefoots was the last documented herd known to exist. This herd has become the Foundation stock for all registered Mulefoot hogs. I had been told that no more pigs were available from Mr. Holliday. Still, I thought I’d take a chance, write RM Holliday a letter to tell him about our Mulefoots.
I’d heard many a tale of Mr. Holliday, including how he disliked people from the parks and conservation groups. Some people told of how they’d tried to buy stock from him for years, to no avail. Yet others told of his sense of humor, friendliness, & how he loved to reminisce about his 40+ years raising Mulefoot hogs. I sent my letter and hoped. To my surprise and delight, I received a call from RM Holliday a few days later. We had many more phone conversations over the next few months, and became fast friends. I made plans for us to visit his farm in Missouri. Mr. Holliday also agreed to sell me a couple of gilts. I was thrilled with the opportunity to meet the Legend and to obtain Foundation stock of my own.
It was well below zero degrees when we arrived at the RM Holliday home in February 2006. We chatted about the pigs we already had, and shared pictures. Mr. Holliday told me the familiar stories of his grandfather, and the pigs being raised on islands in the Missouri River. He talked about his other two farms, his daughter and deceased wife. He made mention of the fact that he would be turning 89 years old in June. We took lots of pictures. Then we made a makeshift alleyway to round up the pigs and sort off the ones we were taking home. Mr. Holliday let me choose any and all I wanted. I was very pleased to head home with 8 gilts, 1 sow, 1 boar and two bonus piglets. In essence, we’d just doubled our Mulefoot hog herd.
Shortly after returning home, I sent Mr. Holliday a thank you letter and some of the pictures we had taken. He was deeply touched by this gesture, and said as much the next time we talked. I told him that if he ever decided to “officially” retire, we’d be interested in the rest of the hogs. He must have already been thinking about it, because he told me to come and get them! In April ’06, we made a second trip from South Dakota to eastern Missouri to purchase the remaining Holliday herd.
While there, we had the opportunity to talk with Mr. Holliday for several hours, and he told us many more stories of his childhood, hogs, neighbors and more. He was deeply concerned for the welfare of the Mulefoots, and their continued survival. When it came time for us to load up and leave, he handed me his notebook. This worn and tattered notebook was precious to Mr. Holliday, as it contained original registration paperwork for the first Mulefoot hogs he owned, details of the pigs he had sold, pictures and correspondence dating back to 1961. This notebook was a treasure trove of Mulefoot information, and a peek into the world of a man who felt deeply committed to raising this breed for more than 40 years. I was honored by the gift.
We truly enjoy raising Mulefoot hogs. Raising them can be challenging and a lot of hard work. But, every piglet that becomes an adult, and later produces offspring, enhances the gene pool, and adds to the assurance that the Mulefoot breed will survive. Proper nutrition, living conditions, planned matings & human interactions are part of the daily routine at our ranch.
Mulefoots are a very serviceable animal. Raised on pasture, alfalfa and minimal grain supplementation, the Mulefoots are a low input livestock. In the early 1900′s, several farm publications, school books and farm animal judging booklets gave detailed breed standards for the Mulefoot, and referred to them as a Premium Ham hog. These quality hogs commanded a 10-20% mark-up over the current hog market prices. Mulefoots do grow slightly slower than commercial hogs, but it is well worth the wait. The pork has time to mature into flavorful, rich and nutritious meat. Featured and revered on the Slow Foods Ark, the meat from the Mulefoot hog is increasing in popularity with chefs and connoisseurs of fine food.
We are working diligently to educate the public about these great animals, and tell all we meet about the importance of saving Heritage Breeds of livestock. Touting an end use for these rare breeds, ie: meat, milk, eggs, companions, etc., will hopefully encourage people to raise them. Heritage breeds are not only a vital part of our history, and deserve to be saved on that merit alone, but they offer a genetic diversity that may be invaluable in saving animals and humans in the future. Although the Mulefoot is still considered critically rare, there is hope for it’s future. Today there are over 300 purebred Mulefoot hogs registered with the American Mulefoot Hog Assoc. Granted, 300 pigs is not a population explosion, but it does show that the integrity and commitment of the Mulefoot breeders is having an impact on the overall global outlook.
In 2006, we contracted with two State Universities to obtain DNA samples of the Mulefoot hogs. We felt that the testing would help us to identify family groups in the pigs, and to determine which of the six original bloodlines were still in existence. Additionally, the DNA results will allow us to track certain characteristics of the Mulefoots, look at the heritability of these traits, and allow us to plan matings with the most genetic diversity. We also collected hair samples for DNA research for a project coordinated by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC). This study will hopefully determine the origin of the Mulefoot hog, a part of Mulefoot history that is still unclear.
All foundation breeding stock at Maveric Heritage Ranch Co. is now DNA tested. Each animal can be traced back to its original bloodline. Aside from determining parentage, the DNA results offer us a look at a breed that has been largely left in its primitive state. Purebred Mulefoots of today look nearly identical to the ones raised 100 years ago. Their hardiness and disease resistance are of great interest to other hog breeders. Our commitment to the conservation of this breed is getting a little help from science, and we are most grateful.
We are not much younger in age than RM Holliday was when he started raising Mulefoot hogs. Our personal history with this breed is just beginning. If you are considering adding hogs to your farm, homestead or ranch, we would encourage you to consider Mulefoots. Lets contribute to the conservation of the Mulefoot Hog and make history together!
We typically have mulefoot piglets available from unrelated bloodlines. Sows, bred sows, gilts and adult boars are available occasionally. If you are interested in starting your own herd of this exciting breed, raising a mulefoot for freezer pork or would like a large and loving pet, please visit our How to Buy Livestock page.