Pietrain: Origin, Characteristics, Feeding, Reproduction

Pietrain pigs are a Belgian pig breed that is widely accepted due to their productive characteristics due to the fact that they have one of the highest fattening and growth rates. The meat of this pig has a high content of muscle (lean meat) and a low presence of fat.

Due to these characteristics, the breed is highly valued in pig production systems, both in pure animals and in different mixtures with other breeds. In addition, they have a good development of the loin and it is used for the production of hams.

Pigs of the Pietrain By L. Mahin breed [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)]

The specimens of this breed tend to have a nervous character and originally present the syndrome of sensitivity to stress, which has a high incidence in the survival of fat adult pigs and also significantly affects the quality of the meat.

Many factors can influence the susceptibility to stress in pigs. Muscular morphology and biochemistry, endocrine responses, genetic and environmental aspects are some of the most important factors involved in stress sensitivity

Article index

  • one


  • two

    General characteristics

    • 2.1

      Sensitivity to stress

    • 2.2

      Pietrain negative to stress

  • 3


  • 4


  • 5



The origin of this breed is Belgian. However, there are many varieties or current genetic lines that exist of the Pietrain breed around the world. 

It probably comes from Nordic pigs that originated from Sus scrofa . They also share some characteristics, such as the shape of the ears, with Asian pigs.

The breed apparently emerged in the second decade of the 19th century, however its existence became known 30 years later in the village of Brabant in Belgium.

Brabant native pietrains are genetically diverse, as are other Belgian pietrain pig assemblages from the Walloon province, southern Belgium. Other pietrain breeding centers in the breed’s center of origin are highly inbred, as the breed had a drop in productivity during WWII.

Other hypotheses of its origin indicate that the Pietrain race comes from the combination of other races such as the French Bayeux and the English Berkshire and Yorkshire. Currently, the number of pure pietrain breeders is declining significantly, so great efforts are being made for its genetic conservation.

General characteristics

Pietrain pigs are characterized by having a great development of the musculature compared to other breeds. They have a short length, good muscle tone in the back and a broad back. The head is light and narrow, with a broad forehead and a broad, straight muzzle. The ears are small and are positioned forward.

This breed has a characteristic white skin coloration with randomly arranged black spots all over the body. Each spot is delimited by regions with lighter coloration and with white fur.

The trunk is relatively wide, not very deep and cylindrical. The shoulders are broad and it presents a noticeable muscular development in the legs and comparatively better qualified than in other breeds. The ventral region is straight and parallel to the dorsal line of the body. The limbs are short and thin ending in closed hooves.

It has a reduced margin of back fat. Females weigh around 280 kg and males around 300 kg. Many Belgian and German breeding grounds have produced pigs with extreme muscular development.

Sensitivity to stress

The pietrain breed is characterized by having a high sensitivity to stress, conferring a problem in the development and growth of the animal and affecting the characteristics of the meat: clear, lean and exudative after slaughter.

Various studies support the idea that the low quality and thinness of the carcass are due to physiological responses to stress. These occur at the level of skeletal muscle metabolism.

Pigs that produce lean meat tend to have a lower percentage of body fat. In this way, the sensitivity to stress is related to the lipid binding capacity. Stress-sensitive pietrain pigs have a higher concentration of free fatty acids in blood plasma.

Pietrain negative to stress

Several genetic lines of pietrain pigs have been selected because they do not have the halothane genotype linked to the condition of sensitivity to stress. This absence has brought with it a series of advantages both in the reproduction and in the development of pigs. Specimens without the halothane genotype are called “stress negative”.

Stress-negative homozygous males present higher body weight, higher fat content in the back, and greater depth of the longis muscle than males heterozygous for the halothane gene.

Additionally, homozygous males have a greater amount of sperm and are more mobile. Females have longer pregnancies, an increase in live-born pups, and a higher piglet weight at weaning.

The stress-negative reproductive and developmental characteristics of Pietrain pigs are also associated with climate. This genetic line performs better in warmer climates, which makes them particularly interesting for growers in tropical climates.


This breed of pigs are usually kept under an intensive or semi-intensive production system. Unlike the creole or hybrid pigs that usually feed on natural pastures, fruits and insects, the pietrain are kept with commercial concentrates or prepared on the farms that breed them.

They generally consume cereals (corn, sorghum, rice, wheat, barley) as the main source of energy and alfalfa flours and corn gluten as a source of protein.

The inclusion of probiotics such as Lactobacillus plantarum and hydrolyzed brewer’s yeast in the diet of juveniles provide various benefits. By mixing these probiotics with the concentrated feed in the diet of newly weaned pietrain pigs mixed with the landrace breed, it provides improvements in growth and development.

Baby pigs Pietrain By 4028mdk09 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]


Pietrain pigs are generally used for the commercialization of the pure breed or used for the improvement of other breeds such as finisher males. In general, males are used for the improvement of other breeds through simple crosses consisting of the reproduction of two pure breeds to produce commercial F1 piglets.

They are also used to make three-way crossings or triple crossings. In this case, heterozygous females, the product of two high-performance breeds and with great maternal attitudes, are crossed with males of a third breeding breed.

The result of these crosses produces a remarkable improvement of the carcass and the performance of the noble parts of the progeny, regardless of the breed of the females.

Females have an average of 9 to 10 young. However, they have a poor milk production rate. In this sense, males are better valued in breed production and improvement activities.


  1. Araque, H., & Porcinos, LS (2009). Pig production systems. Central University of Venezuela. Maracay Campus, Faculty of Agronomy. Institute and Department of animal production. Venezuela .
  2. Elizondo, G., Addis, PB, Rempel, WE, Madero, C., Martin, FB, Anderson, DB, & Marple, DN (1976). Stress response and muscle properties in Pietrain (P), Minnesota No. 1 (M) and P × M pigs. Journal of animal science , 43 (5), 1004-1014.
  3. Hanset, R. (1973, June). Consanguinité et parenté chez le porc de Piétrain. In Annales de génétique et de sélection animale (Vol. 5, No. 2, p. 177). BioMed Central.
  4. Hanset, R., Leroy, P., Michaux, C., & Kintaba, KN (1983). The Hal locus in the Belgian Pietrain pig breed. Zeitschrift für Tierzüchtung und Züchtungsbiologie , 100 (1-5), 123-133.
  5. Hurtado, E., Vera, R., Arteaga, F., & Cueva, T. Effect of the inclusion of probiotics ( Lactobacillus plantarum and hydrolyzed beer yeast) in pigs in the breeding stage. Polytechnic School of Manabí Manuel Félix López, Carrera Livestock. Agricultural area. Ecuador.
  6. Luc, DD, Bo, HX, Thomson, PC, Binh, DV, Leroy, P., & Farnir, F. (2013). Reproductive and productive performances of the stress-negative Piétrain pigs in the tropics: the case of Vietnam. Animal Production Science , 53 (2), 173-179
  7. Stratz, P., Wimmers, K., Meuwissen, THE, & Bennewitz, J. (2014). Investigations on the pattern of linkage disequilibrium and selection signatures in the genomes of German Piétrain pigs. Journal of Animal Breeding and Genetics , 131 (6), 473-482.
  8. Wood, JD, Gregory, NG, Hall, GM, & Lister, D. (1977). Fat mobilization in Pietrain and Large White pigs. British Journal of Nutrition , 37 (2), 167-186.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button