The pig is one of the oldest established animals in husbandry, having been domesticated some 8,000 years ago in Asia, from where it was brought to Europe.
And the Mangalitsa pig, (Mangalitza in German & Mangalica in Hungarian) is one of the oldest European breeds. Breeding started started in the 1830s in the Austro-Hungarian Empire after Archduke Joseph Anton Johann received some Sumadija pigs from a Serbian prince, and crossed them with Bakony and Szalonta pigs. The resulting Mangalitsa “curly-hair hog” was initially reserved for the Habsburg Royalty, but became so popular because of its great taste that by the end of the 19th century it was the main breed in Europe.
Many of the pigs were herded from Burgenland (part of Hungary until 1921 – now an Austrian province) to the slaughter houses in Vienna, just like the cattle were herded to the slaughter houses in the Midwest. Fattened to 250-300 kg (550 to 650 lbs), most of the meat was used for speck and lard, but the now famous “Stelze” (pork shank) was introduced at that time as well.
The Mangalitsa pig was honored by the great composer Johann Strauss II in 1885 his Operetta “The Gypsy Baron”, in which the pig breeder Zsupan declares that he lives for pigs and speck – but has no time for intellectual activities.
But with changing conditions in animal husbandry after World War II, when tastes changed in Western Europe, and Hungarian Agriculture was collectivised, the breed rapidly declined and was replaced with leaner and more rapidly growing breeds. By the end of the 1970s Mangalitsa pigs in Austria could only be found in National Parks and Zoos, and less than 200 breeding sows remained in Hungary.
But by the mid 1980’s the Mangalitsa Renaissance got started in Austria & Hungary, and the Kobe Beef of pork has made a huge comeback since then. By 1994 the Austrian breeders Association had 43 members, and by today there are over 80 breeders in Austria. In Hungary in the meantime there are over 10,000 breeding sows again, over 90% of which are the Blonde Mangalitsas, and thanks to Isabell and Christoph Wiesner out of the small village of Wischathal in Lower Austria, there are now Mangalitsa breeders in most European countries, as well as the United States and Russia.
Many fine restaurants in Europe are now serving the delicious Mangalitsa meat again, and demand in the U.S. is rapidly increasing since the pig was introduced here to the gourmet market a few years ago.
From New York to San Francisco fine restaurants are serving great Mangalitsa dinners, and we see the demand for these products increasing rapidly as more pigs become available.
The breed did not get officially recognized until 1927.