Monday, July 27, 2009


The grice was a type of swine native to the Shetland Isles of Scotland; similar pigs also occurred in the Highlands and Islands. Small in size, yet ferocious, this domesticated breed of pig fell out of favour with crofters during the late 19th century and became extinct.

Accounts suggest grice were aggressive animals with small tusks, an arched back, and a coat of stiff dark bristles over a fleece of wool. Like other species on the islands, evolved to be small and hardy to survive the harsh environmental conditions.

"Grice" is a Scottish and northern English dialect word originally meaning "young pig" (Scandinavian: Gris).

Most Shetland crofts would have at least one grice kept on grazing lands, though they would often roam across adjacent farmland, rooting up crops and occasionally attacking lambs. This behaviour led to the passing of a "grice law" fining the owner £10 plus the cost of any damages caused by rogue grice. This was such a problem that the townspeople would refer to their damaged property as being "griced."

In the 1800s, landowners discouraged the keeping of swine on island crofts. This, combined with the increasing import of other breeds from the Scottish mainland, resulted in a dwindling grice population, and by the 1930s the breed was extinct.

In 2006 curators at the Shetland Museum and Archives commissioned a taxidermist to recreate a grice from the stuffed body of an immature wild boar. As noone alive had seen a grice, the accuracy of the model relied on descriptions in "published sources ... investigated artifact and archaeological findings". The model grice went on public display in spring 2007.

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