Rare-breed boar from Conner Prairie herd part of Purdue University, national research program to preserve species


    Hannah Kiefer
    Communications Specialist
    Conner Prairie
    (800) 966-1836

    FISHERS, Ind. (Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016/Conner Prairie) – One of Conner Prairie’s rare-breed hogs is being genetically studied by Purdue University and will be part of a national research program aimed at preserving the species. Semen from an Ossabaw Island hog soon will be entered into the National Animal Germplasm Preservation program.

    The purpose of the program, which is funded by the federal government and began in the 1970s for seeds and the 1990s for animal germplasm, is “to gather as much range of genetic diversity among all the species and get it preserved primarily for security, in case of some sort of future disaster” like disease, said Terry Stewart, professor of Animal Sciences at Purdue.

    All of the germplasm is stored at a U.S. Department of Agriculture site in Fort Collins, Colo. Stewart said Purdue helps collect the samples with a focus on swine, beef cattle and dairy cattle.

    The Ossabaw Island hog is a rare breed that lives on Ossabaw Island off the coast of Georgia. The hogs are descendants of Spanish pigs that Spanish sailors brought to the New World more than 400 years ago. Because of their isolation to the island, herds became inbred. Certain alleles, or alternative forms of genes, became prevalent in the population as a result.

    “By random chance, the Ossabaw Island hogs fixed several alleles that contribute to obesity,” Stewart said. Because of this, the hogs have proven important in nutritional research. They have an adaptation similar to diabetes and are prone to high levels of obesity, making them ideal subjects for study regarding cures or treatments for those human diseases.

    The Conner Prairie boar will contribute semen to the USDA repository, Stewart said, and be used to sire pigs in the Ossabaw Island hog research line housed at Purdue. That line is used by Purdue Animal Sciences for nutritional studies and also by Indiana University School of Medicine for biomedical research.

    “His offspring will be used in a range of nutritional experiments focused on studying obese metabolic syndrome,” Stewart said. “Some of his sons and daughters will be retained as breeding animals to maintain the line.”

    Conner Prairie maintains its Ossabaw Hog herd due to its resemblance to pigs present in 19th-century Indiana. This is the first time one of the museum’s hogs has been involved in such a research and preservation program.

     # # #

    Conner Prairie's mission is to inspire curiosity and foster learning about Indiana by providing engaging, individualized and unique experiences. Created by Eli Lilly in 1934, Conner Prairie combines history with science, technology, engineering and math and encourages visitors to explore Indiana’s natural and cultural heritage through hands-on, immersive and interactive experiences. Inspiring visitors of all ages to discover more about the events, discoveries and forces that shaped the American Midwest, Conner Prairie offers various historically themed, indoor and outdoor experience areas throughout its 800 acres of wooded property in Fishers, Ind. Indiana’s first Smithsonian Institute Affiliate and accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, Conner Prairie is a 501(c)3, non-profit organization that relies on grants and philanthropic donations from corporations and individuals for sustainability and growth. Visit connerprairie.org or call (800) 966-1836 for admission dates, hours, ticket prices and opportunities to donate and volunteer. Conner Prairie is on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube.