Pietrain, Belgium, the village from which the breed takes its name, was the birthplace of the breed. The exact origin is unknown but the local breed was "brought to the fore" during the difficult period of the pork market in 1950-51. The breed became popular in its native country and was exported to other countries, especially Germany.
The breed is of medium size and is white with black spots. Around the black spots there are characteristic rings of light pigmentation that carries white hair. The breed is commonly referred to as being of piebald markings. The ears are carried erect.
The Pietrain is very popular as a terminal sire in two of Europe’s largest pig producing countries, Germany and Spain. The first importation of pigs into the UK was carried out by the Pig Industry Development Authority in 1964. After quarantine 84 pigs were available for distribution. Six boars and a selection of gilts were retained by PIDA for crossbreeding experiments with British breeds as well as the establishment of a purebred herd for study purposes. The remaining animals were despatched for experimental programmes run by the Animal Breeding and Research Organisation at Edinburgh, Wye College in Kent and T. Wall and Sons. The latter made use of the Pietrain in a synthetic line based on a Pietrain / Saddleback. This was used by the Walls Meat Company in one of the earliest examples of a breeding programme specifically designed for integrated pork production.
The Pietrain is renowned for its very high yield of lean meat but this is often associated with the presence of the halothane gene for Porcine Stress Syndrome. For this reason the use of purebred Pietrain in British pig production is relatively rare and it is most commonly found in crossbred and synthetic terminal sire lines. A small number of purebred herds are maintained to supply stock for these breeding programmes.