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Page last updated at 14:39 GMT, Wednesday, 14 April 2010 15:39 UK
Rare Mangalitza pig being bred at Tropical Wings Zoo

Mangalitza pig
The curly coat on the Managalitza has, in the past, been used to make jumpers

An extremely rare breed of curly coated pig is to be bred for the first time at a zoo in Essex.

The three Mangalitza pigs, which bear a striking resemblance to sheep, arrived at the Tropical Wings zoo in South Woodham Ferrers, just before Easter as part of a programme to save the breed.

"At first sight people perhaps think they are sheep" said education co-ordinator Denise Cox.

"It's not until they turn around and you see their faces and snouts that you realise they are in fact pigs."

The breed is thought to be native to Austria and Hungary.

She added: "The woolly coat makes them very hardy, it helps them to survive in the harsh cold winters over in Austria and Hungary.

"In the summer it's thought that it may help to protect them from sunburn."

Ms Cox said the Mangalitza breed is very similar to the now extinct Lincolnshire curly coat breed.

Pregnant hope

The new arrivals at Tropical Wings come from stock imported into the UK in 2006 and will form part of a programme designed to prevent the breed from disappearing.

"Although there's a very small amount of genetic DNA in there, they are in a small way linked to the Lincolnshire curly coat," she said.

Two mangalitza pigs
One-year-old Porsche and Margot are proving a popular draw

"It's extremely rare, particularly in its native Hungary and Austria."

Blond-haired male Buddy, black-coated female Porsche and ginger Margot arrived at the zoo on 26 March from a breeder in Staffordshire.

Ms Cox said there was a possibility that one of them, Porsche, could already be pregnant.

"It looks like she may be. We'll have to wait to see if she gets any bigger, but fingers crossed it looks like she's pregnant," she said.

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