07/01/1991 at 01:00 AM EDT
ON LITTLE ORCHARD FARM IN SHROPSHIRE, England, a small herd of rare pigs roots freely among the apple trees. They're lucky. If it hadn't been for Prince Charles, these same porkers might be developing a meaningful relationship with applesauce.
The swine in question, a rare English breed called Gloucester Old Spot, fell into peril recently when their owner, Charles Russell, 37, couldn't get a bank loan to continue his budding breeding operation. Russell, whose farm is home to the largest herd of Old Spots in Britain, also raises Berkshires, British Lops, Middle Whites and Tamworths, among others. "We want to save them and increase the gene pool," he says, "and keep them as pure as possible." When the operation slipped into a financial trough, he was forced to book time for his beloved Old Spots at a local slaughterhouse.
The pigs were within a week of hog heaven when the London Daily Telegraph publicized their plight. Alarmed animal fanciers, of which Britain has an embarrassment, quickly sent nearly $5,000 in donations. Then Prince Charles, who serves as patron of England's Rare Breed Survival Trust, came to the rescue with what Russell discreetly terms a "generous" contribution that will fund a classroom on the property so that children can learn about animal husbandry. "His support is a major help for our efforts in conservation and education," says Russell. The outpouring of concern, he adds, from Prince and commoner alike, "has restored my faith in mankind—if not in banks." That goes double, one assumes, for the pigs.