When you Google “landrace,” more likely than not, pictures of pigs will pop across your computer screen. And though swine make for an adorable internet escape (look up baby piglets, and prepare to “aww” your way through hundreds of pictures), they seemingly have nothing to do with a common term within the marijuana industry.
Landrace cannabis, instead, is a strain that has grown and survived in a natural environment over hundreds of years. Essentially, they’re the survivalist stains that have adapted to their habitat, and have developed characteristics unique to where they are geographically; they’re the indigenous plants to their respective areas.
The term itself stems from the German language, where “landrace” translates almost directly to “country breed.” In 1909 U. J. Mansholt explained the phrase further, saying that landraces have two main features: their characteristics are stable, and they genetically change when moved to a new environment. By 1930, the term took on another hat, as it became the name for a local pig with lop-sided ears.
Other “breeds” exist in both the animal and plant kingdoms. Between pigs, goats, sheep, and dogs, flowers, crops, and–of course–marijuana fall under the same phrase. There’s even variety in the use of the word: some cultures and dialects use terms like old, native, and ancient breed instead of landrace, to avoid confusion.
There’s a marvel when it comes to landrace cannabis. These strains, amazingly, are completely original–there’s literally no other kind like them anywhere else in the world since they were never bred from outside forces. For example, plants that have been growing in India look and feel and taste and smell nothing like those seen in Central Asia.
Cannabis plants were said to have originated in Central Asia, in the Hindu Kush region. Fun fact: this is why so many marijuana-related products incorporate Kush into their verbiage; “OG” stands for “ocean-grown,” symbolizing west coast growing. From there, cannabis bred and populated all over the world over thousands of years, finding its way to different climates, coasts, and geographical oddities. Marijuana flower has proved to be an adaptable survivor, outliving all kinds of Earth-occupying breeds.
Landrace strains come from places like India, Africa, Central America, Mexico, Pakistan, Jamaica, and Afghanistan. You might recognize some of the popular strain–there’s Colombian Gold, Afghan Kush, Malawi Gold, Durban Poison, and Northern Lights. Experts say that there’s a significantly small number of landrace cannabis strains left; their guess is around 100. So if you get ahold of such a rare strain, cherish it.
Growers have seen this cannabis diversity and have spent years combining different strains to create what is commonly known as “hybrids.” These combinations have fostered innovation and jump-started an entire cultivation industry, all while improving biodiversity on a quest for genetic ingenuity. As this hybrid boom became more popular, however, less landrace cannabis exist. It’s getting harder and harder to find pristine, untouched marijuana plants living without any kind of modification.
This lack of landrace strains has inspired growers within the cannabis industry to seek out, find, and protect these native strains. Though they are not necessarily superior in quality (in fact, hybrids have allowed for growers to select which characteristics to keep and pass on, including higher CBD-content), landrace strains offer a genetic importance.
When left to their devices, landrace cannabis strains adapt and survive. They are an incredible breed, with an extensive origin and history. Though landrace cannabis is not quite as endearing as the European pig, the plant is an incredible example of how cannabis continues to fight and survive, through it all.