KuneKunes were once an almost an extinct breed of grazing pigs. Now, they are spreading like wildfire across the globe. Wild lifers in New Zealand set out in the 1970’s to save this breed from extinction and began a recovery breeding program from just 18 animals. Collecting them all throughout the New Zealand islands. However, it was not an easy undertaking for sure. They were quite successful, however.
Since those early days, keeping them free ranging by the Māori tribes, they have been imported from New Zealand into the United Kingdom. There have been several imports into the USA from both New Zealand and the United Kingdom and can now be found in many other countries as well including the USA export and import into Canada.
How to say and spell their breed name.
You will see KuneKune written out in many ways such as:
Kuni kuni, Kune, cooney-cooney, kune kune, khuni khuni and more. The correct way is KuneKune. It is pronounced as koo-knee-koo-knee.
What is the appeal?
The breed is very different from commercial hogs and have many endearing features that make them look almost comical in their looks. It has been said that this breed looks like it was created by Walt Disney himself.
So, let’s learn more about this unique breed of grazing pigs.
Distinct Physical Characteristics
One thing that is very noticeable right away is that the breed has wattles. Wattles are attached under their jowl. The Māori tribes called them Piri Piri. They can have two wattles, 1 wattle and some are born without wattles. However, most KuneKune registries will have two in the breed standard. Important to note, one Canadian based KuneKune Registry will not register KuneKunes that do not have two firmly attached wattles. Most other registries will allow the breeder to choose what they deem as registerable.
They tend to be short and fat which is actually what the name KuneKune stands for in the Māori language. They certainly live up to that! They can fatten almost totally on grazing alone. They are a slow growing breed taking time to mature and time prior to harvest. If I had to say there was a negative with the breed, I would say that this is it. On the other hand, it is important to note that even though it takes longer to get to harvest weight, they consume much less grain which more than offsets the price.
Distinct Personality Traits
First, this is one of their best qualities. Their temperaments. They are extremely docile pigs unlike all the myths out there about pigs in general. The Breed enjoys not only interactions with each other but enjoy human companionship. It is nothing to have them flop right on your feet to get a belly rub. Now imagine a 250-400 lbs. plopping right at your feet.
Likewise, they are trustworthy with children which is rare among most breeds of swine. Even breeding boars, can be trusted with children provided you advise the children to stay alert for their tusk. They would never hurt anyone on purpose with their tusk. As a result of not trimming tusk, a child could get hurt with one. Consequently, teaching a KuneKune is easy so, they are easily taught to not approach humans from the side but, face on.
KuneKune mothers will even allow children to interact with their piglets and be present at birthing. Rare indeed!
It is believed that they became so friendly due to the management style of the Māori tribes by allowing them to free range. They tended to stay close to the tribal homes and therefore, received much in the way of interactions with humans.
This breed of pig is on the smaller side. Unlike the commercial breeds they are about 250-400 pounds and are on the shorter side. Coming up to about your knee depending of course on your own height. Commercial breeds tend to be 800 pounds or more.
Wide array of colors
Especially interesting is all the colors they have. There are many different combinations of colors, and their markings are each unique. They range from solid colors like cream, ginger, black and brown to more than one color. With this breed whichever color is most prominent is how they are listed. For example, a pig that has more black than white is considered a black/white. If they had more white than black, they are a white/black. Learn more about KuneKunes to see all the many color combinations they come in.
Ease of Handling
Homesteaders, those that are interested in producing pork for their families are attracted to the breed as 1 small bucket of food is all it takes to get them moving across pastures of land to move into another area. When you even go near food, they are right behind you. Easily motivated makes their ease of handling a dream.
KuneKunes in general, are a lard pig. This means they have a high fat content to their meat. Their pork is a deep red meat that is surrounded by a layer of fat. It is said that this is what keeps the flavor in so well. Even their lard has purposes such as making soaps, using in cooking and more.
Other uses for the breed
Some of the other things that this breed is used for is for raising and selling breeding stock, companion animals, pets, grazing pastures to avoid so much grass cutting and even for cleaning up orchards. They love apples and you will never see one on the ground once they find out what goodies the trees are dropping.
To preserve the breed, New Zealand began a registry to keep track of their recovery efforts and this tradition has carried on into all the other countries. There are purebred KuneKune registries which track the ancestors. Keeping records is important to preserve this delightful breed for future generations. We include a ton of information on our website regarding KuneKunes to everyone to learn more about this incredible breed called KuneKunes. Visit us at the International KuneKune Pig Society (https://ikkps.org/)
I hope that your learned more about KuneKunes in this article. They are just ideal smaller pigs that are well suites for so many purposes. If you ever have the chance to visit a farm that raises KuneKunes in the future, I would strongly suggest that you do. It will be an experience that you never forget.
If you are looking to raise livestock, this is most definitely a breed to take a look out. They are very prolific. Easy to farrow and they are terrific mothers.