Kunekune Pigs of New Zealand
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Kunekune Pigs of New Zealand

Kunekune pigs are believed to come originally from New Zealand. However, New Zealand has no native mammals, therefore pigs are an introduced species.

Kunekune pigs are gaining popularity as domestic farm animals in New Zealand, having been an ignored species for many years. They have distinct features and coloring. At shoulder height they stand at about 60cm and their plump, compact bodies are covered in coarse hairs. They have short heads with tassles hanging from their lower jaws. Most kunekune are brown or brown, black, white and ginger variations. Although they are quiet natured, making great pets, they are extremely territorial animals and will quickly retaliate if they believe their space is being invaded by a stranger. They are rather fond of food and often tend to over eat, giving them their plump appearance. The New Zealand Maori meaning for kunekune is plump round belly.

Origin of Kunekune Pigs

There are a number of theories as to how kunekune pigs originally came to be in New Zealand. One theory says the Maori people brought them to New Zealand during the great migrations. This theory had popularity because, in the nineteenth century the pigs were usually found in and around Maori villages and communities. However, there is no evidence of the pigs having been in New Zealand before the 1700s and the arrival of the first Europeans.

Captain James Cook introduced a breed of wild pig to New Zealand, now commonly known as the Captain Cooker. It has been suggested that these bred with domestic pigs on board ship, producing the new breed. However, this does not explain the presence of the jaw tassles by which the pig is commonly identified. Nor does it allow time for a new breed to have developed.

The most accepted theory is that the early whalers and sealers brought the kunekune pigs from Asia, where they were known as the old Poland China breed. The whalers and sealers initially released the pigs onto outlying islands, ensuring a food supply for return trips or for shipwrecked sailors. In the 1800s kunekune pigs were used as barter by early European settlers to obtain goods from mainland Maori tribes. This would explain their predominance in areas of Maori settlement.

Rare but no Longer Endangered

At one stage the kunekune pigs had dwindled so far in numbers they faced extinction. In 1980 there were estimated to be only 50 purebred animals left in New Zealand. However, thanks to the efforts of two men, Michael Willis and John Simister, who were wildlife park owners, an extensive breeding program was introduced, and now kunekune are no longer endangered. There is a New Zealand Kunekune Association, ensuring the continuation of the breed. Kunekune pigs have been exported to United Kingdom, United States and parts of Europe.

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The New Zealand Kiwi

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Comments (3)

Great article. I'm glad there are people who are concerned about endangered animals. Thanks to them.

Never heard of those pigs, but I sure am glad I did now.

I think they are in Canada too where they are kept for their unique colors on Petting farms

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