Kunekune are a small pig. Their name is pronounced Cooney Cooney, and means fat and round in Maori. They did not originate in New Zealand, as there are no indigenous land animals there. There are many theories on how they got there, the Maoris may have taken them there, as the pig was very important to the Polynesians, and there are still pigs with tassels in the South Pacific Islands. Early whalers and sealers may have taken them, to be released to breed, to be culled for food on their next voyage, or they could well have been taken by the people who settled to farm in the country. All farm stock was imported. They may be a mixture of pigs from many sources, but whatever their origins, they have evolved into a charming little pig.
In New Zealand Kunes came very close to extinction in the 1970’s. They were not used much for meat anymore by the Maoris, and were virtually unknown to the white population. It was then that two wildlife park owners, Michael Willis and John Simster heard about the pig, and set out across New Zealand to buy every Kune they could find for sale, this only amounted to eighteen pigs, and from this original stock, with later additions of more animals, the studbook was formed. The population in New Zealand is now in a healthy state, and it is proving in great demand as a smallholders pig.
Kunekunes arrived in Britain in 1992 Zoe Lindop and Andrew Calveley had worked in New Zealand for several years and were charmed by Kunekune. After meeting Michael Willis, and learning how endangered these little pigs were they decided to import a small group to breed in Britain. As the Kunes only existed in New Zealand it was important to have a population in another country, in case of disease in their home. Michael bred for them a wide range of Kunes, because it was important to have as wide a variation of genetic stock brought into the country as possible. If they had only brought one type we would not be preserving a true representation of the breed, and therefore would be of no help to the breed.
These pigs look like a Walt Disney cartoon version of a pig. They are between twenty four and thirty inches high, and one hundred and twenty to two hundred and forty pounds in weight. They are completely covered in hair which can be anything between short and straight, and long and curly. They come in a range of cream, ginger, brown, black and spotted. They have a medium to short snout, and either prick or flopped ears. They have short legs and a short round body. The most unusual feature of most Kunekune pigs is a pair of tassels, called piri piri, under their chin like a goat. This is not unique to the Kunes but it is unusual. Temperament wise, they are delightful, being placid and very friendly. They thrive on human company.
The Kunekune is a breed that shows a lot of genetic variation, this is one of the charms of the breed, and most people find they have favourite types of kunes and breed accordingly. The Maoris preferred black pigs, but in this country spotted pigs seem in favour at the moment. We must be careful and breed all types and colours of Kunes. To help a rare breed you must preserve as much of the gene pool as possible, and not breed for fads and fashion, which inevitably leads to changing the breed forever. In Britain we have adopted the New Zealand standard of perfection for Kunes, this standard concentrates on correct conformation and good temperament.
In 1993 Zoe imported a further two bloodlines, and in 1996 Andy Case imported three more bloodlines into the U.K. Kunekune pigs are now well established in Britain.
In 1993 the British Kunekune Pig Society was set up. As all the original pigs that were imported had full pedigrees it was vitally important to set up a studbook from the start, to register the pigs in this country. To achieve this, and also to promote the breed and look after its welfare the society was started. There are now about five hundred members. The society produces four newsletters a year, and is open to anyone with an interest in Kunekune pigs.