The Kunekune pig is a unique, multi-purpose breed associated with the Maori tribe of New Zealand. While the exact origin is not known, it is generally thought that during the 1800s whalers traded the Kunekune to the New Zealand Maori tribe. The Maori kept the breed as free-range pigs, allowing them to roam freely in and outside the home. Their history of close contact with the Maori people has led to the calm and friendly nature of the breed.
The name Kunekune means “fat and round” in Maori. Always a domesticated pig, Kunekunes were valued for the quality of their meat and fat. The small-scale breed has maintained its small size without human intervention. Considerably smaller than a market hog, adult Kunes grow to about 24 inches tall and range in weight from 125 lbs. for a small sow, up to 250 lbs. for an intact boar.
It wasn’t until the late 1970s that the breed was rediscovered, and it was estimated that there were only about 50 purebred Kunekunes left in New Zealand. From purebred base stock of only six sows and three boars in 1978, the Kunekune now numbers in the thousands. The conservation of the breed is due to the enthusiasm and dedication of breeders in New Zealand–growing to the UK, the US, and beyond–to increase the breed’s numbers, while maintaining its heritage.
The Kunekune was introduced to the US in 1995. Since then, a small group of dedicated breeders associated with the American Kunekune Breeders Association has committed to conservation of the pedigree of the breed. All breeders associated with the AKBA are required to register all intact animals to protect the purebred population of Kunekune pigs, and establish an accurate registry of Kunekune pigs in America.
Kunekunes continue to gain popularity in the US. While not suitable as indoor pets, the Kunekune’s round, small size, unique appearance, and docile nature has made them a popular choice for small-scale farmers and hobbyists.