KuneKunes: The Pigs That Smile Back
A Gentle Heritage Pig BreedPromoted by American KuneKune Pig Society
By Jill J Easton – Are you looking for pigs you can live with and enjoy, but that will also provide delectable table fare? Consider KuneKunes. These heritage pigs have many advantages, especially if you are looking for a kinder, gentler pig.
The KuneKune breed originated from the Maori Islands of New Zealand. When the Maoris civilized and moved into houses with walls, they left the free-ranging pigs behind and the breed almost died out. In the 1970s they were rediscovered and saved from extinction by two wildlife park employees, Michael Willis and John Simister. The pair started breeding the pigs and began a breed registry.
Jump ahead to 1995 when Katie Rigby introduced the pigs to America and now there are more than 14,000 in the country. Small farmers embraced these pigs for their ease of keeping and because they didn’t require a lot of land to flourish.
The KuneKune Differences
KuneKune means short and round in Maori, these pigs have unusually short legs and a thick body that carries a lot of meat. They also have interesting wattles that hang down on each side of their jowls and they come in a variety of colors from ginger to polka dot. Their snouts turn up which keeps them from making the muddy rooted up mess that is typical in most hog pens. The pigs are also are easily trained to sit on command and normally choose an area for their bathroom. The breed is prized for its excellent personality. These are placid, friendly, pigs that greet humans with crooked-toothed smiles and a low thrumming humming.
Members of the American KuneKune Pig Society work diligently to keep the bloodlines pure and to be sure that all registered pigs live up to the breed standards.
The AKKPS is the first KuneKune organization structured as a non profit in the USA, and is member governed. We are committed to the preservation and promotion of purebred, pedigreed, and DNA verified KuneKunes. The AKKPS promotes this delightful breed of heritage, grazing swine for all their many purposes.
Before being registered, each pig is DNA verified by UC Davis in California for parent verification. The AKKPS requires that breeders have registered animals microchipped, ear-tagged or tattooed on the ear, and the registry maintains extensive pedigrees on each animal in their herd book. Genetic potential, low COI, conformation, and structure are all considered before a breeding takes place. KuneKune breeders study and plan as carefully as owners of thoroughbred race horses before choosing the best boar to breed with each sow.
The KuneKunes are lard pigs, which means that they have more fat than commercial breeds. (Their fat works well for soap making and lard rendering.) Because of this, KuneKune pork is more marbled, rich, and fully flavored than commercially grown hog meat. It is truly delicious. Their chops, steaks, and other cuts are starting to make appearances in high-end restaurants where premium prices are charged for the succulent meat.
The only disadvantage of a KuneKune is it just won’t grow as fast as a factory pig that eats a diet of steroid-laced pig food and is kept under lights 24 hours a day to encourage constant consumption.
KuneKune pigs that don’t meet the breed standards are culled from the herd, used as meat, or occasionally sold as pets; their friendly nature makes them great animals to have around. Most breeders make sure that these pet animals are neutered and will go to good homes where they have other animals for company.
There are reasons that KuneKune pork appeals to discriminating consumers. Pigs that are primarily grazers eating natural food appeal to people who are trying to escape animals and plants that are grown on a diet of chemically treated, processed feed and additives. Grass fed animals are healthier for you!
Three Huge Advantages in Raising KuneKune Pigs
- Cheaper to keep — Grass is the KuneKune’s main food and because of their upturned snouts they don’t root. These pigs grow and thrive on pasture with a supplement of hay (when grass isn’t growing), and a couple of cups of pig pellets twice a day. The only mess in a KuneKune pasture is around the water source. The pigs love to get wet and spend a lot of time soaking in any available water source big enough to hold a pig. A 300-pound sow displaces a lot of water, so there is almost always a muddy area near their water containers.
- Friendly to other animals and they like people — Unlike commercially grown hogs, the KuneKunes don’t eat chickens alive, or behave aggressively toward people or other animals. They are sweet-natured and crowd the fence whenever a human comes by. Even small children and pets can walk in their pastures with only the fear of too many KuneKunes wanting to be scratched at the same time.
- Strong fencing isn’t required — Breeders fences are usually built to keep predators out rather than pigs in. The KuneKunes show few of the escapist tendencies of many farm animals. Their days are spent grazing, getting in water, communicating with each other, and lazing around digesting. Noise making is one of the disadvantages of keeping them inside — they talk all the time.
If you are considering raising pigs to sell, or just want to grow pork on the hoof to supplement your diet, KuneKunes are a great choice. There are few better animals for a family farm than these environmentally friendly, cheap to keep, laid-back pigs. Once you’ve experienced the KuneKune differences you will wonder how you lived without them smiling up at you.