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Kunekune Pig

Sus scrofa scrofa kunekune

  1. Not Evaluated
  2. Data Deficient
  3. Least Concern
  4. Near Threatened
  5. Vulnerable
  6. Endangered
  7. Critically Endangered
  8. Extinct in the Wild
  9. Extinct

About Us

The Kunekune pig is one of the most well known types of domesticated pig in the world, however it is actually classed as a rare breed with less than 2,000 pure bred Kunekune’s in the world - at one point they even faced extinction! Domesticated Kunekune’s originate from New Zealand but it is thought their wild ancestors came there from Asia in the 1800’s, on trading ships and whaling boats. The Maori people of New Zealand gave them their name ‘Kunekune’, which means fat and round.

Here at Woburn we have one female Kunekune pig (sow) Oscar. Kune pigs are not a very active species, so you will most likely find her sleeping, wallowing in mud, or looking for her food.  They are very intelligent animals, Oscar will sit on command for a food reward.

Distribution
Asia, introduced to New Zealand and now domesticated worldwide.
Habitat
Woodland and grassland
Height
60 to 70cm tall
Weight
60 to 100kg
Lifespan
Up to 16 years
Threats
Hybridisation with other pig species.

Physical Features

The Kunekune is one of the smallest of domesticated pig species, growing up to 70cm tall, and weighing up to 100kg.

They are completely covered in hair which can be short, or long, and either straight or curly. This coat will change throughout winter and summer, becoming shorter and less dense in warmer months. They can be found in a range of colours, most commonly black and white, black, cream, ginger, or patchy in colour.

The body is short and round, bred for meat they have a stocky body, with short legs. The head features a short snout, with either prick or flopped ears.

One unusual feature of a Kunekune is the common occurrence of wattles (small fleshy tassels), known as pire pire, which hang from beneath the chin. These aren’t present in all Kunekunes but are very common. 

They are a very placid and social animal, often craving the company of humans, with a quiet temperament.

Diet

Unlike other pig species the Kunekune can survive on a diet of grass alone. They do not dig and root in the ground like other pig species, preferring instead to forage for grasses and roughage. They will eat fruit, vegetables, and food scraps in a domestic setting.

Social Structure and Communication

The Kunekune will communicate with a range of vocalisations, at varying pitches and patterns.

The female, or sow, will give birth to between six to twelve piglets, after 116 days. These piglets will feed from the mother until they are weaned at the age of around four months.

Kunekune’s will reach sexual maturity at around ten months.

Husbandry and Enrichment

The Kunekune is a very intelligent animal, with their intelligence levels often compared to that of a dog. They can be trained to do a range of commands, for both enrichment and husbandry. Our Kunekune’s are trained to sit on command before each feed. This allows us to perform a health check of their body, check their teeth, and make sure they are feeding well. It also gives them a form of enrichment.

To provide other enrichment we will hide food, either around their enclosure, or inside plastic boomer balls and paper sacks. This gives a chance for both physical and mental exercise and eliminates boredom.

Kunekune pigs are very social animals, and as a domesticated species often enjoy and crave human company. Keepers will take time from their day to interact with the pigs, giving them a fuss, training them to sit on command, and desensitizing them to us touching their hooves to allow us to maintain them.

Threats and Conservation

The Kunekune is classed as a domestic pig, and did not originate from New Zealand. Its wild ancestors may have been from Asian pigs from Polynesia or the South Pacific Islands. The only strong evidence for this is that there are still species from these regions who have the pire pire, or wattles, which are common in Kunekunes. It is thought that they may have been brought to New Zealand by seal and whale hunters as sustenance for their trips, or taken there by people settling to farm in the country, to breed for food. As there are no indigenous land animals in New Zealand, whatever their origin, they definitely do not derive from there, but were bred extensively as a domestic pig for food by the Maori people.

In the 1970’s the Kunekune became in grave danger of extinction, due to hunting for meat, and breeding with other species of domestic swine. A breeding program was set up by two wildlife park owners, Michael Willis and John Simster, who gathered the remaining few pure Kunekunes from the Island and started a breeding program from just nine individuals. As of 2010 the breed no longer faced extinction, and is now classed as a rare breed. The species has only been in the UK since the early 1990’s, with the founding of breeding societies in the UK and New Zealand ensuring the survival of the breed. There are still less than 2,000 pure bred Kunekunes in the world, including a healthy population living wild in the bush and grasslands of New Zealand.

Fun Facts

In the 1970’s the species faced extinction, with only nine pure bred Kunekunes left in New Zealand!

Unlike other pigs, they can survive on grass alone!

Some Kunekunes have wattles (small fleshy tassles) called ‘pire pire’, hanging under their chin!

They are one of the smallest species of domestic pig, and are often referred to as ‘teacup pigs’ or ‘mini pigs’, even though they will grow to be up to 100kg!