KuneKune Pigs - information on kunekunes
Education and information on KuneKune pigs
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Information on KuneKune Pigs
You may never have heard of a kune kune pig. I know I had not when my journey began. Very little information was available in the United States on the breed. So, I wanted to compile some information for you starting with their amazing journey from near extinction to the United States.
History: Kune Kune's are fairly new to the United States. This breed of pig was first noted in New Zealand although, they were not originally from New Zealand. There are several theories as to where this little pig originally came from but, for our purpose, we will begin in New Zealand, where they were kept and named KuneKune (pronounced cooney cooney) by the Maori natives there. They were originally a meat pig and they were allowed to roam free near homes. Some people say this is how they became such a friendly and human oriented little pig.
In the 1970's they were almost all gone. They were in grave danger as very few were left. Thanks to Michael Willis and John Simister, they are no longer in danger of extinction. They gathered up all the KuneKunes they could find and began a breeding program with the KuneKunes to recover the breed. ( I believe it was only about 18 left at that time.) In 1980, there were only about 50 kune kunes. As of 2010, the breed no longer faces extinction. Now there are about 1000 pigs in New Zealand. There are less than 200 registered kune kunes in the United States according to the Kune Kunes Breeders Association newsletter in 2012.
In 1995, Katie Rigby imported KuneKunes directly from New Zealand and began her own breeding program. It was a closed herd and she only sold spayed and neutered "pets". Most of that original herd no longer exist. It is my understanding that part of Katie's herd was left with Kune Kune Preserve in North Carolina and the others went to New York to another breeder. Behind them came Lori Enright, in 2005 who imported from Great Britian more kune kunes to help with the diversity of the gene pool. They are the ones that first did the registry for the kune kunes.
Making a large part of our new genetics in the USA, Matt Burton and Christopher Rowley imported 9 kunes into this country from Great Britian for Goose Meadow Kunes which will give more diversity to our herds.
The Kune Kune history is very exciting and there is much more information available on the origins, on the The British Kune Kune Society.
The Kune Kune is a very unique pig. They have a personality very different from "commercial" pigs and other breeds of swine. They are sweet, docile, affectionate, small-size pig. They follow you around like a puppy. Our kunekunes can be found wherever we are. They get along wonderful with other animals (horses, dogs, cats and chickens) and seem to just fit right into their surroundings. They have a great temperament and are extremely easy to handle due to their gentleness and their being so easy going. Therefore, making them ideal for first time pig owners.
They are the only pigs that are true grazers. They are not harsh on land but, live from the land. KuneKunes love fresh fruits and veggies. You can supplement with a pelleted form of pig feed for mini pigs. (which is not required as they can survive by grazing alone depending on your pasture richness but, supplementation is needed during winter months). Unlike most pigs, they need very low protein levels. They are not a meat eater. They use a mini pot belly pig formula usually which is low in protein.
Size: Kunes are usually 24-30 inches tall. They can range in weight 225-400 lbs even though they may only come up to your knee. That is extremely small when compared to a commerical pig of 600 lbs to 1000 lbs and bigger and waist level tall. The weight of kunes can vary if over fed.
Health: In general kunekunes are very happy and healthy pigs. They are resilent and hardy little pigs. They withstand heat and cold well. In the summer months a mud puddle and a kiddie pool are an absolute must. The mud keeps them from being sun burnt and also helps keep the bugs off them. As they cannot sweat, mud puddles are as required as food.
They do require vaccination to protect them against different viruses and worms. Having worked for a vet for 4 years, I am very vigil in assuring my kunes are well vaccinated and have the proper de-wormings.
Colors: They come in a variety of colors including black and white, brown and white, ginger, cream, solid brown, solid black, and ginger and black.
Wattles: They have a very distinct characteristic which is wattles (called piri piri) under their jowl. Some people call them tassels. They are born with and without wattles and sometimes, can even loose them due to rough housing with their siblings or they are not well attached. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to their inheritance. You can breed two unwattled pigs and get wattled babies and you can breed two wattled and still produce some with out wattles.
Cleanliness: Despite the stereotype for pigs, they are not dirty or smelly. They are very clean and very easy to train. We trained ours to a litter box till he was older. We had Ziggy in the house for the first several months of ownership. He slept in a dog crate with a heating pad and his companion kitten and was very happy. (We received him in the winter time.) It is always best to have your pigs outside as they truly do prefer to live the life of a "pig".
Fencing: Kunes are not ones to roam or test fencing. They stay close to your home and patiently await your arrival outside for a visit. You can do fencing very inexpensively for a kune. Email us for more information on how we fenced. We also have an article published at AKKPS in the educational section for members only.
Pet: A kune kune is about as good as you can get. They are very intelligent and affectionate. Remember, kunes are herd animals and do best when they have a companion to snuggle with.
Please research the breed, care and needs of any animal that you are looking to add to your family and farm. There are some areas that do not allow pigs. Do your homework! It is easier to make a good decision in the beginning than put an animal through a re-homing process. When I did my "homework" on the breed, it included visits to several farms. We would be delighted to share our kunes with you if you would like to visit with our kunes. Please email me to set up a time.
Breeding: KuneKune sows/gilts make wonderful mothers. The birthing experience is amazing as piglets come into the world with their eyes open, ears open, able to walk, sacks broken and cords cut (although you may have to trim one and dip in iodine). A sow will need very little assistance from you during their farrowing time. We do like to attend in case we do have any issues.
One thing I have noticed in my dealing with pairing and obtaining kunes is the lack of attention to the pig's COI. (Coefficient of inbreeding). As a matter of fact, I bought a breeding pair from a well known experienced breeder to discover these two absolutely should not be paired together due to a very high COI in the offspring. (Looking at the pedigree is simply not enough, running percentages is the best way.)
While all this may seem complicated, it is very simple. If a COI is high, usually anything over 25% I consider a risk (each breeder has their own preferences and beliefs of course and my experience is based on prior to Kunes was based on raising and breeding australian shepherds for 10 years), this means you have that a higher percentage of hereditary defects and health conditions showing up in the offspring. (I have done much research on this after loosing our first kunekune and being heartbroken.)
Some inbreeding was necessary in 2005 to establish a herd in kunekunes in this country, but, that is no longer the case. We have plenty of lines now to maintain diversity. I have written an article on understanding COI's which is posted in the educational section of AKKPS and in our Articles and Blogs section of this website You can also send me an email and I will be happy to provide you with a copy at no charge to you.
We also offer to assist you in making good breeding and selections by running COI's for you If you are interested in this, please email me. If you have purchased a piglet from us, we offer this service at no charge on any additions you are considering on adding to your herd.
Special notes: Make sure you purchase purebred, registered, DNA profiled piglets. A cross of this breed is like mixing a pit bull with a beagle. You just don't know what their temperament will turn out like. Why would you want to mix a purebred, pedigreed pig with another breed? It is not preserving the breed of kunekunes. There are those that do and we do not criticize what they are doing but, we choose to keep the breed pure by not crossing them. You may see "purebred kunekunes for sale on craiglist and places like that but, how do you know they are purebred? When someone sells unregistered stock there is a reason they are doing this; maybe they purchased pet quality kunekunes and decided to produce piglets from them or maybe they are related. When investing in your breeding program, it is a wise decision to purchase the best quality stock that you can and in most all cases, those are DNA'd, pedigreed pigs.
This is a special breed that is very unique with their personality. There is not a day that goes by my kunekune does not make me smile or laugh. Again, do your homework. Talk to breeders and visit with piglets before deciding to purchase your new family member or breeding stock or producers for sustainable agricultural purposes..
Please let us know how we can help if you have any questions. We are happy to share of knowledge and do not mind telling you if we don't know an answer. However, we have many kunekune friends and will find out the answer for you.
I wish you much joy and happiness in adding a Kune Kune to your family.