Virginia KuneKunes

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History of the KuneKunes

An In depth history of the kunekunes and information on the various bloodlines in New Zealand, the UK and here in the USA.

I have been writing articles for the AKKPS (American KuneKune Pig Society) each month exploring the history and bloodlines of the KuneKune pigs.  Here are those articles...........


By Kathy Petersen of Virginia KuneKunes

One of the things that most interested me when doing my research in obtaining the KuneKune breed, was the history of this incredible breed.  I am absolutely fascinated with it!  No one really knows where the KuneKunes originated, what breeds crossed to get them here and everyone you speak with tells you a different version.  From coming to New Zealand in Maori canoes to traveling with Whalers who traded them to the Maori tribesmen, I have read them all. 

For our purposes, we are going to begin in New Zealand where they were kept by the Maori tribes as a meat pig.  This little pig was able to free range but, chose to stay close to the Maori tribal homes.  Some say, this is how they became so friendly and human oriented.  We will continue our journey further into the history of these pigs with tidbits of information gathered from various sources.  We will explore the history, where the first kunes were from, their original bloodlines, how their bloodlines were named, what happened to those bloodlines and how they are present in the USA today.  

New Zealand is a land rich with the history of our dear KuneKunes.  New Zealand is an island off the Southwest Pacific Ocean. It is mainly urban country with a north and south Island.  Most populated areas are in Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington and Hamilton.

Our story begins one night when Michael Willis and John Simister of Staglands were enjoying some gin at 3:00 in the morning.  John began to tell Michael about the breed of KuneKunes describing them with their roly-poly fat, short legs that just kept their tummy off the ground, their short upturned snout, and their tassels or bells hanging under their chin.  Michael did not believe John and thought this breed was something from the Walt Disney’s world of fantasy.  It would be another 12 months before he would see a KuneKune for himself when visiting Hilldale Zoo. Michael fell madly in love at first sight.

He searched and searched for KuneKunes with very little success.  His first break came with a phone call from a guy named Weasel, saying he had purchased a pair for him for $3.00 each. When he arrived, the only resemblance to KuneKunes was their wattles.  One had 2 wattles and one had 1 wattle.  He took them so as not to hurt the man’s feelings.  The next stop was at Charlie Marshall’s and he had more from the same litter as Weasel.  Michael and John both bought 2 pigs each for $10 for the two.  Again, some were missing wattles, some had wattles and some only had 1 wattle.  The next help came from Timi Kereopa, known as Kelly.   After many stops at many Maori homes, finally they found some KuneKunes.  The family told him they were down at the river bed and if they could catch them, they could help themselves.  They found a sow with about 10 piglets of various ages.  They were able to gather some up but, the book does not mention how many they got.  They do mention they suspect they are not purebred. The next stop they were extremely pleased when they found two KuneKunes that looked just like the description he had originally been told.  The Maori people they met would not accept payment for them but, generously gave them the pigs.  The next pig would come from a man named Paddy.  The boar did not look purebred but, was different from the others that they had so far.  Then they got a big sow from another gentleman that said she was as close to purebred as they came.  Through several different contacts, they came upon a man named Ru Kotaha who had some KuneKunes with wattles and just as described to him.   He gave them a pair after hearing their story about their search for KuneKunes and refused to take money.  At this point, they had 13 pigs.

From another Maori family, they got a beautiful sow and boar and paid $150 for the pair.  Their next stop would take them to John Wilson.  He was described as a hermit that was extremely protective of his pigs and anyone caught messing with them would be shot.  John Wilson was nothing like people had described him to be.  He had a least 30 KuneKunes running in and out of the bushes.  They were so excited to be greeted with a wave and a smile.  John Wilson had been gathering up purebred KuneKunes in an effort to preserve them over the years.  He was upset that they were dying out and that no one was doing anything about it.  When he heard the story from Michael and John Simister, he was more than willing to help.  This is where they received the boar, named Kelly.  Kelly was a magnificent creature, huge for a Kune and a light gold in color.  He was purchased for $50 even though John Wilson did not want to take any money for him.  They also got a young black and brown marbled sow about nine months old and a hand reared gilt about three months old.  Now they had 18 pigs!

They wrote down two lists of the pigs, splitting the sexes and quality.  They flipped a coin to see which list they were going to get.  John Siminster of Stagland won Kelly.  From this gathering two breeding programs were started. 

Hoping to start the basis of some order in the pig’s future, Michael contacted the Pig Breeders Association who would handle the registrations of the KuneKunes.  At that time, he established 6 sow lines and 3 boar lines.

The original lines that he named for the boars were Willowbank Ru, Willowbank Te Kuiti, and Willowbank Te Whangi.  The original sow lines were Willowbank Waitomo, Willowbank Kereopa, Willowbank Awakino, Willowbank Marokopa, Willowbank Kopu and Willowbank Tammerdale.

**information from this article gathered from the book written by Michael Willis, published by Whitcoulls in 1982, “Some of my Best Friends are Animals”.


Now we are also going back in time to follow the lines of the three original boar lines that were established. Those lines are Willowbank Te Whangi, Willowbank Ru and Willowbank Te Kuiti.

Let’s begin with a line we all know and love –

Te Whangi:
 The first Willowbank (WB) Te Whangi was registration number 189. His name was Mr. Magoo and he was a black boar with both wattles. He was purchased from J. Te Whangi, who lived around Waitomo for $400 in 1978. Mr. Magoo passed away in 1988. I have been unable to locate pictures of him for this article. Te Whangi is represented in New Zealand, the UK and a healthy number of boars here in the USA.

Willowbank Te Kuiti:
 purchased from John Wilson who lived near Waitomo in 1978. Kelly, a magnificent boar, started this line. Kelly was NZ 189a. He was a cream with two wattles . Kelly sired the first Te Kuiti boar line

However, in 1993, Tutaki Gary produced Te Kuiti V. I am not sure how the Tutaki line produced the Te Kuiti. I could find nothing futher on the Te Kuiti line since 1993. Tutaki line was produced from the Ru boar line. I do not see how TeKuiti line could be present in the USA unless further evidence comes to light.

Willowbank Ru: He is NZ 51. He was from the North Island from Ru Kotaha who lived near Dannevirke, but the kune was thought to have come from the Opotiki area. He was a Black and white boar with no wattles. The Ru lines were created by using Pirihini Bastion NZ 363 x Jacobs Sow NZ A20. The Ru lines are in New Zealand, the UK and here in the USA. Here is a picture found of Pirihini Bastion.
Now to discuss the additional boar bloodlines that are represented in the USA and how they trace back to the original 3 lines if any at all.

As you know in the USA we have Andrew, Mahia Love, Boris, Te Whangi, Ru, Tutaki, Tonganui and Tuahuru.  So how does the USA have 8 boar bloodlines when there were only 3 original boar bloodlines in NZ? We are going to explore that now.

 We will start with Tutaki –

Tutaki – Tutaki was created in New Zealand and can be traced back to the Ru Boar line from Willowbank (NZ 180) and the Kopu line by Willowbank (NZ 199).  

Andrew – A piglet in New Zealand (NZ # 1764) was registered as Charming Andrew and registered with a sire of Mako Mahio IV (NZ 1100) x Highland Chloe (NZ 1260).  When looking up NZ 1100 no information was given.  Upon further research in the New Zealand herd books, I found a new ear tag was given to #1100 and his original number was 390.  #390 was sired by Mahia I (A25) Mahia I came from Dave Love, Wangarel Station, Gisborne to the South Island around 1989.  Andrew’s are all over the USA and can be traced back directly to Mahia in New Zealand.

Mahia Love/Mahia – I was able to trace through the New Zealand Herd books all the way back to  Mako Mahia (NZ 1100) so the information is the same as above. 

Tuahuru – In researching this pedigree NZ Tuahuru is (AKBA # 0478) which is the first time this name surfaced, this bloodline designation was picked in the USA.  The father of this boar is Sebastien (Ca’rino) NZ 3526.  When looking up that sire, it says that he was inspected by a person in New Zealand which means that his heritage is unknown.  (This happened often in New Zealand history.  KuneKunes would be inspected by a member of the NZ Society and entered into the herd books as purebred but, no known pedigree.) 

Boris – This line is shown in the NZ herd books under NZ 2014 when a piglet was bred by P. Tipene and owned by Katie Rigby.  The piglets name was LOA Tutaneki and his father is listed as a pig named Boris.  I could find no further documentation.  However, Cyndi Berry has told me that the Boris line links directly back to Willowbank Te Whangi I.

Tonganui – The first case of this showing in the NZ herd books is under Katie Rigby and NZ 2012.  This was a boar born of unknown parentage and was registered by Katie Rigby. So, this bloodline designation was created here in the USA and registered in NZ before any USA registries existed.  There were no parents listed for this breeding.

The last two of course, we are all very aware of these lines as they were already explored and they are Ru and Te Whangi. 

Now we will explore 3 of the original 6 sow lines. This can be very confusing tracing these lines through the USA, UK and New Zealand.  The original Willowbank lines are Willowbank Waitomo, Willowbank Kereopa, Willowbank Awakino, Willowbank Marokopa, Willowbank Kopu and Willowbank Tammerdale. 

Willowbank Waitomo – Waitomo I was one of the nine KuneKunes that Willowbank obtained in the split between Staglands and Willowbank.  She was from the North Island and was bred by John Wilson who lived near Waitomo. The original Waitomo was a black and white with two wattles. I was able to track 13 Waitomo’s before the name was changed.    The name change occurred with NZ 1548 Tui Glen Waitomo was bred and her offspring were named Mags Chloe, Mags Uenuku, and Mags Okie.  I was only able to find where 1 of these three produced – Mags Uenuku and two generations were produced up to 2006 where the line dead ends with the birth of Tutukinoa Maria Shibaz.. Information from the UK, shows 2 lines going to the Sally line which is in fact represented here in the USA. (We will explore more on the Sally line in the November issue) 

Willowbank Kereopa - This sow was acquired through Timi Kereopa and came from the Ruatahuna area.  She was black with wattles.  Sows bred from her and her decendents were all small framed, short and squat pigs.  Kereopa traces through New Zealand to the UK.  Willowbank Kereopa XIV was imported to the UK and continued to produce. We have Kereopa's here in the USA as well with the 2010 import done by Goose Meadow. 

Willowbank Awakino – This sow came from John Wilson on the North Island.  She was black and white with wattles. This line traces all through New Zealand and into the UK with Willowbank VI. This line is here in the USA as well with those 2010 imports.

From those original KuneKunes, they were mixed and matched and these lines were created.  According to the New Zealand herdbook, Willowbank would mix a sow with a boar and then name that line using a new name. 

**.  My research is pulled from the pedigrees and herd books from both registries in the USA, the herd books in New Zealand and the herd books in the UK. 

There does not appear to be a lot of information out there on these three however, I will share with you what I have been able to find.

Willowbank Marakopa – Came from John Wilson of Marakopa.  Ginger and black with a small squat type body.  I am able to trace this line to 2001 when a replacement tag was issued for Ararewa Marakopa.  I am unable to track it further.  The information given from the UK shows that there are 9 lines tracing back to Rebecca Gina.  It is my belief that, if Marakopa is present here in the USA it is as a Rebecca Gina.  When you trace Willowbank Rebecca Gina it traces back to the original Wilsons Gina NZ 55 bred by John Wilson.

Willowbank Kopu – This sow came from the Opotiki area in 1978.  This sow had flop ears.  I am only seeing a Kopu II in the early days and no off spring after that.  This line died out very early or was renamed.  According to the research the UK did, this line has 11 lines linking back to Rebecca Gina which of course is from Wilsons Gina as well.

Willowbank Tammerdale – Ginger in color from the Opotiki area. Willowbank Tammerdale was known to be a bit difficult to reproduce.  This line did make it to the UK via Willowbank TammerdaleVIII.  The farthest I could trace it in the UK was to Long Ash Tammerdale.  According to the UK, this line has 1 line to Kereopa.

This can all be very confusing with lines to this and lines to that.  So, in summary based on the information obtained from the UK, we have a line of Tammerdale presented here in the USA via Kereopa’s. We have Kopu and Marakopa represented here in the Rebecca Gina.  Rebecca Gina is a renamed Wilsons Gina line.

Kereopa – Last month we explored this line as it is an original line linked directly back to Willowbank and the original 6 sow lines. 

Awakino – Last month we explored this line as it is an original link linked directly back to Willowbank and the original 6 sow lines. 

Sally – The boar side of the Sally can be linked back to Mako Mahia (Mahia Love line) and Highland Chloe.  Highland Chloe’s mother was Hilldale Highland Chloe (NZH).  The Herd books show Chloe tracking to an inspected kune by P. Leek.  However the UK shows that the Sally links back to Waitiomo by 2 lines and 2 lines back to Awakino.  With either one of these being correct they are both original lines. 

Jenny – Now as we know Jenny’s are a very well established line here in the USA known for their strong conformation and mothering abilities.  Frazier’s Jenny (NZ 1672) produced the Charming Jenny lines.  Frazier’s Jenny came from unknown parents that were inspected P. Leek and registered into the New Zealand herd books.  This means that there are no known parentage of the Jenny’s and it is not an original line. 

Rebecca Gina – The Rebecca Gina first shows up as Marchmont Rebecca Gina born is 1984 (NZ 186) from Willowbank Ru II x Mako Nancy (NZ 185).  Mako Nancy’s parents were Willow Ru I and Wilsons Gina (NZ 55).  Therefore, the Rebecca Gina line is traced back to Wilsons Gina (NZ 55) which was one of the first pigs from the gathering of kunes is 1978 and from the original lines Willowbank was founded from. 

BH Rebecca Gina -  This BH Rebecca Gina links to the UK to Pioneer Rebecca Gina (BKKPS 052) and follows back to Willowbank Rebecca Gina (BKKPS 003).  This ones does directly link back to the same original stock but, this Rebecca Gina has a big difference in the lineage along the way to the above Rebecca Gina.  Ultimately they link back to the same ones listed above. 

Wilsons Gina – As we mentioned above the Rebecca Gina line was created by Wilsons Gina (NZ 55) and turned into the Willowbank Gina line before becoming the Rebecca Gina Line.  Information shared from the UK shows that Kopu and Marakopa lines trace to Wilsons Gina.  In fact, 11 lines traced back to Kopu. 9 lines trace to Marakopa. 

Trish – Trish began with Charming Trish NZ 1707.  This line traces to Goldie (NZ 461) who was born in 1988 from unknown parentage.  Goldie was inspected and entered into the herd books as so often done in NZ.  The information from the UK, shows that this line has one line back to Awakino and one line back to Waitiomo as well. 

Rona – This lines shows with LOA Rona (NZ 2024) bred by Katie Rigby.  The line dead ends simply stating it goes back to Kaigoose Stock but, does not list the parents at all.  In following the first stock of Kaigoose, I found they bred NZ 1040 and NZ 1041 which were the first time I see them as breeders listed in the herd book and when I following the sow of that line she traces back to Wilsons Gina 55.  Is this for sure?  No but, it is possible. 

Tapeka – This line starts here in the USA with NZ Tapeka 1 (AKBA # 0482).  I am able to take her to NZ 2184, Gypsyglade Lucy who was breed to a boar that was not registered named Boris and the female was NZ 2182, Parson’s Reddy.  The reason I mention the unregistered pig named Boris as he is not registered or inspected as a KuneKune, he could be the reason there are belts in the Tapeka line.  Parsons Reedy was inspected with unknown parents by K. Nicoll.  

Aria Giana – This line began here in the US with NZ Aria Giana 1.  In tracking her history she tracks back to Wilsons Gina 55.  So Aria Giana is a renamed Wilsons Gina. 

This concludes our history and bloodlines information.  All research was performed by Kathy Petersen of Virginia KuneKunes from herd books from the AKKPS, AKBA, BKKPS and New Zealand Association.