8 Kune Kune Pigs – How did they get to New Zealand?

Kune Kune Pigs – How did they get to New Zealand?

Two differing types of pigs can be found in New Zealand.  These are the Ferals and the Kune Kune.  The Kune Kune are very small, with adult sows growing to roughly 40 kg and boars 50 kg. They used to be kept by the Maori but they are probably Chinese in origin.

The word ‘Kune’ translates from the Maori as ‘fat and round’.

The Kune like all pigs has a large head that sits directly on its shoulders with no neck to speak of.  Its body is strong, stocky and hairy.  The hair can be bristly or soft and the Kune comes in a range of colours.  They can be pure black, ginger, tortoiseshell and ‘smokey blue’.  Its snout is found shorter in the purebreds and can be seen to vary in its angle of unturn.

The ears, depending on the individual animal can be pricked or flopped down.  Kune Kunes develop tusks, although the females much less so than the males.  These begin to develop when the pig reaches around 22 months in age, yet they will not progress further than the upper lip in sows.

The Maori valued the Kune Kune’s ability to become deliciously round on a diet of little more than grass.  Also the kunes are generally good-natured creatures probably due to being domesticated for so long.

The Kune Kune’s Origins

Although years of thorough research by historians and biologists, have been devoted to the whereabouts of their origin, no conclusions have ever been drawn and it still remains a mystery – or is it?

Theories include that they were brought over by the Maori in canoes; that Captain Cook brought pigs over to NZ as a food supply in 1769 yet they somehow bred with a more domestic pig also aboard his ships to create the kune kune pig. Another version of this theory states that the Cook’s pigs were bred with the old Poland breed brought by American whalers to NZ and their interbreeding resulted in the kune kune.  That Spanish explorers introduced them is another theory later to be domesticated by the European whalers and sealers.

It is widely assumed that the breed was originally from China, because of the Polish pigs still found there today which have the characteristic chin tassels of the kune kune, but the matter is still under debate.  It is our belief that the Kune Kune are Chinese pigs brought to New Zealand by the Chinese fleets in their great pre-Maori voyages of exploration.

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