The kunekune (pronounced coonie-coonie) is a relatively small breed of pig (125-300 lbs.) known for its extraordinarily friendly, docile and social nature. In raising these amazing little animals, we'll be helping to expand a rare species of pig that was nearly extinct just 20 years ago.
Kunekunes essentially originated on--but are not indigenous to--the island nation of New Zealand. Likely through trade with passing ships, the Maori people acquired one or more species of pigs of unknown origin, probably from the Asian continent and/or outlying islands. The Maori relied on the kunekune as a primary source of meat and fat; and so, over many years, they selectively bred them to be easy-going and easily managed. The result? Kunekunes aren't destructive diggers like other domesticated pigs can be; their nutritional needs are largely met by grazing on grass, an affordable commodity in many areas; and even as free-ranging pigs, they stay close to home and humans, foraging for food nearby during the day and coming back at night to sleep.
By 1980, the breed was nearly extinct, and not for the usual reasons one might think. Because it takes 1-3 years for the kunekune to reach maturity, the Maori had simply all but stopped breeding them for meat, as other domesticated livestock could be raised and slaughtered far more quickly and efficiently. Also, by all accounts, kunekunes weren't being raised/bred anywhere else in the world. A recovery program initiated in New Zealand in the late 1970s pulled together only about 18 purebred kunekunes, and it is from this tiny group of pigs that all of today's purebred kunekunes originate.
Through careful breeding programs worldwide, the kunekune has been brought back from near extinction in less than thirty years. The breed was deemed safe from extinction in 2010; and so today, kunekune breeders are able to focus on diversifying bloodlines, decreasing the degree of consanguinity that has been implicit in reestablishing a breed using such a small group of individual animals. This (and not bacon, though we must admit we think about bacon a lot more lately) is our reason for starting the big pig project.
Our first little pig, Tink, is now getting to be a very big little pig. A very big, funny, smart, sweet, hungry, beloved little pig. We hope we can find her a nice boyfriend sometime soon!