The History of KuneKune Pigs

When I was researching a different venture for our small acre farm, I looked at several different animals. I had considered Alpacas, goats, miniature cattle and pigs. In researching different breeds of pigs, I ran across a picture of a KuneKune pig. I thought these little creatures were adorable. Never once, had I considered raising pigs. Now, I am totally and completely in love with this breed of pigs.


Once of the things that intrigued me was the history of this breed. I found very little information here in the US about them and did most of my research through the New Zealand KuneKune Society and the British KuneKune society. That is where my passion began … with the history.

These little pigs were almost extinct. No one really knows exactly how they came to New Zealand, but several theories exist from whalers bringing them over to New Zealand to the Maori tribes bringing them back in their canoes. The Maori tribes used to keep KuneKunes as a meat pig and for their lard. Maybe saying “keep” is the wrong word since they allowed them to roam free, but they stayed closed to the tribal homes. Some say this is how they became so domesticated and friendly.

Two gentleman, Michael Willis and John Simister, began searching out these little pigs to begin a recovery program when they found out there were less than 50 of them left. They encountered difficulty in finding just 18, and they acquired them through gifts and purchasing them. They were very successful in their recovery breeding program and basically brought the breed back from the brink of extinction.

In 1995, Katie Rigby imported KuneKunes directly from New Zealand to the US and began her own breeding program. It was a closed herd, and she only sold spayed and neutered “pets.” Most of Katie’s herd no longer exists.

In 2005, another import happened, this time from Great Britain. These imports were to start a breeding program of KuneKunes in the US.

In 2010, there were several more lines added by another import, again from Great Britain, bringing even more genetic diversity to the now expanded breeding stock here.

Now with KuneKunes in several countries, the breed is well established and there are no more fears of them becoming extinct. Actually here in the US, they are beginning to find their way into the hearts and farms across America. They are not yet in all 50 states, but they are well on their way with new herd owners every day.

One of the things I have enjoyed is being a part of the KuneKune world and feeling like I can somehow make a difference in sharing their history and information about KuneKunes with others.

In our next blog post, we will begin to explore their personalities … if you wish to read more about the history, please visit our website.

Published on Sep 30, 2014

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