The KuneKune (pronounced Cooney Cooney) is a small domestic pig breed that originated from New Zealand. Descended from small Asian pigs brought by settlers, the KuneKune was isolated to rural areas and small farms for many decades. Their docile nature and adaptability to foraging made them a multi-purpose farm pig. Though nearly extinct by the 1970s, conservation efforts helped the KuneKune breed survive. Today its growing popularity among small homesteaders and hobby farms is helping ensure the future of this special pig.
In this article, we’ll explore what exactly KuneKune pigs are, their unique traits and characteristics, ideal habitat, diet, lifespan, and health. We’ll discuss their small stature, docile personality, hardy nature, and low-maintenance care requirements that lend themselves well to small-scale food production. By evaluating their distinct appearance, needs, and traits, we’ll uncover whether the good-natured KuneKune truly is the ideal pig for small farmsteads and backyard pork production.
What is a KuneKune Pig?
A KuneKune pig is a small, hairy, domestic pig breed from New Zealand. They are the smallest purebred pig breed in the world. KuneKunes can vary greatly in appearance with different colored coats like black, brown, white, ginger, cream, spotted, and more. They also have different coat textures ranging from sleek and smooth to coarse and curly. Their compact rotund bodies and gentle, docile nature have contributed to their popularity as pets and homestead pigs.
5 Unique Traits of KuneKune Pigs
1. Do KuneKune Pigs Root?
KuneKune Pigs are not prone to extensive rooting behaviors. Their short upturned noses make rooting in soil more challenging. KuneKunes prefer to graze on grasses and plants rather than root for food. Though some may do minor rooting for specific minerals or grubs, it is not a defining behavior of the breed. Their lack of rooting makes the KuneKune well-suited to pasture-based farming.
2. Do KuneKunes Graze?
KuneKunes are excellent grazers they can acquire most of their diet from fresh pasture and grass alone, and are known as the only pig that can be solely grass-fed. Their grazing ability means providing grain is not essential for KuneKunes as it is for other pigs. KuneKunes will happily graze on meadows and paddocks of mixed grasses and plants. Most breeders still choose to supplement their diet with grain and minerals to ensure they are getting enough vitamins and minerals in spite of their grazing behavior being a distinctive part of the breed.
3. What Makes Them Different?
KuneKunes are different because of their small size, grazing ability and disinterest in rooting makes them remarkably different than commercial pig breeds. Most pigs require significant amounts of grain and will root or dig up pastures. KuneKunes thrive on grass, are gentle mannered, smaller in size, and do not damage fields. For these reasons, they excel in pasture-based, sustainable farming systems.
4. What is KuneKune Temperament Like?
KuneKunes are known for their docile, gentle, and intelligent nature. They are playful, friendly pigs perfect for interacting with children. Owners describe them as endearing pets.
5. Why Are KuneKunes Easy to Contain?
KuneKunes tend to respect fencing and boundaries thanks to their calm temperament. Additionally, since they do not root extensively like other pigs, they are less inclined to dig and escape confinement. Their small size also enables effective containment in smaller spaces. KuneKunes are typically gentle in nature and do not challenge human handlers. All these traits make them one of the easiest breeds to contain.
What is a Healthy Diet for KuneKune Pigs?
As natural grazers, the ideal KuneKune Pig Diet consists primarily of fresh pasture, grasses, plants and vegetables. KuneKunes thrive when they can freely graze on pasture. They enjoy rooting through greenery and undergrowth for edible plants.
Providing supplemental grains is not a requirement for KuneKune health, but small amounts can be added to their diet. Oats, barley, Alfalfa pellets and wheat in moderation can provide extra protein and nutrients.
KuneKunes also appreciate garden produce like fruits and vegetables. Windfall apples, carrot trimmings and melons are enjoyed treats. Kitchen scraps can supplement their diets when available.
Access to fresh clean water is essential for hydration and health.
Overall, the natural grazing behaviors of the KuneKune make their dietary needs easy to meet with just pasture, forage and a few supplements.
How long do KuneKune pigs live?
The average lifespan of KuneKune Pigs is 15-20 years, with the oldest KuneKune recorded being 21 years old
One factors that contributes to their longevity is KuneKunes have few inherent genetic health issues. They tend to suffer fewer joint problems than heavier commercial breeds. With adequate space, their hooves also tend to naturally wear down.
Providing a nurturing environment and high-quality pasture or feed is key to supporting the KuneKune’s naturally long and healthy life. Their resilience against disease and disorders contributes to their lengthy average lifespan of 15-20 years.
What Are the Distinctive Physical Features of KuneKune Pigs?
The KuneKune is a uniquely rotund yet small breed of domestic pig that originated in New Zealand. These petite pigs have several characteristic physical features that set them apart from other swine breeds.
KuneKunes have compact, rounded bodies supported by relatively short legs. This gives them a low, stocky stature. Their broad, flattened faces end in distinctly short, upturned snouts. Large, floppy ears point forward on either side of their head. While coat colors vary widely, KuneKunes are generally covered in a coarse, longer hair that can range from sleek to almost curly in texture. Some KuneKunes also have fleshy wattles that hang from their jaw known as “piri piri” in Maori.
How Does Appearance Vary Among KuneKune Pigs?
While KuneKunes share the same general physique, there are some differences among individuals including:
- Size – Some bloodlines produce pigs on the larger end of the breed standard
- Leg length – Ranges from very short to moderately short
- Coat texture – Can be smooth and sleek or longer and coarser, often changes seasonally
- Coat color – Many solid colors seen as well as spotted patterns
- Ear shape – Fully upright or floppy/looped ears occur
- Wattles – Some have full double wattles, one, or none at all
What is the Significance of Kune Kune Pig Wattles?
The fleshy wattles that hang from the jaw of some KuneKunes are called “piri piri” in the Maori language. These tassels are considered a distinguishing feature of the breed, though not all individuals have them. The wattles are about 4cm long and are the result of a dominant gene – pigs with just one copy of the “wattles” gene will develop them. Sometimes the wattles are uneven in size or only present on one side. They can also be lost due to injury. While not universal across the breed, the wattles are considered part of the unique KuneKune phenotype.
What is the Typical KuneKune Pig Size?
KuneKunes are known for being smaller than many domestic pig breeds. Full grown adults average about 24-30 inches long from their snout to hindquarters. Typical weights range from 200-300 lbs for mature males (boars) and 120-200 lbs for mature females (sows). Their compact size makes them one of the smallest pig breeds. To learn more about KuneKune Pig Size and Weight we encourage you to read our article that details that specifically.
How Big Do KuneKune Sows Usually Get?
Female KuneKune pigs or sows generally reach weights between 120-200 lbs once fully mature. As the smaller sex, sows tend to max out at about 200 lbs in a healthy breeding female. Genetics and nutrition impact their growth and final size.
How Big Do KuneKune Boars Get?
Intact male KuneKunes or boars are usually considerably larger than females. Average weights for mature boars range from 200-300 lbs, though some exceptionally large males can be heavier. As males continue growing for over a year, their final dimensions are influenced by genetic potential and diet.
Why are KuneKune Pigs Ideal for Homesteading?
For the small-scale homesteader, hobby farmer, or responsible pork producer, the KuneKune truly is a versatile addition. Here are some specific reasons they excel:
- Small size perfect for limiting pasture impact and confinement space (average 200-250 lbs vs 700+ for commercial breeds)
- Calm temperament enables safe interactions with children
- Grazing ability reduces supplemental feed requirements
- Low maintenance health usually requires no special care
- Long lifespans of 15-20 years provide longevity compared to 5 years average for production pigs
- Tender and flavorful meat rivals premium pork brands
By thoughtfully raising KuneKunes, small homesteads can enjoy all the benefits of pig keeping on a miniature scale. Their multi-purpose nature, ease of care, and friendly personality have made them a top choice for sustainable small farms.
How Does KuneKune Meat Taste?
KuneKune pork is prized for its rich depth of flavor and texture. The meat has a distinctive dark pink to red hue indicating higher myoglobin levels than other breeds. The abundant fat marbling and diverse forage-based diet leads to a complex sweet, nutty, and grassy taste. KuneKune meat is exceptionally juicy and tender thanks to its extensive marbling and high fat content. The fat itself has a luscious, creamy mouthfeel that melts at lower temperatures. Overall, the flavor is described as moist, rich, and reminiscent of old-fashioned pork. When cured or smoked, these heritage pigs take on bold added flavors excellently.
Why we think KuneKune pigs are the best?
For the small-scale homesteader, hobby farmer, or responsible pork producer, the KuneKune truly is the perfect pig. This heritage breed checks all the boxes when thoughtfully raised – small size, calm temperament, grazing ability, longevity, and succulent flavor. KuneKunes form a docile and friendly little herd requiring minimal space and inputs compared to commercial breeds. They respect fences, coexist with other livestock, and make charming pets. When the time comes, their richly marbled meat rivals the taste of the highest-end pork. The KuneKune offers an all-around excellent option for ethically producing pork while bonding with a lovable and lively pigs.