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What Is the KuneKune Breed Standard?

The KuneKune breed standard is a set of guidelines that outline the ideal physical and temperamental characteristics of the KuneKune pig, serving as a blueprint for responsible breeding and the preservation of this unique heritage breed.

Questions and Comments About KuneKune Breed Standard,IKHR Breeed Standard,AKKPS Breed Standard




Developed in the late 20th century by the British KuneKune Pig Society, the KuneKune breed standard has played a crucial role in the comeback of these once-rare pigs. Originally from New Zealand, KuneKunes were brought back from the brink of extinction by Michael Willis and John Simister who recognized their unique qualities and potential as companion animals and sustainable livestock.

John Simister - Father of KuneKunes
Photo of John Simister, Credit to Stuff.co.nz


The breed standard helps to maintain the integrity of the KuneKune by providing a clear vision of the ideal pig. It covers aspects such as the head structure, body composition, leg and feet conformation, skin and hair, and other breed-specific traitsTemperament is also a key consideration, with KuneKunes prized for their friendly, docile nature.



In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the KuneKune breed standard, exploring its various components and the reasons behind them. We’ll discuss the key physical characteristics that define the breed, the importance of temperament, and the role of breeding in maintaining the standard. We’ll also cover how to select a KuneKune pig based on the breed standard and touch on some of the challenges and future prospects for this beloved breed.

What Are the Key Physical Characteristics of KuneKune Pigs?

The KuneKune breed standard outlines a range of physical characteristics that contribute to the pig’s overall health, functionality, and unique appearance. 

These traits have been carefully selected and refined over time to ensure that KuneKunes are well-suited to their roles as companion animals and sustainable livestock.

How Does the Head Structure Influence a KuneKune’s Health and Functionality?

One of the most distinctive features of the KuneKune is its head structure

KuneKune Breeding Standards - Head Structure AKKPS
KuneKune Breeding Standards - Head Structure IKHR

The American KuneKune Pig Society Breed Standard calls for a “broad and dished” face, with a “short to medium snout” and “teeth suitable for grazing.” Similarly, the International KuneKune Hog Registry Breed Standard specifies a “broad, dished forehead” and a “short, broad, upturned snout with large, symmetrical nostrils to facilitate respiratory ease.”


In KuneKunes a shorter snout to medium which allows for easier breathing and reduces the risk of respiratory issues is the utmost goal. 

However, it’s important to strike a balance, as an excessively short snout can lead to complications. When a snout is too short there is generally concern with sunken eyes and potential blindness when they gain too much weight.  The snout should also be wide enough to accommodate teeth suitable for grazing, with the lower jaw matching the width of the upper jaw.


The eyes should be bright, intelligent, and set wide apart, while the ears are small to medium in size and can be pricked or slightly folded. Well-defined wattles are another unique characteristic of the KuneKune, with both breed standards specifying two clearly visible, evenly shaped wattles.

What is the Ideal Body Structure for KuneKune Pigs?

The breed standards describe the ideal body structure of a KuneKune Pig is a pig with a sturdy, well-proportioned body. Key features include a level topline, with no dipping or arching of the spine, and a slight rounding to the rump. 

KuneKune Breed Standards AKKPS Body Structure What Is the KuneKune Breed Standard?
KuneKune Breed Standards - IKHR Body Standards

The AKKPS standard calls for “shoulders level and in proportion” and a “strong, level or slightly arched” back, while the IKHR standard specifies a “strong, level, or slightly arched” back and “well-sprung ribs in proportion with shoulders and hams.”


The KuneKune boar in the short video below exemplifies the ideal body composition, with a wide, deep chest, a strong, level back, and muscular hindquarters. This structure allows for efficient movement and supports the pig’s overall health and vitality.

Why Are Legs and Feet Important in the Assessment of KuneKune Pigs?

Proper leg and foot structure are critical for a KuneKune’s overall health, mobility, and longevity. 
KuneKune Breed Standard AKKPS Legs and Feet 1 What Is the KuneKune Breed Standard?
Breed Standard - Legs and Feet IKHR

The AKKPS standard states that legs should be “straight, well set, able to support the size” and that feet should be “strong, closed, and even.” The IKHR standard provides more detail, specifying “short to medium, straight, strong boned, well tapered and well set apart” legs and “strong, even, short to medium cleys consistent with heritage breeds” for the feet.


The pasterns, which are the sloping part of the leg just above the hoof, should be strong and flexible. This trait is essential for absorbing shock and maintaining proper mobility. Weak or excessively sloped pasterns can lead to lameness and other health issues.


The KuneKune boar in the video below  has excellent leg and feet structure. His legs are straight and well-set, with strong, flexible pasterns that allow for easy movement. This conformation is a key factor in overall health and vitality.

How Does Temperament and Behavior Impact KuneKune Breed Standards?


In addition to physical characteristics, temperament is a crucial aspect of the KuneKune breed standard.

KuneKune Breed Standard AKKPS Temperament What Is the KuneKune Breed Standard?
IKHR Breed Standard on KuneKune Temperament

The AKKPS standard describes the ideal temperament as “friendly, calm, placid natured,” while the IKHR standard uses the terms “placid in nature, active and alert, confident, docile, inquisitive.”


These descriptions highlight the breed’s suitability as companion animals and their ease of handling in a farm setting. KuneKunes are known for their even-tempered, curious, and affectionate nature, which makes them a popular choice for small-scale pig keepers and pet owners alike.


Proper socialization and handling from a young age can help to reinforce these desirable temperament traits, but much of it comes down to responsible breeding practices that prioritize even temperament alongside physical characteristics.

What Are the Breeding Considerations for KuneKunes?


Responsible breeding is essential for maintaining the integrity of the KuneKune breed and ensuring the health and well-being of future generations. Breeders must take into account a range of factors, including genetic diversity, health screening, and adherence to the breed standard.

KuneKune Pigs Breeding


Why Is Genetic Diversity Critical in KuneKune Breeding Programs?


Genetic diversity is crucial for maintaining the overall health and resilience of the KuneKune breed. A diverse gene pool helps to reduce the risk of inherited health issues and ensures that the breed remains adaptable to changing environmental conditions.


Breeders should avoid excessive inbreeding, which can lead to a higher incidence of genetic defects and a reduction in the breed’s genetic variability. Instead, they should seek out unrelated, high-quality breeding stock to maintain genetic diversity within their breeding programs.


What Role Does Health Screening Play in Maintaining Breed Standards?


Health screening is another essential aspect of responsible KuneKune breeding. Breeders should regularly assess their breeding stock for any signs of genetic defects or health issues that could be passed on to offspring.


This includes screening for conditions such as umbilical hernias, which can be a common issue in pigs. Breeders should also pay close attention to the teats of their breeding stock, as the number and placement of teats can impact a sow’s ability to nurse her piglets effectively. The AKKPS standard specifies that females should have “at least 10 evenly spaced teats,” while the IKHR standard calls for “at least 10 sound, evenly spaced, well-paired teats starting well forward” in both males and females.


By prioritizing health screening and selecting only the healthiest, most structurally sound animals for breeding, KuneKune breeders can help to ensure that the breed remains robust and true to its intended purpose.

How to Select a KuneKune Pig for Breeding or as a Pet?


When selecting a KuneKune pig for breeding or as a pet animal, it’s essential to consider both physical and temperamental traits as outlined in the breed standard.


Prospective owners should look for pigs with a balanced, proportionate build, with no major structural faults or deviations from the standard. They should also assess the pig’s temperament, looking for signs of friendliness, curiosity, and a calm, even-tempered disposition.


Working with a reputable breeder who adheres to the breed standard and prioritizes the health and well-being of their animals is crucial. These breeders will be able to provide detailed information about the pig’s lineage, health history, and temperament, helping buyers to make an informed decision.


Ultimately, the goal is to select a KuneKune pig that not only meets the breed standard but also fits well with the individual’s lifestyle and expectations, whether as a breeding animal or a cherished companion.


What Challenges Face KuneKune Breed Standards Today?


As the popularity of KuneKune pigs continues to grow, maintaining the integrity of the breed standard becomes increasingly important. However, this growing popularity also presents some challenges that breeders and enthusiasts must navigate.


One of the main challenges is the potential for a dilution of the breed standard as more people become involved in breeding KuneKunes. Without a deep understanding of the breed’s history and the importance of adhering to the standard, some breeders may prioritize traits that deviate from the ideal, such as smaller size or novel colors.


Another challenge is the impact of commercial demand on breeding practices. As more people seek out KuneKunes as pets or for small-scale farming, there may be a temptation to breed for quantity over quality, leading to a decline in the overall health and soundness of the breed.


To mitigate these challenges, it’s essential for KuneKune breeders and breed organizations to remain vigilant in educating new breeders and owners about the importance of the breed standard. This includes emphasizing the need for health screening, genetic diversity, and adherence to the established guidelines for physical and temperamental traits.


Encouraging responsible breeding practices and promoting the value of preserving the breed’s unique characteristics can help to ensure that KuneKunes remain a healthy, functional, and beloved breed for generations to come.

What Does the Future Hold for the KuneKune Breed Standards?


Looking to the future, the KuneKune breed standard is likely to evolve alongside advancements in genetic testing and a growing understanding of the breed’s potential.


As genetic testing becomes more sophisticated and accessible, breeders may be able to make more informed decisions about their breeding programs, identifying and avoiding genetic defects while preserving desirable traits. This could lead to a refinement of the breed standard over time, with a greater emphasis on health and soundness.


Additionally, as KuneKunes continue to gain popularity across a range of settings, from urban homesteads to small-scale farms, there may be opportunities to explore new roles and functions for the breed. This could lead to a broadening of the breed standard to encompass a wider range of traits and characteristics that support these diverse applications.


However, it’s crucial that any changes to the breed standard are made thoughtfully and with the best interests of the breed in mind. This means prioritizing health, functionality, and temperament over fleeting trends or aesthetic preferences.


Ultimately, the future of the KuneKune breed standard will depend on the dedication and commitment of breeders, owners, and enthusiasts who value the unique qualities of this remarkable breed and work tirelessly to preserve and promote them.



Key Takeaways

Understanding and adhering to the KuneKune breed standard is essential for anyone involved in breeding, owning, or appreciating these unique pigs. By working together to maintain the integrity of the breed, we can ensure that KuneKunes remain a healthy, functional, and beloved part of our agricultural and companion animal landscape.

Here are some of the key points to remember:

    1. The KuneKune breed standard outlines the ideal physical and temperamental characteristics of the breed, serving as a guideline for responsible breeding and preservation.
    2. Key physical characteristics include a broad, dished face, short to medium snout, well-defined wattles, a sturdy, proportionate body, and strong, straight legs and feet. 
    3. KuneKunes are known for their friendly, docile temperament, which is an essential aspect of the breed standard and contributes to their popularity as companion animals and small-scale livestock.
    4. Responsible breeding practices, including maintaining genetic diversity, conducting health screenings, and selecting breeding stock that adheres to the breed standard, are crucial for preserving the health and integrity of the KuneKune breed.
    5. As the popularity of KuneKunes grows, it’s essential for breeders, owners, and enthusiasts to remain committed to upholding the breed standard and educating others about the importance of responsible breeding and ownership.

By working together to promote and preserve the unique qualities of the KuneKune breed, we can ensure a bright future for these remarkable pigs and the people who love them.

So, whether you’re a seasoned breeder, a new owner, or simply an admirer of KuneKune pigs, we encourage you to learn more about the KuneKune breed standard and get involved in supporting the continued success and well-being of the breed.

Consider joining breed organizations like the American KuneKune Pig Society or International KuneKune Hog Registry.  Attending educational events, and connecting with other KuneKune enthusiasts to share knowledge and resources.

Together, we can help to ensure that KuneKunes remain a vital and cherished part of our world for generations to come.

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