Kunekunes make great pets

Pictured is Aero Brown with one of the Brown family's Kunekune pigs.

Pigs such as Miss Piggy, Wilbur in “Charlotte’s Web,” Porky Pig and Piglet have all endeared the creature to millions. In the mid-80s, the potbelly pig rage had many people purchasing pigs as pets and now there’s a new pig in town.

Steven and Katrina Brown of Dutton raise a rare breed of pig called Kunekune (KOO-KNEE, KOO-KNEE), the name means fat and round. The domestic pigs developed into their present form in New Zealand, although the breed is of Asian origin as indicated by DNA analysis.

During most of the period these pigs have been in New Zealand they were kept almost solely by Maori communities, and were to a large extent unknown by Europeans. By the 1980s, only an estimated 50 purebred remained. The breed no longer faces extinction due to breeding recovery programs. “Kunekune breeders are rare in the south,” said Katrina.

The domesticated animal can be trained to walk on a leash and do simple tricks. In 2017, a report of Science Daily claimed that the bred has remarkable social learning and an astonishingly good memory. Their docile personality and ease of management makes them desirable for more than just a food source. “Most of our customers purchase them as pets,” said Katrina. “They love to have their belly rubbed.”

The breed mostly eats grass and very little grain when grass is scarce, making them basically self-sustainers. This also makes them desirable for keeping acreage from becoming overgrown. Six Kunekunes can be kept on an acre of land. The docile animals are social by nature and generally get along well with other farm animals. “Most pigs will root up the ground and can cause pasture land to become barren, Kunekunes do not root,” said Katrina. “They also do not challenge fencing as some farm animals do.” The pigs natural short, upturned snout no doubt plays a role in discouraging rooting.

Kunekunes are the smallest breed of domesticated pig, they only grow to approximately 24 inches in height. Their average weight is usually between 200-250, unlike their 600 pound “cousins.” Most breeds of pigs reach full maturity in six-months, whereas the Kunekune takes two years to reach adulthood. Piglets are generally weaned in eight weeks. The exotic pets usually live anywhere from 15 to 20 years. Their colors range from black and white, to ginger, cream, gold-tip, black, brown and tricolored.

While Kunekunes are a delicacy in some parts of the world they are better known for their lard. Their meat is a little fattier than the average pork and cuts tend to be well marbled.

To find out more about Kunekunes, call the Browns at 256-647-1403

Brown family motto: “Pigs make good pets too.”

— Marla Ballard’s Who's Who appears in the Times-Journal Wednesday and weekend editions.

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