Kune Kunes are known as the Maori-pigs from New Zealand. Their name is pronounced Cooney Cooney. The Polynesian word “KuneKune” means ‘fat, round’. The pigs are not originally from New-Zealand, as fossil research has shown. So where do they come from? By means of DNA-analysis, research at the University of Auckland has shown that the Kune Kune is almost certainly of Asian descent. There are several theories as to how these pigs ended up in New Zealand. The most likely theory is that the Kune Kunes were introduced in the European period by whalers and traders. From 1790, New Zealand was visited by American and European explorers, whalers and sealers. Some of them probably brought pigs from Asia along during their journey, to serve as food. The pigs were often released on land in order to multiply, so that they could be slaughtered at a later trip to New Zealand. Later on, the pigs were used by whalers to barter with the Maori. The Maori greatly valued the pigs. They helped to spread the animals throughout New Zealand by giving them to other tribes as gifts, or by keeping half-wild herds. For the Maori, it was a custom to give large gifts, preferably livestock, to family members and members of nearby tribes.
The history of the Kune Kune is closely linked to the Maori. And from the early 1900’s, Kune Kunes were only kept by Maori communities. In those days, Kune Kunes were liked for their steady character and because they didn’t have the tendency to wander. They were also valued for the quality of their meat and fat, the fat was used to preserve food. Fat is the traditional preservative for Polynesian people, instead of salt and brine, as was customary in Europe.
In 1980, two wildlife-reserve owners in New Zealand realized that the Kune Kune pigs were on the verge of extinction. Their meat was hardly used by the Maori anymore and the animals were barely known by the people of European descent. There were only fifty pure-bred pigs left in New Zealand.
These wildlife-reserve owners searched the whole country and bought each pure-bred Kune Kune that they could find. These 18 Kune Kunes in total, form the basis of the current genealogical register.
With the help of a growing number of breeders and owners, the Kune Kune population is presently in healthy condition and spread throughout New Zealand, there is a fairly strong demand, being very suitable pigs for small farmers.
Kune Kunes have also been exported to the UK, the USA and the European continent. In New Zealand, the UK and in the Netherlands, there are active Kune Kune societies to register all of the pure-bred Kune Kunes.