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Miniature Pigs: The Vibrantly Colored Kunekunes
Kunekunes are a rare breed of miniature pig that originate in New Zealand. Besides their size they are most noted for their vibrant colorations including everything from solid colors to stark black and white cow spots to fascinating calico-like patterns. They also have little chin tassels known as pire pire which is unique to the breed.
Much speculation is given to the exact origin of this breed but most scholars think they probably originally came from Asia, brought by whalers and traders to use for bartering with the native Maori people of New Zealand in the early 1800's. They called them Kunekunes (pronounced coonie coonie) which means plump or chubby.
Besides their striking appearance and manageable size the Kunekunes also have a very docile and friendly nature, making them ideal pets. Unfortunately this fact is only now catching on after the Kunekune nearly faded out of existence. As late as 1980 their population was said to have dwindled to as little as fifty individuals worldwide. Only with the efforts of Michael Willis and John Simister was a recovery program able to bring their population back from the brink of extinction. An expedition was held in 1984 which resulted in 18 pigs being brought into this new domestic breeding program. Most Kunekunes known today came from this foundation. By 2004 their population was up to 5000 in New Zealand which was enough to start exporting them to Europe, the UK, and the United States.
A hardy breed that required little supplementation from what it roots up itself, this little pig is fast becoming a valued pet animal. They're docile, smart, and very friendly, even finding themselves in the occasional 4-H program. Sows can be bred safely at a year of age and animals raised for slaughter are suggested to be rounded up at about the same time. Their meat is thought by many to taste better then the larger more common porkers.