The Kunekune is a unique New Zealand breed of pig. Unfortunately, the origin of the breed is somewhat uncertain, as there is a lack of documented information on its introduction and early population numbers. Early records did not differentiate the Kunekune from other pigs such as the Captain Cooker and other breeds and crossbreeds kept by the Maori people.
The general consensus is that the Kunekune were probably brought to New Zealand in the 1800's by whalers operating in New Zealand waters, and were traded with the Maoris. Pigs with similar characteristics occur in Asia, South America, and the Polynesian Islands, but the resemblance is slight and suggestive only of a possible common ancestry.
The history of the breed is one of a close association with the Maori people, and in the early 1900's were usually only found associated with Maori settlements. In early times the Kunekune were prized for their placid nature and their tendency not to roam, as they have always been a domesticated pig. They were also valued for the quantity of meat and fat, the fat being used for preserving food.
In the late 1970's the breed was 'rediscovered' and at that time it was estimated that there were only about 50 purebred Kunekunes left in New Zealand. From purebred base stock of only 6 sows and 3 boars in 1978, the Kunekune now numbers in the thousands. It is due to the enthusiasm and dedication of people like Michael Willis and John Simister that the breed was saved from extinction.
Nowadays, the Kunekune has found its niche as a pet pig. Its unique appearance, placid nature, and small round size that made it unacceptable in a commercial environment has enabled this special breed to find its place in modern New Zealand life.