The Kune’s Can!

In our search for the quintessential grazers we’ve begun seriously considering Kune Kune pigs. The Kune Kunes are a rare smaller heritage breed from Asia/New Zealand that are well suited to pasture grazing and small jobs like turning compost, mulch piles and cleaning up orchard wind fall.


A recent road trip to Washington State with my Jedi-in-training resulted in finally meeting the breed and the woman tasked with ensuring their local longevity. This trip resulted in a lot of smiles. The Kune Kunes are endearing, friendly, intelligent and practical little porkers whose name in Maori translates to “fat and round”.

Their short little snouts might be better suited to our silvopasture application, where deep trenching and uprooting would be a serious faux pas. Their preference for grazing pasture and growing slowly, versus fattening up on grains in short order is extremely appealing. The fact that I wouldn’t need to wrestle with a 400lb animal while maintaining hooves is a relief. Topping out at 150 lbs for the sows – Kune Kune pigs seem perfect for the weed patch.

While in the beautiful Olympic Penninsula we could not help detour to some of the best beaches on the coast to reflect on our piggy plans.

 We came home pig-less but plan to introduce a handful of pastured pigs to roam the aisles of nut trees and help aerate our mountains of mulch and compost next spring. Although we’re still enamoured with the wooly wonders (Mangalicas), I’m beginning to think the Kune Kunes can do everything a standard sized pig can, while keeping their footprint on our land much lighter.


11 thoughts on “The Kune’s Can!”

  1. The kune kunes are out of quarantine next week.

    Already, Moana, Kura and Tana ‘sit’ …and I believe that they recognize their names. Kura came over purposely to me the other day, sat, looked me in the eye, and said “kurrraaa”. It happened twice. I am having a hard time convincing others of this…and my sitting in the confined quarantine area, singing to them, does not help on the credibility side 🙂 BUT, once training is under way next week, I am expecting all kinds of wonderful outcomes. In order: sit, fetch, turn round, dig rock, dig weed, come, stay, poop in one spot…pull the cart, guard the chickens, mind the sheep, turn the compost…and say your name.

    I have noticed however, that pigs can just plain ignore you if they so choose. I get the sense that ‘love’ is going to be the motivator. Certainly not the ‘stick’. I am also beginning to think that ‘reward’ could quickly be manipulated to advantage…and divert the piglets from the training task at hand – they are such hogs! A grain every so often perhaps, kept in a location away from me, and an apple reward at the end of a short training session…

    It is going to be an interesting winter!

    Oh, and, on the topic of keeping warm, the kune kune’s have soft curly hair and lots of it. In their shelter they have built themselves a two foot high nest of straw and hay (contained by sacks of straw). At night they bury themselves deep into the nest and pile on top of each other – an endearing sight.

    At (-15) centigrade? Well, I will let you know.

  2. Here is the dedication to the three little piglets, Canada’s first kune kune pigs.

    When crossing on the Gabriola ferry and asked what was in the Van, Peter said “three little pigs and a bale of hay…we already have the wood and bricks. Needless to say it made the night for the ferry attendant and made a nice ending for our very long journey.

    1. Moana, in memory of a beautiful NZ song from the 60’s, by John Rowles -who wrote it for his little sister, Moana, when he was overseas. Moana was a young maori girl about 7 years old at the time. The song became an instant hit in NZ & put John Rowles on the map. It is an oldtime NZ favourite.

    Listen to

    SO female piglet, black and white, 5 months old, is called Moana. Moana means vast expansion of ocean…and she is showing a vast amount of sisterly love for her little companion, Tana.

    2. Female, black and white, 4 months old, is called Peppa Kura. Peppa is a favourite little piglet cartoon that my grandchild, Liam loves.
    Kura means “little treasure” in maori. The name reminded me of the amazing NZ Maori opera singer, Kiri Te Kanawa.

    Listen to Kira, another NZ favourite:



    3. Tana -male, ginger and black, 3 months old. Tana in maori means “little one”.

    Not to be left out…The Haka for Tana 🙂
    …he is going to need lots of testosterone to father Canadian Kunes.…1c.1.pPcNCfu2CfE&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.&fp=8f355ff59f564f48&bpcl=38625945&biw=1366&bih=643

    ps..Ireland lost.

  3. Me too!I We’re here on Gabriola as well. I would love to find out more about them. They seem like a good fit for a smaller place. And I like the idea of getting them to turn the compost!

    1. Liz, I’m a friend of the weedpatch and am also interested in the Kune Kunes. Just wondering … you don’t happen to be related to Wes, do you? He’s an old friend of mine from Victoria, and given that Nienaber is not such a common name, I thought you might be related. Cheers … Linda Prowse

      1. Hi Linda,

        Yes actually, he’s my husbands uncle! There is another Nienaber on Gabriola, not related though. I’ll tell Wes you say Hi next time we talk to them. Small world…

    2. Gabriola is where it is all happening. I love this island!…shhh. It is fun to have others on the island interested in kune kunes – such a coincident. They are amazing animals in many ways.

      I am starting to put discard small apples and whole grain under the compost pile now…my hope is that by the time the kunes are out of quarantine the apples and grain will smell deliciously enticing to them. Once we have a trusting relationship, I will demonstrate and show them the reward and …. maybe they will churn the compost for me! Unlike other pig breeds, Kunes are not natural rooters, but they are highly intelligent and can learn.

      In NZ, the 3 month old kune would daily drag her food bucket over to the gate to remind me that it was time to refill it with kitchen wastes 🙂 Similar social behaviour to a dog, but I think kunes are more suitable on small acreage as they: are cleaner (always poop in a select corner); less expensive to feed (eat 90% grass, kitchen scraps and a few of potatoes & grain); good alert guards (they will squeal like crazy if a predator comes near the chickens); and helpful around the garden.

      …aside from compost churning and keeping my developing forest garden and grass pathways well mowed (they dont damage tree bark), I’m wondering what other tasks they could learn. How targeted could their digging be? For example, will they dig select rows for me when I plant the vegetable garden, enticed by a sprinkling of grain…or will they dig indiscriminately (like chickens). Can they be taught to dislodge any unwanted weeds? Initially, strict, consistent, kind training is likely going to be the key…

      It is going to be fun playing and experimenting with them -I’ll keep this blog posted with their learnings.

  4. Hello, your blog was forwarded to me by Cindy.

    We also live on Gabriola. I am a NZ’er and have worked with the Kune Kune breed on a permaculture farm in Levin. I fell in love with their gentle nature, intelligence, and their unique grazing capabilities. I have since decided to bring the breed to Canada. They arrive in a couple of weeks. Two gilts and one boar.

    Perhaps we should talk. My pasture is being established. I am looking for additional fenced, secure, pasture land with appropriate shelter – especially if it is in a friendly, social setting.

    …also, purebreed piglets will likely soon be available for purchase.

    Linda George ( & Peter)

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