Kunekune pigs may not be as popular as pot-bellied pigs, but more and more people are getting them for pets. Like the pot-bellied pig, kunekune are small domestic pigs—but unlike pot-bellies, they have long hair and are originally from New Zealand.
Pronounced "koo-nee koo-nee," (which translates to "fat and round"), these pigs have very similar care requirements to pet pot-bellied pigs. Some may argue they're even easier to care for than their less hairy relatives. They're sweet-natured, smart, and docile and come in a variety of colors, including black, white, red, gold, brown, and tricolored.
Common Name: Kunekune pig
Scientific Name: Sus scrofa domesticus
Adult Size: Up to 4 feet long; between 130 and 220 pounds
Lifespan: 15 to 20 years
Can You Own a Pet Kunekune Pig?
Like with pot-bellied pigs, owning a kunekune pig as a pet is legal in many areas, though some places classify them as a form of livestock and therefore require certain types of enclosures and permits. Other places allow pigs up to a certain size to be kept as pets, as long as they are kept on a leash or in an enclosed area outdoors. Pay close attention to your state and local laws before pursuing ownership of a kunekune pig.
As with any kind of pet, ethically owning an animal often comes down to whether or not you can provide it with what it needs to thrive. In the case of kunekune pigs, this means ample land to enjoy, proper veterinary care, companionship, and mental stimulation. As long as you are able to provide your pig with all that it needs, it would be considered ethical to own one.
Things to Consider
Kunekune pigs come in many sizes and can be rather large, occasionally reaching up to 200 pounds. This can become a problem when you think you're adopting an adorable little piglet that then grows into a large pet that needs a lot of space.
Miniature kunekune pigs are classified by height. If your breeder says it has miniature pigs, you should ask for proof. Ask for several references of people who have purchased their pigs and then ask those people how much their pigs weigh and how tall they are. Do your homework, know what you're buying, and ask yourself if you can handle—or even want—to have a pet this large.
Kunekune Pig Behavior and Temperament
Kunekune pigs are very docile and sweet, which makes them a great pet for first-time pig owners. They thrive on human interaction (including children) and will love spending time with their owners throughout the day relaxing and playing.
Kunekune pigs are incredibly intelligent and will pick up any attempts at training very quickly. That being said, this high level of intelligence means your pig will become bored (and potentially destructive) when it doesn’t have enough activities and social interaction.
Additionally, all types of pigs like to root around for food with their snouts, which can potentially cause them to knock over objects in your home or destroy your yard in the process. To help redirect this behavior, hide some of their daily food in treat puzzles or in a portion of your yard where you don’t mind them rooting.
It's best to acquire your pet pig from a young age, which will give you ample time to bond with them and gain their trust. Handle your pig frequently (and gently!) to get them used to life as a pet and increase the chances that you'll have a cuddly companion.
If you choose to house your kunekune pig indoors, provide it with a place or room of its own. Many people build them little pens into a corner of their house, while others provide them with a toddler bed or even a tent to sleep in. They prefer to move indoors and out, so make sure there is easy access to the outdoors. Since kunekune can grow to be up to 200 pounds, they need a decent amount of space to roam about and lie down. If you don't have enough space to accommodate a 200-pound pig, then you shouldn't get a kunekune.
Kunekune pigs can also be kept in a barn or outside setting. Since their main diet is grass, they thrive when they can come and go in a secure fenced-in area (often with a live wire) and sleep on sawdust or another kind of bedding in a well-ventilated shelter. They don't do well in heat, so providing them with shade and ventilation is a must. If they get too hot, they will roll around in the mud to keep their bodies cool and keep the flies from biting them. Pigs only sweat from their snouts, so it can be difficult for them to regulate their body temperature.
What Do Kunekune Pigs Eat and Drink?
Unlike pet pot-bellied pigs, do well just eating grass. If a high-quality pasture is not available, whether it be due to drought or just not enough grass to feed a hungry adult pig, pot-bellied pig pellets and grass pellets can be used to supplement their diet. An adult kunekune will eat 2 to 3 pounds of pellets a day (equal parts of the pot-bellied pig food and grass pellets) if it doesn't have a lot of grass (you can add hot water to the pellets to create a mash). Younger pigs will eat smaller amounts, but at least some fresh pasture should be available at all times when there is grass.
In the summer months, the pig's diet should be a combination of grass and fresh vegetables. In the fall and spring, you can add in apples for more fiber and in the winter most people substitute the pellet mixture for grass. Higher protein pellets (up to 16 percent) should be offered in very cold weather. They will also need plenty of clean, clear water available at all times and may drink up to 10 liters a day.
Common Health Problems
Aside from the occasional check-up by an exotics vet, a Leptospirosis or Erysipelas vaccine every six months (depending on where you live), a deworming every six months, and proper feeding, kunekune pigs are relatively easy to care for.
Because of their long and thick hair, kunekune pigs are more susceptible to becoming infested with fleas and ticks. Pay close attention to their coat and check periodically for sicks of parasites—any evidence of fleas or ticks should be removed as soon as possible and treated by a professional.
Thanks to their legendary appetite, pigs are easily overfed and can become obese as adults if special attention isn't paid to their diet. The presence of a fat rollover on your pig's eyes indicates that your pet may be overweight. Discuss your pig's diet with your veterinarian and avoid feeding them extra treats, like table scraps.
When it comes to kunekune pigs, having enough room to roam is typically ample enough exercise for them. That being said, mental exercise and stimulation are just as important—if not more—to the animal. Get your pig moving at least once a day, whether that's searching for their food, doing puzzles (ones typically geared towards dogs work great), or exploring their outdoor pen.
Kunekune pigs are identified by their hairy coat, which is longer than that of a pot-bellied pig and may include tassels (also called pire) that hang off their lower jaw. Their coat comes in a variety of colors, and the hair itself can vary from silky to bristly or coarse.
Maintaining your pig's hair is less complicated than it may seem. Brushing isn't totally necessary, but if you could like to use it as a means of bonding with your pet, you can brush them periodically with a soft-bristled brush. It's also important to maintain their hooves regularly. Overgrown and unmaintained hooves, nails, and tusks can cause soreness and severe pain if left unaddressed—they can even be responsible for infections, appetite loss, movement issues, and more. However, trimming can be a challenging task for a new owner, which is why we advise seeking professional help or assistance from a veterinarian.
Depending on the time of year or season, a kunekune pig's hair will vary as they go through a massive shed in the summer. Generally, you do not need to assist in this natural process or provide them with a haircut.
You can bathe your pig every few weeks in your tub or an outdoor bath using baby shampoo or shampoo specially formulated for pigs. You should clean their ears and the skin around their eyes regularly, beginning from when they're young so you can easily establish a mutual feeling of trust and relaxation during grooming.
Pros and Cons of Keeping a Kunekune Pig as a Pet
Kunekune pigs are smart and loving creatures, and they can make great pets as long as you're able to provide them with the proper needs and environment. Their sweet temperament can certainly enrich your life long-term, but it's important to consider whether or not you can dedicate the time, energy, money, and space necessary to raising a large animal such as a kunekune pig.
Purchasing Your Kunekune Pig
Since the kunekune pig was brought back from near extinction, breeders in New Zealand and the United Kingdom do exist—but finding these pigs outside of these places can be a bigger task. Breeders in a couple of states in the United States are out there, so check out local rescue or enthusiast groups near you for some direction.
Your breeder will help you in raising your new piglet and should be able to answer all your questions about your kunekune. Some people recommend getting two kunekune pigs at the same time; if you decide later on to give your single pig a companion, it may be harder for the older pig to accept the newcomer.
Similar Pets to the Kunekune Pig
If you're interested in pets with similar care requirements to a kunekune pig, check out:
Otherwise, check out these other exotic animals to find your next pet.
Can you domesticate a kunekune pig?
In a sense, you can domesticate a kunekune pig, though they will always be considered a "wild" animal. They are intelligent and affectionate creatures that learn quickly, making them a great pet option for the proper family and household.
How long do kunekune pigs live as pets?
Kunekune pigs will live anywhere from 15 to 20 years when kept as pets. In most instances, with proper care and nutrition, they will experience longer lifespans as pets than they do in a farm-like environment.
Are kunekune pigs hard to take care of?
Kunekune pigs require a lot of care, but none of it is considered particularly hard. Most challenging of all will be keeping them mentally stimulated and ensuring you have the proper (and large enough) environment for them.