What are their rewards for participating in husbandry training?
With their recall and station training, we use their grain as a reward. They love eating it so it’s a high value reinforcement item for them! For their other training, we use produce, such as broccoli or chopped bits of leafy greens!
As domesticated pigs, kunekunes aren't found in the wild. Why is it important for us to tell their story?
I think it’s important to tell their story because it shows what having passion about saving a species can do! While their origins date back to the Maori people of New Zealand and other areas of the Pacific, the kunekune pig breed almost went extinct in the 1970’s. A small group of kunekunes were rounded up to be bred. A few decades later, thanks to the work of passionate conservationists, there is now a stable population of the breed. While kunekunes are still considered rare, they are now found as domestic pets across areas of Europe, the U.S., and other parts of the world!
What do you hope visitors take away from meeting the boys?
I hope that visitors take away that the boys are ‘more than just a pig.’ They have a lot of personality and intelligence that makes them wonderful as individuals. We also hope that while people love to see how adorable these small, young boys are, they realize that they will get much, much bigger – up to 300 pounds to be exact! They are a medium sized pig breed and are not mini or micro pigs.
Got any tips for spotting them on exhibit? Do they have a favorite hangout spot?
The boys enjoy sleeping in a bit, so they have been staying in their holding barn/yard (the small red barn directly next to the large Kids’ Farm Barn) until later in the morning (around 9-10 a.m.). They travel over to their exhibit yard for most of the day and usually return to their holding barn/yard around 2-3 p.m. Eventually, when they are larger, they will be able to remain on exhibit for longer periods of time!
When they are out on exhibit, they love hanging out in their wallow and in their splash pad. When they aren’t exploring their grassy areas, they enjoy coming up to the fence for pets from visitors. They will often fall asleep basking in the sun along the fence! If you don’t see them on exhibit, be sure to listen for their squeaks and grunts in their holding yard or look through the windows to see their adorable ‘pig pile’ that the boys make when they sleep all together!
I want to help kunekunes! What steps can I take to protect them?
I would say if you are interested in learning more about kunekunes or even owning your own pigs, be sure to do your research! There are many different breeds of pig, and people have them for different reasons. Kunekunes are a rare breed in the sense that they typically don’t root, so they are much less destructive to their pasture (and fencing!) than many other pig breeds. They can be used as a meat breed and they do not require as much food as other breeds since they graze. Their docile personalities around people of all ages and other animals make them a very useful pig breed to have around!