Archive for September 8th, 2008

Introducing… our piggie pals!

I’ve already had a search to this blog for “good names for pigs” so I thought I’d better, you know, introduce them, especially as they take up so much of time (by choice, of course!).

Last winter, I bought my first pigs as weaners for the freezer. Vicky was a Welsh gilt and Albert could have been anything but was probably a Welsh x Saddleback. As their time rapidly drew to end, I disovered that I had somehow become a huge piggie fan (and not just for the great-tasting pork and sausages). So I started thinking about getting a smaller pig that I could keep as a permanent pet, who could also act as a companion to any weaners that I might buy in for meat.

Almost as soon as I had made my mind up about this, I started seeing adverts everywhere for a rarer breed, the New Zealand Kune Kune, which is pronounced “cooney cooney” and means “fat and round” in Maori. The more research I did, the more I liked the idea of buying one. They produce excellent meat, they look a bit unusual, they have excellent temperaments and love being with people and they are generally grazers rather than rooters, which means they can be confidently turned out on grass that you don’t want ploughed up.

Our knowledge of their history is a bit patchy but the gist is something like this. No-one is sure how but this breed ended up in New Zealand, probably via Polynesia, and probably bred with native NZ pigs and the Kune Kune is the end result. Somehow they discovered the joys of hanging round the Maori camps, who socialised this small pig (hence their temperament) and kept them around both as pets and a source of meat.

The breed nearly died out, but in the 1970s and 80s a lot of work was done to preserve the breed, including importing some to Britain, and while they are still quite rare, the popularity of Kune Kunes is growing, not just for pets but also for breeding and meat.

That’s just a brief introduction to the breed. I dare say I’ll blog about them some more in future.

For now, here are my lot. Apologies and thanks to everyone whose photos I’ve pinched!!!!!!!!

Bailey the cream boar

Bailey the cream boar

Bailey is my boar. He’s about four and a half feet long, two and a half feet high and the last time I measured him, was an obese foot and a bit wide! He’s been on a diet since then and has thankfully lost quite a bit of weight! Despite his intimidating appearance, he’s an absolute sweetheart and the most he has ever done with his tusks is accidentally prod me in the back of my leg. He loves belly rubs and is quite happy for perfect strangers to come up to him, so long as it’s to either give him food or a fuss. Yes, that’s right. While he is a greedy sod like all pigs, he’s just as happy for some attention if grub is unavailable. It is actually possible to put this giant (in the Kune Kune world) to sleep by rubbing his belly. He also sits on command.

Brini, the Kune Kune sow. She's shy but very sweet. Brini is the biggest of all my sows.

Brini, the Kune Kune sow. She's shy but very sweet. Brini is the biggest of all my sows.

Brini isn’t the prettiest pig in the world and she’s also quite shy so it’s been hard work getting to know her. Like Bailey (I bought them from the same guy), she was horrendously obese when I got her and it’s been a hard slog getting the flab off her. But Ive finally succeeded and she’s a lot happier for it. She’d never admit it, but she secretly loves attention and if she thinks Bailey’s not looking, Brini will follow me about the field. But if I give her too much attention, she panics and runs off. Still, we’re getting there slowly and I can’t wait for the day when she lets me give her a proper fuss.

Tia (Maria) and her piglets. There are 6, it's just that one is under the rest!

Tia (Maria) and her piglets. There are 6, it's just that one is under the rest!

Tia’s my pet, there’s no other way of looking at it. When I bought her and Scrumpy, she was a wee little thing, all skinny and shy. But some TLC and extra food did the trick and she’s turned out to be the loveliest pig in the world. I can’t think of a single thing she’s done wrong. She even let me sit with her when she farrowed at the end of August – most sows, no matter how friendly, will charge at any human who approach them while farrowing or even for the first few days of their piglets’ lives. Not Tia. I was in there, helping out, cleaning the piglets’ faces, pushing them in the right direction for the milk bar and she didn’t raise a single objection. What a pig!

I’ve got another two pigs, Scrumpy, who is expecting a litter in the very near future, and Harold, whose destiny lies in the freezer. He’s the half brother to Tia’s (and Scrumpy’s) piglets.

However, I’m lacking any photos so their cuteness will just have to wait!

You can see some more (and quite brilliant) photos of Tia, piglets and Bailey here

(Post re-written on 10 September because the original really wasn’t that good!)