The first kunekune pigs to ever be born in the Iberian Peninsula can be found at a farm in rural Silves – and they were born this month.
A small breed of domestic pigs from New Zealand, kunekunes (meaning “fat and round” in Maori, the language of the people who originally bred these pigs) are known for making great pets due to their friendly and social nature.
They are usually black and white, brown, gold, tan, and cream, sometimes with randomly distributed spots and patches of colour. Kunekunes may also have unique wattles (interestingly called ‘piri-piris’) hanging from their jaw, and they are also the only true grazing pig, being able to survive eating grass alone.
But up until now, there weren’t any kunekune pigs in Portugal or even Spain.
Dutch resident Femke K., who lives in the hills north of Silves where she owns a farm, was fascinated by the breed when she read about it online.
“I fell in love,” she tells us.
“After some research, I found out that the nearest place for me to see them in real life was the Netherlands or the UK. There were no kunekune pigs in Portugal, Spain and I think not even in France,” Femke explains.
Determined to bring the breed to Portugal, she travelled to the Netherlands to meet a breeder.
“That’s when I fell head over heels for this breed of pig. I knew that, somehow, I had to get some kunekunes to Portugal to complete my menagerie of pets.”
Femke got in touch with a breeder in the UK and ended up buying five kunekunes – one male and four females. They arrived in October and Femke is already impressed by how friendly and “people-oriented they really are”.
“With my other pig, Marie Antoinette, I find that she gets excited when I bring her food but then she goes off on her own. With the kunekune pigs, it’s different.
They just want to be around people, even after they’ve eaten,” Femke told us.
It is believed that the kunekunes descended from an Asian domestic breed introduced to New Zealand in the early 19th century, where they lived with the Maori people who often kept them as indoor pets – which may be why they are so used to humans and eager to be around them.
The kunekune pigs are also “very low maintenance”.
“They don’t easily get sick,” Femke told us. “In 90% of the cases, they are born without any help from a human,” she explained, adding that she does, however, use the services of a vet who “specialises in farm animals”.
Meantime, Femke’s kunekunes have already mated and the first eight kunekune piglets were born on Monday, June 4.
The Resident visited the farm last week and was able to see just how friendly these pigs are. The mother sow let us pet her piglets and watch as she fed them, while the piglets would follow us around everywhere.
“They are very inquisitive animals,” said Femke, who moved to Portugal 18 years ago to give her children a childhood “that I would never have been able to give them in the Netherlands”.
The family moved “not just for the weather and the beaches and the relaxed way of life”, but also for the education. “Classrooms were small and the teacher would give every child a kiss on the cheek when they arrived in the morning and once again when going home,” she said.
Being self-sufficient in electricity and water and, “slowly but surely, creating a small piece of heaven with lots of animals” was also always a childhood dream of Femke’s.
You can get in contact with Femke via email ([email protected]) to learn more about these pigs. She has also created an Instagram page where she frequently posts pictures of the kunekunes (kunekunealgarve).
By MICHAEL BRUXO