The hippos who came to stay


This weekend is the weekend of the shortest day, and the longest night!  Despite this, we managed to achieve much on the farm, and off the farm.

Our first mission was to collect two kunekune from friends who were moving into town and could no longer keep Fufu and Charlie.  I had resisted taking on any more animals, because really we have right old menagerie already, including a blind pig, her companion pig and two pigs for eating.  These two are eight years old and have always been together so in the end I said sure, they’d be welcome at our place.

Yesterday was the day to collect them and I’d not done my homework on what they would be like.  I thought they were small pigs, but no, not so!  They are like hippos with short legs.  And hairy!!!!!! Charlie is black, almost curly coated and very laid back, Fufu is a golden blond with a food obsession.

It took us a bit of encouraging to get them both up a ramp and into the trailer but once one got the idea, the other followed – food was involved.  Getting them out was a little more difficult but Fufu was out first, Charlie had to be encouraged out.

Charlie – what’s not to love about this face?

And his blond girlfriend, Fufu.

Fufu – golden blondie

They are like elderly dogs.  They follow us around the orchard, sleep in the sun and make us smile.

I had thought that kunekune were a native pig, but of course, New Zealand has no native mammals, so I did some reading.

From the Rare Breeds website:

The delightful Kunekune developed into its present form in New Zealand, although the breed is almost certainly of Asian origin*. During most of the period these pigs have been in New Zealand they were kept almost solely by Maori communities, and were to a large extent unknown by Europeans. (It is quite certain, however, that they were not in this country prior to the arrival of Europeans and they were probably introduced very early in the European period by whalers or traders.)

      A combined excursion in the late 1970s, by the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve and the Staglands Wildlife Reserve, led to 18 animals being collected (nine were purebred or so close to it that it didn’t matter) and forming the basis of a captive breeding programme.

Kunekune pig (Photo by Karen Nicoll)
Kunekune sow with piglets  (Photo by Gail Simons)

      Now widely spread throughout New Zealand, with an active society registering them, most of the Kunekune pigs found in New Zealand today are descended from that original 18. Kunekunes have also been exported to the United Kingdom, the United States, and as far as the European Continent.

      They are relatively small and highly distinctive, characterized physically by a short-legged, dumpy build, pot tummy, short upturned nose, and a generally fat, rounded appearance. (The Polynesian word ‘kunekune’ simply means ‘plump’.) A unique feature is the ‘tassels’ which hang from the lower jaw.

      Kunekunes come in a wide range of colours and are delightfully placid animals, easy to maintain, with little propensity to damage pasture.

* DNA analyses suggest a likely phylogenetic relationship with Asian domestic pigs, but not with Pacific Island pigs.


An interesting history of these hippo-like pigs, guaranteed a happy retirement at our place.

Since we were then out and about we carried on to collect two new hens.  This time, the girls are Spangled Hamburgs, a breed I’d also not considered for our flock of, at the moment, free-loading, non-egg laying bludgers.  A couple of weekends ago we added three Anconas – and I was smitten with black and white hens.  We already had several Plymouth barred rocks, so these two new girls yesterday, seemed perfect.

The new girls at their old home – photo by Sandi Stephenson

While we have many hylines and shavers, traditional egg laying machines, we now prefer the heritage breeds and have quite the collection.  We have Hamburgs, Leghorns (white and black), white Chinese silkies,  lavender Aracauna, black and blue Orpingtons, Rhode Island reds, Ancona, Cobbs and lots of barnyard specials.  Our plan this year is to breed more of the special breeds, both to sell and to keep.

After gaining his kunekune shifting badge yesterday, husband Bill went back today to shift Fufu’s sister, Fifi to her new home, and then I went back later to collect a concrete water trough, very generously given to us by Fufu and Charlie’s owners, Chris and Jane.

A small tour group this morning got to be the first to meet Fufu and Charlie and the kunekunes behaved as if they were old hands at farm tours.

Tonight I’m making kefir cheese.  Kefir has to be the easiest dairy product to make.  Yu add a tablespoon of kefir grains to a cup of milk, leave it on the bench for a day or so, strain the grains out through a sieve and repeat.  With so many pro-biotics it is very good for all of us.  Kefir is a fermented milk drink made with kefir “grains”, a yeast/bacterial starter.  Products made with kefir are lactose free and don’t encourage the growth of yeast,  a known cause of allergic reactions in some individuals.  The grains then multiply so you can make more and more kefir.  You can, though I haven’t tried it, even eat the grains themselves.  I consume a huge amount of kefir with my muesli each morning.

kefir and muesli

It turned stormy this afternoon so we retired to the living room and a cosy fire early – it was also raining, yet again – we’ve had over 110mm already this month and it’s not yet our rainiest month.  Still I can have long showers without feeling guilty about water usage, for the moment!







5 thoughts on “The hippos who came to stay

  1. Eleanor Turner June 24, 2018 — 7:22 pm

    Love reading your blogs Penelope. What a busy couple you are and very brave to take in another couple of animals to your already busy menagerie. I do wish we lived nearer. I would love to meet you and Bill and visit your lovely Martinborough Manor. Perhaps next time we visit Alan. Kind regards Eleanor

    1. penelopedeboer June 24, 2018 — 7:53 pm

      We’d love to see you too

  2. There was even some midwifery before … 😁

  3. I love this blog – we have kune kunes here in Canada now, though I have yet to see one. The chickens are very attractive – I love heritage chickens, so does the fox so we tend to rescue a lot of ex high production layers from chicken barns. I would love to get some of those speckled chickens though. Are they the hambergs?

    1. Indeed they are Joanna. We’re about to start breeding them, now that we have a matching rooster

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close