Kunekune and Captain Cookers were the first pigs to be introduced to New Zealand. Some Captain Cookers were domesticated and bartered by Māori, but the vast majority lived in the wild. Pigs were greatly valued by Māori, this helped their population spread across New Zealand as Māori often gifted them to other tribes. They were kept in households to use up scraps of food, and this diet was supplemented with grain. The pigs were eventually killed for their meat. Feral pigs are pigs that are no longer farmed and have gone wild.
It is thought that Captain Cookers were introduced by James Cook on his first voyage to New Zealand, in 1769. Originating from the old English breeds of Tamworth, Berkshire and Large Black, Captain Cookers are the most prolific wild pigs in New Zealand.
There is debate over the origin of the Kunekune pig. Kune in Māori means ‘fat and round’, and these pigs are short-legged and sturdy, with a blunt, turned-up snout and two tassels hanging from the lower jaw. The only other pigs with such tassels are Polish breeds, and Kunekune may have come to New Zealand with American sealers as the breed known as Poland China – a combination of Polish and Chinese pigs. There are no Kunekune fossils dating from before the late 1700s, so they were probably introduced by Europeans rather than by early Polynesian settlers. The Polynesian ancestors of Māori brought pigs in their canoes, but it appears that none survived.
Kunekune are friendly, they learn quickly, will eat anything, and come in a range of colours, including black, tortoiseshell, ginger and smoky blue. They are becoming popular around the world as pets.
The true origin of the feral pigs of Arapawa Island in the Marlborough Sounds is not known. They may descend from animals released there by Captain James Cook in 1773 and 1777.
The pig competition at the New Zealand Agricultural Show is fun and encourages people to grow pigs for the competition and dress up in theme. The BBA Competition has been running since 2014 and has since become the premier pig competition at The Show.