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A visit with Kunekune (a breed above) at Acorn Hill Farm

We have some wild and woolly driveways out here in Southern Oregon farm country, and I’ve tackled a few for the gold of a good story.

Today, I’d driven only so far before Giovanni the Honda took one gander at that last uphill stretch, put himself into park and set the emergency brake. Sometimes I could use a more cooperative truck or SUV. So, dear reader, I puffed my way up to Acorn Hill Kunekune Farm afoot to meet with Jill Garner and her adorable charges. It was well worth it.

For those who are weary of cat tales, meet a new critter altogether — the KuneKune (koo-knee koo-knee), a purebred pig like none other, which remain fairly rare in the USA.

KuneKune, which means “fat and round” in the Maori language, originate from New Zealand. They are aptly named, except it should include “cute.” They nearly became extinct. By the 1980s, only an estimated 50 purebred KuneKune remained. Now, they’re considered safe from extinction and their popularity is growing.

Jill’s Acorn Hill Farm and her friend’s Shady Oaks KuneKune Farm are two of very few in the region with registered purebred animals. Jill showed me Beck, the mama, and her new litter of six three-week-old piglets. Oh. My. Gosh. They came out from under the heat lamp for scratches and to untie my shoelaces when I wasn’t looking. These pigs are grazers and prefer grass, but they’re all-in for acorns.

Jill Garner is a full time fourth-grade school teacher at Central Point Elementary. Raising KuneKune has become a therapeutic sideline.

“This happened during COVID, Jill explained, “when we all had to teach from home, and I was stressed about lots of things: teaching from home, my students, the food shortage if there was going to be one, so I started collecting animals. We started with one for a meat pig. They were smaller, friendlier, they weren’t as hard on fences. My daughters had 4-H pigs, and I really didn’t want to go that route. We just butchered our first one, and it is the best pork I’ve ever had.”

Wait, I thought these adorable fat and round guys were raised for pets.

Jill was quick to add, “They can be. A lot of people have them in their house — a house pig. They are multipurpose.”

They can be trained to go outside like a dog. They like to do their business in the same place every time. And unlike other more odiferous relations, these guys did not offend at all.

“Some of them smell like maple syrup,” Jill said. “That guy especially.” She referred to Bo, who happened to be the appropriate shade of amber. “A lot of people say that.”

They have short, upturned snouts, so rooting isn’t an issue. Some are born with one or two wattles under their chin for added personality. The boars will grow tusks, which are not used aggressively, but may be filed off painlessly. Their docile and friendly nature make them ideal pets, which I am plugging after seeing them and feeding them acorns.

“I had a litter in January last year and they all sold at eight weeks. I had only one that was going for meat last time.”

Jill purchased her first sow and boar at Cedar Valley KuneKune Farm in Gold Beach from a woman and mentor who taught Jill and her friend the ropes.

She sells unregistered fixed males for $250, unregistered females are $400, and registered males and females go for $700.

For videos, further information on what it takes to raise KuneKune pigs, or how to add someone unique to the family pet situation, visit the Acorn Hill KuneKune Farm Facebook page. Send Jill a message or phone her at 541-261-0531. “I’m happy to just answer questions,” she said. “It’s what someone did for me.”

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer/author. Her books are available through Amazon, Rogue Gallery and Art Center in Medford, and Rebel Heart Books in Jacksonville. Reach her at pcdover@hotmail.com.