In this series of Blog Posts I have focused on Kunekune traits that have been taken to extremes or led to less desirable results in the breed. Part I and Part II of the series covered short snouts and ears of the Kunekune and how certain types can be more of a detriment. In the final blog of the series I will touch on leg length and large body frame, more specifically, how this combination can be problematic in breeding stock.
Leg Length and Body Size:
Kunekune are known for having shorter legs than most pig breeds and a round body. We do not usually see 'leggy' Kunekune and most breeders look for short to medium legs in good balance with overall size and confirmation.
What happens when this balance is leaning in one direction or another?
When a sows legs are too short her belly may drag on the ground when she is reaching full term in her pregnancy or when her teats have filled with milk. Teats that drag on the ground have open sores and are painful when piglets try to nurse on them. In fact, a teat with sores will be avoided by the piglets and left to dry up. Most sow bellies are close to the ground by the time they reach full term pregnancy, therefore, I do not recommend selecting for super short legs in a breeding program.
There seems to be a trend toward producing bigger Kunekune, in particular those breeders producing meat pigs. A word of caution when increasing the size of the Kunekune. By adding a larger frame you are putting more weight on their legs. It also increases the pressure on their organs by carrying more weight. It is imperative that if you are adding size you must increase bone density in the legs and feet as well. Weak legs, pasterns and feet will not hold up to added weight.
If we are intending to preserve the Kunekune as a smaller meat breed, I believe we need to question the idea of increasing size all together. Should there be a limit to the size of the Kunekune in the breed standards? Something to think about.
If we are hoping to use a boar or sow in our breeding herd we would like them to be in production over the course of many years. I have healthy Kunekune, in good body condition in my breeding herd for 6 years or more. I have also had to cull sows and boars early because their large frames where too much for their legs over time.
Large framed breeding boars can also have a hard time mounting and staying on the sow/gilt for longer periods of time. I had a beautiful TeWhangi boar whom I was hoping to use for the sole purpose of adding size to my herd. His size and weight left him unable to lift his body onto the female and he would give up entirely after a couple tries. He was culled and I lost that boar line.
Another issue with large boars, is that you must have a larger sow with strong legs to carry his weight during breeding. This will eliminate some of your options merely due to the size difference. And if you breed a large sow to a large boar, you most likely are going to increase size in piglets, and continue the trend.
What happens when you have short legs and large frame or the reverse, long legs?
Take a look at the photos of the breeding pairs.
These are perfectly matched breeding pairs. The gilts have nice bone density, a solid frame with excellent width and a nice broad, square stance. The boar has strong hams, great bone density and is proper size for the gilt. When he mounts his head and chest rest easily on her back and once in position he can easily penetrate and have a successful breeding. There is a balance of weight that both carry during the breeding.
But what if the boar was much longer in frame, with the typical short legs. Or, the gilt was long legged. In either case it would make it difficult for the pair to fit together and it might be impossible for penetration to occur. The gray lines on the photo below show perfect alignment. The blue lines demonstrate how an increase in leg length of the gilt would change that. The boar would not be able to manage the angle and could not get close enough to penetrate. Or, if he was too long in his frame his shaft would not be in proper placement for the breeding to occur. I have had both occur in my years of breeding and it is frustrating.
I hope that by sharing what I have learned first-hand over the years you are able to make stronger breeding decisions in your herd. Make your breeding selections carefully, keeping in mind your goals, the overall health of your herd and the Kunekune breed. I say "find a healthy down the middle road and leave extremes out of a breeding program".