Trends come and go, but a breed’s standard is eternal

I’ve been working on the ideas behind this post ever since having a conversation with my Salmon Faverolles mentor, about how coming from an artistic background can lend itself wonderfully to breeding poultry (or pigs!). A recent post from the AKPR about the breed standard being a blueprint for breeders, led me to think about the existing blueprints of perfection that already exist in nature… and how they subconsciously (or in my case, consciously- due to my past training) may influence our selections. This also relates to many of our deliberate breeding selections as they relate to the Kunekune pigs form AND function.

 

Despite my muddy boots and work-hardened hands, I have an interesting pathway into farming. I worked at a dairy farm all throughout my teen years, and my grandparents were both avid gardeners, but my Mother wanted more genteel things for me. I was classically trained in piano, cello, viola and violin- learning that nothing matters if not for your technique and ability to master the basics. One should walk before they run. Later, I began to study classical ballet, and danced for almost three decades- sometimes spending 15-20 hours a week solely at the barre learning core technique. Again, the basics. The very underlying foundations that one must learn and master to create strong foundations for future success. In college and graduate school at Rochester Institute of Technology, I studied photography and graphic design. My graduate work was under one of America’s great designers- R. Roger Remington. Under his tutelage, we explored the very roots of what makes a design great. And those roots are in the foundation of the design- the exact form and structure, typically well-trenched in the basics of visual Gestalt principles and the golden mean, the Fibonacci sequence.

The golden mean is found all throughout nature, it’s the mathematical perfection whereby harmony is mathematically expressed. Each segment of the sequence is a direct result of the former, the whole being greater than the sum of the parts- but being nothing without it’s parts! This sequence can be applied to anything organic or inorganic. It exists everywhere, naturally. Without it, there is chaos. “The Golden Number” is a fascinating site that compiles all sorts of instances of the golden mean at work in life and art.

 

The facial features of a koala bear show golden ratio proportions in the dimensions and positions of the eyes, nose and mouth in relation to the dimensions of the face. (source: goldennumber.net When we’re attracted to Kunekune pigs with faces that have teddy bear proportions, it’s not a coincidence. It’s the golden mean at work.

 

Above koala bear with golden mean overlaid with a Kunekune piglet. Anais is one of my favorite piglets of this year. Interestingly enough, her facial proportions exactly match the koala bear!

While seen as a much overused cliche in the design world, architect Louis Sullivan’s mantra “Form follows function” means that the purpose of a building should be the starting point for its design. In other words, that the shape of a building or object should primarily relate to its intended function or purpose. This makes obvious sense in nature, as we see a world so perfectly created, with plants and animals uniquely adapted to their purpose by virtue of their design. Things get murky when man’s hand touches nature’s perfection, however. In this I believe that whenever our influence is involved, we should stay true to an animal’s purpose. And for that individual animal, the sum of it’s overall parts maintaining their original purposes.

What does that mean? Well, it means that legs are for support and movement. They shouldn’t be so short that the animal can’t efficiently move or breed. They should be sturdy enough to support the animal throughout all of it’s life. Eyes are for seeing. Don’t diminish sight with folds of skin, or ears that completely obscure the field of vision. Snouts are for rooting, scent, and breathing. Allow them to be long enough for a pig to be a pig. And to be a healthy animal that can breathe throughout it’s life cycle. Mouths are for grazing and eating. Don’t breed for traits that obscure that. Teats are for nursing offspring. Let there be a reasonable number of well-spaced, functional teats. And so on, and so forth! You get the idea, right? Selective breeding is no different than playing a God-like role in an animal’s future generations, so we have a great responsibility to make wise decisions.

Every breeder has their own preferences and things that they work on. We start from the bottom and work our way up. The goal is not so much for form to directly follow function, but for them work in harmony, as Kunekune pigs are a visually distinctive heritage breed. Their form and function are closely intertwined in order to marry their purpose with their appearance. It’s that appearance that is what visually defines a pure & heritage breed above and beyond it’s obvious genetics.

The Kunekune pig has a job to do, while doing it with style. You may have heard the quote “Trends come and go, style is eternal”. It was said by the fashion designer Yves St. Laurent. His designs have stood the test of time and are seen by many as classics. A breed’s standard is the timeless “style” for that breed. It’s the guidebook by which you strive to consistently produce pigs which emulate the correctness of the standard. Things such as color, are merely trends. Trends come and trends go, but underneath it all, the pig is still a pig and has a job to do. That job may be procreation, or it may be pork… but it’s still a job.

 


 

AKPR Standard of Perfection

American Standard of Perfection ~ Revised 2018:

Updating of the Standard of Perfection for the Kunekune Pig breed is intended to provide a clear description of Kunekune characteristics for pasture, pork, and progeny.

When Kunekune Pigs are judged in the show ring, these characteristics and how well each pig displays them shall be the basis for awarded points and placement.  Consideration of the head is of paramount importance when evaluating the breed.  Head type identifies the breed as a grazer not prone to root and is considered unique to the breed.  Judges please note the weightiness given to head type.

General Appearance:

Form: Relatively long, level, and deep. Boars generally weighing up to 400 pounds and sows generally up to 350 pounds, the result of a thick cover of firm flesh and fat.

Quality: Uniform covering of hair, clean skin, medium/heavy bone, even covering of flesh and fat.

Condition: Overall appearance shall be one of balance. Deep uniform covering of flesh and fat especially in regions of valuable cuts.

Characteristics:

Head: Proportionate to body, evenly set on shoulders. Broad. Wide forehead. Short, broad, upturned snout with large, symmetrical nostrils to facilitate respiratory ease and teeth suitable for grazing. Teeth shall be set back inside the mouth and must not protrude when mouth is closed. Medium to heavy jowl, not wasty. Sweeping jawline. 10 points

Objections: Head not proportionate to body size, set unevenly. Narrow forehead – animals with wider foreheads are generally symmetrical and wider in the chest and back. Longer, shallower heads generally correlate with a similar body type resulting in less meat mass. Long, straight snout, uneven nostrils, teeth whose angle is unsuitable for grazing, protruding teeth or teeth set forward, droopy bottom lip. Wasty jowl (excessively fat), or thin, trim.

Eyes: Set well apart and symmetrical, bright, intelligent and kind. 5 points

Objections: Eyes set narrow or at unequal levels. Dull.

Ears: Set wide apart on the top corners of the head. Symmetrical in form and attachment. Pricked to semi-lopped, inclined forward. Under control of the hog. Settling firmly out over the eyes when grazing – ears should have the appearance of a visor over the eye, coming firmly from the head and out. 5 points

Objections: Ears set narrow or not of the same size, set or shape. Ears that roll up or are laterally folded along their length shall be avoided. Ears set on the side of the head, point outward to the side, not inclined forward, lopped. Ears may curb vision but should not obscure forward view. Emphasis to avoid ears that are laterally folded along their length as though “folded in half”. Purpose of ears include hearing, but also protection of the eyes from sun.

Wattles: Two, well-formed and well-attached in the same location on the corner of the jowl on each side hanging freely. Firm and of kidney or thumb shape. Symmetrical in size and shape.

5 points

Objections: Less than two wattles, poorly attached, uneven size or shape, unevenly set on jowl. Wattles set high causing wattles to flare out.

Neck: Short to medium, proportionately and evenly set on shoulders. Deep and thick. 5 points

Objections: Long, uneven, thin, shallow.

Shoulders: Level and in proportion to hams, broad, deep, full. Sloping and aligned with legs and sides. Well developed. Muscle extending well down legs. Should not protrude above the line of the back. 5 points

Objections: Shoulders not uniform with hams, thin, shallow, weak, protruding above level of back.

Chest: Moderately wide between the legs. Deep girth. 5 points

Objections: Narrow, shallow, thin. Front legs set too narrow or too wide for chest width.

Back & Loin: Strong, level or slightly arched when grazing. Medium to long length and level to root of tail. Width even from shoulder to ham/rump when viewing from above. Even and smooth, firm not pliable. Rounded at croup, base of tail not flat. 5 points

Objections: Narrow, swayed or highly arched back, weak or mushy. Heritage hogs’ width typically averages the same from shoulder to ham/rump. Pliable feel to back could mean that the hog retains too much fat. Length should not be excessive as this can affect breeding and the productive life of hog due to weakness. Flat croup (area in front of the tail).

Sides & Ribs: Deep. Well-sprung ribs in proportion with shoulders and hams. Symmetrical from front to back. 5 points

Objections: Narrow, thin, shallow, pinched. *Long, deep bodied animals indicate a good capacity for organs and carry a larger quantity of high quality loin cuts.

Belly & Flank: Thick, flat, even underline. Flank smooth and full, in line with the sides, well let down. 5 points

Objections: Flabby, loose, droopy underline. Underline pulled up or thin. Flank out of line with sides.

Teats: At least 10 sound, evenly spaced, well-paired teats starting well forward. 5 points

Objections: Blind or inverted teats in gilts, sows, or boars. *Animals with 12 or more teats are desirable.

Hams & Rump: Hams broad and deep with good width coming well down to the hock. Rump slightly rounded from loin to base of tail. 5 points

Objections: Narrow, thin, long hams not extending well down to hock. Rump narrow, too flat, or dropping off too sharply. Flat croup.

Tail: Curled or crooked expressing movement. Set high. Attached as the hip falls from the back. With no depression at root. Moderately long but not coarse, well tasseled. 5 points

Objections: Straight, short, lack of tassel. *Tail set too low indicates steep rump which can lead to various joint, breeding and birthing issues due to stress on joints, restricted motion, and mal-alignment.

Legs: Short to medium, straight, strong boned, well tapered and well set apart. Pasterns springy, providing adequate cushion, consistent with heritage breeds. 5 points

Objections: Extremely long, short or thin legs. Knock knees, bucked knees, or pigeon toed. Post legged or stiffness – lack of proper shock absorption during locomotion. Legs set too narrow. Legs should be solid, thick and strong, placed squarely on all four corners of the body to provide adequate balance and proper support for the weight of the hog*. Rear legs should not appear to be standing on tiptoes nor be rocked back onto pasterns. Dew claws off of the ground when on firm footing. Weak foreleg pasterns are tolerable in heritage hogs but weak knees must be avoided due to premature breakdown of animals with the anatomical deformity. *Back legs set under the animal is common and true to heritage breeds, therefore, should not be considered a fault.

Feet: Strong with even, short to medium cleys consistent with heritage breeds. 5 points

Objections: Overly splayed. Excessively flat footed. Cleys of unequal size, twisted, or overly long. *Commercial breeds have been bred to stand upright on small, closed toes to improve the appearance of the hams without consideration of comfort for ease of movement on pasture. Heritage breeds often display soft, flexible pasterns with open toes appropriate for their age and weight. Open toes and flexible pasterns are true to heritage breeds and should not be viewed as a fault.

Skin & Hair: Clean coat of fine quality, any color, texture, or pattern except in the case of a true belt. 5 points

Objections: Hair not covering the body evenly. Swirls, cowlicks, hair growing in different directions on the body. Dullness. Lumps, bumps, or roughness of skin. A “true belt” is a disqualification in the show ring, however, the pig is registerable by the AKPR Registered Breeder with proof of parentage via DNA from AKPR Registered parents. “True Belt” is defined as “an unbroken band encircling the body (no spots/blotches and without bleeding) and including the front legs and feet”.

Testicles: Easily seen with each of the same size and carriage. *Points will be awarded under sexual characteristics of boar.

Objections: Uneven size or carriage, not easily seen. Flabby low scrotum. *Testicles that are not apparent may be due to over conditioning (too fat) at a young age and can result in infertility in boars. Testicles can be drawn up and held to the age of 8 to 12 months in some bloodlines/individuals. Testicles in some animals are held close to the body before relaxing and letting down in the aged boar.

Temperament: Placid in nature, active and alert, confident, docile, inquisitive. Easily handled and driven.

5 points

Objections: Wild, aggressive, difficult to control or drive. Dull.

Action: Free, firm, fluid and forward in motion. Alert. 5 points

Objections: Limping, lameness, stiffness, weak, wobbling. Dull.

Sexual Characteristics:

MALE ~ boars should be strong in traits peculiar to the sex. Head may be slightly coarse, the neck full and arched somewhat, with the shoulder heavy. The forequarters are usually slightly heavier than the hind quarters and this distinction grows more evident with age as shields develop. Strength of frame without coarseness is desirable. Body should be deep, long, and low. Strong, short/medium legs with straight pasterns. At least 10 sound, evenly spaced, well-paired teats starting well forward. 5 points

FEMALE ~ after breed type, sex type is of first and foremost importance in sows. She shall have no signs of coarseness instead being feminine in overall appearance, neat, and sharp. The width before and behind should be almost uniform. Length of body abundant for growing litters and easy farrowing. She shall possess at least 10 sound, evenly spaced, well-paired teats starting well forward, none blind. 5 points

Possible Points: 100

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