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Understanding Bloodlines

Written by Alana Schoffstall, Director-Project Management & Marketing, American Kunekune Pig Registry

If new to the Kunekune breed and entertaining the thought of breeding, one of the first questions you will likely have will concern pedigrees. The Kunekune’s pedigree will follow a simple pattern once you are familiar with how it’s tracked. Each litter farrowed has a dame and a sire. Each dame and each sire will have their own line name.


For instance: Dame—Wilsons Gina  Sire—TeWhangi


The piglets in each litter will inherit their line according to sex; mother to daughters and father to sons. Sows are therefore Wilsons Gina, and boars TeWhangi.


By recording pedigrees in this fashion the bloodline is tracked by sex clear back to the original namesake for whom the line was named. There is of course a story behind each line. For instance the Andrew line was given it’s name by New Zealand breeder Pat Leek, when Andy Case of Long Ash Farm imported the first “Andrew” boar into the UK. The Mahia Love line was given its name by Lori Enright of Olde Reminisce Farms, when it arrived to the United States in 2010 from New Zealand. By renaming lines in this manner a differentiation is made at a time of historical significance. Certain lines have certain reputations—the Trish line for instance, is known to have low and questionable fertility. Trish is therefore sought after as an uncommon line in need of preservation. And then some of the original lines can no longer be accounted for such as the Tammerdale sow line. The history of each line is intriguing—a mystery to be researched and unearthed. A thorough knowledge of the history of each bloodline cannot be expected to amass before purchasing your first stock. There are a few basic tips that will get you started on the right track however.


The official name of a Kunekune pig will look something like this:

BVF Andrew 1

Which reads; BVF (Black Valley Farm), Andrew (bloodline), 1 (the first produced). By looking at the official name you can determine where the pig was produced, the line, and how far along in a farm’s breeding program the animal was produced.


Line breeding: The interbreeding of individuals within a particular line of descent usually to perpetuate desirable characters. 


Now that we’ve discussed basic lines which follow linage according to sex--male to male, female to female—let’s go a little deeper.

Here are two examples of ways a litter’s bloodlines can be listed. The “x” symbol reads as “by”.


      a. TeWhangi x Wilsons Gina (this format tells you that the sire is TeWhangi and the dame Wilsons Gina)


      b. TeWhangi/Trish x Wilsons Gina/Andrew (this format tells you that the litter’s sire is a TeWhangi out of a Trish sow and the dame of the litter is a Wilsons Gina produced by an Andrew boar.)


Let’s talk about how bloodlines will influence your decisions when choosing foundation stock.


1. Let’s assume that you will purchase only one breeding pair. Here is an example of two possible litter options for purchasing a gilt:


       a. TeWhangi/Trish x Wilsons Gina/Boris = TeWhangi x Wilsons Gina

       b. TeWhangi/Wilsons Gina x Wilsons Gina/TeWhangi = TeWhangi x Wilsons Gina


So what do we know about the two possible gilts for purchase? Remember that the sire is placed first when listing litter equations. Since we are gilt shopping we look at the dame’s line which is Wilsons Gina. Very basically we can see that a Wilsons Gina gilt purchased from litter “b” will have less genetic diversity than a Wilsons Gina gilt purchased from litter “a” due to the fact that only two distinct lines are represented in litter “b”. We conclude that purchasing from litter “a” would be the wisest choice based solely  upon genetic diversity.


Other factors such as conformation and temperament should also be carefully  considered before making your final choice. An ugly pig with exceptional genetics will never surpass a beautiful pig when it comes time to market your breeding program. Preserving the correct conformation of the breed is equally as important as the genetic diversity and to some extent a more daunting challenge.


Now to pair your gilt: Keep in mind that had you purchased from either litter “a” or “b”, when the time comes to list your own litter your gilt will read Wilsons Gina/TeWhangi. So, with that in mind you now need a boar that will compliment your gilt—ideally giving you four distinct bloodlines in your first degree pedigree.

(Notice when listing pedigrees we begin with the sire in the first position of the equation)


       a. Andrew/Jenny x Aria Giana/Ru = Andrew x Aria Giana

       b. Andrew/Aria Giana x Aria Giana/Andrew = Andrew x Aria Giana


(Your options are both Andrew but the sow lines of these litters will be the determining factors when it comes to genetic diversity paired with your gilt.) We are going to choose boar “a” assuming that conformation is equal on both options. This then gives you the broadest genetic base possible. The first degree pedigree of your pair’s offspring will be:


Andrew/Aria Giana x Wilsons Gina/TeWhangi


Not to confuse you, but in an attempt to clarify the intricacy of reading pedigrees had you chosen boar “b” and gilt “b” your offspring would still be:   Andrew/Aria Gina x Wilsons Gina/TeWhangi. Your chosen pair however, is more diverse than had you chosen choices “b”.


In conclusion, a first degree pedigree boasting four distinct lines backed by a second degree pedigree boasting four additionally distinct bloodlines places you on the best possible footing to establish a single pair breeding program when considering genetics only:


Andrew/Jenny x Aria Giana/Ru X Wilsons Gina/Boris x TeWhangi/Trish Andrew/Aria Giana x Wilsons Gina/TeWhangi

Andrew x Wilsons Gina


2. Beginning with a breeding trio or larger foundation herd. If beginning with a trio or larger foundation herd it becomes less of a priority to maintain four distinct lines in each and every animal’s genealogy. Lines will obviously overlap. In a larger herd this is not at all concerning. A few examples of unique genetic considerations for larger herds follow:

          a. Consolidating rare or desired genetics within a breeding program.

Tutaki/Aria Giana Aria Giana/TeWhangi Aria Giana/TeWhangi Here you would be breeding a program focusing heavily on the Aria Giana line. You have chosen your boar considering that his mother is of the Aria Giana line and your gilts are sisters. You now have condensed the Aria Giana genetics making them predominant in you program. Reasons for doing so include (in no specific order), genetic rarity, excellent conformation, wattles, temperament and/or desired behavior (such as aggressive breeder, large litter size, ease of farrowing, condition, etc)

          b. Consolidating rare genetic combinations.

Andrew Jenny TeWhangi For example the above listed lines were imported directly from the herd of renowned breeder Andy Case in the first import of breeding stock to the USA. Before other lines were introduced by later imports the foundation herd in this country was bred from these three lines. As we began to outcross for additional genetics finding individual animals traced back only to the Long Ash lines became more and more rare. Other combinations can also fit into the equation.

          c. Consolidating genetics for desired traits.

Certain lines carry strong genetics for certain traits. Some of these traits are desirable and some are not. Each breeder will develop a feel for what pleases him/her and begin to breed accordingly. The focus of your breeding program will also determine traits that best suit your needs. Better condition on pasture, smaller animals for companions, perfect show conformation…Very large programs will have sub-herds or smaller groups that are bred together to produce different desired combinations.

          d. Focusing on a specific line or lines.

This usually comes into play after a few years of experience. However, some first time breeders will be drawn to a specific line based on marketing appeal. Black Valley Farm for example has been working with over a dozen bloodlines for some time. Line breeding, even inbreeding, outcrossing, culling…. Throughout years of breeding our love of the Rona and Andrew line have stemmed from two of our very first pigs, Ramona and Cornelius. Mahia Love and Jenny play an important role in our herd because of the genetic strength and predictability they offer. Govern your program to stand out and excel. Take your pigs to the show ring. Your prefix will stand behind your offspring remember-- BVF Andrew 1—Prefix, line, number. The possibilities are truly endless.

Truly talented and dedicated breeders will be known by their herds. As breeding experience adds to knowledge each breeder will begin to recognize his or her own feel for preferred genetic combinations based on diversity, conformation, and statistics. Welcome to the addictive world of unlimited genetic combinations!

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