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A different kind of therapy

Photos by Christy Porter
Hickory Manor Activity Director Heather Lyons holds a Kunekune pig brought by Mark Bengtson while resident Geraldine Hall looks on. Residents and staff alike enjoyed the Kunekune pigs’ visit to the Hickory Manor nursing facility.

By Christy Porter, Managing Editor

Residents at Hickory Manor nursing facility were treated to a special visit last month when Mark Bengtson, from BF Farm in Huggins, brought three of his Kunekune pigs in to play.

Play is sometimes hard work; this Kunekune pig took a nap in resident Glen Morgan, Jr.’s lap.

Even those more hesitant with the unusual visitors couldn’t help but respond with smiles, cuddling and petting the friendly, smaller, domesticated breed of pig. Staff members also enjoyed the animals and introducing them to the residents.

The Kunekune pigs’ visit sparked conversation, such as, “I once raised pigs… but they were not like these.”

Kunekunes are known for being intelligent, playful and very social and friendly with humans. Approximately 30 sounds comprise their vocabulary, including the low-pitched, contented grunting noises heard during the course of their visit, and while not heard during the visit, their noises can get high-pitched if they’re anxious or stressed.

Originating from New Zealand, the Kunekunes have a range of colors, with smooth or coarse and curly hair, which gets warmer and thicker or sheds according to the temperature. They have curly tails, which they will wag; semi-lopped ears, which they will wiggle; both as a way of showing emotion; and many have wattles on either side of their face. While those brought by Bengtson were smaller, adults can weight up to 300 pounds and be up to 4-feet long and 2-feet tall.

Bengston raises this smaller, docile breed on a small homestead, where they graze and are pasture pigs. He enjoys sharing them as therapy animals during the fall and winter months with nursing homes, daycares, churches and 4-H clubs.

“There has been amazing responses with the disabled,” shared Bengston. “At one nursing facility, a woman who was almost catatonic lit up and responded while holding the pig.”

Bengston is busy on the farm from April to August, but says, “Life has been good and I am very blessed. I have the farm and I want to give back when I can. There has been incredible response with the Kunekune pigs, everywhere from with the church children to the nursing facilities.”

Photos by Christy Porter

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