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The Coming of the Maori

Introduction of Birds and Animals

page 64

Introduction of Birds and Animals

Some indigenous birds have been added traditionally to the cargoes of the Fleet canoes such as the swamp hen (pukeko) and parakeet (kakariki) in the Aotea and the swamp hen under the name of pakura in the Horouta. The domesticated fowl (moa) was not introduced but the name moa was applied by the first settlers to a number of wingless birds (Dinornis, etc.) which became extinct.

The pig, though present in Polynesia, is not mentioned in Maori traditions. After its introduction by Europeans, it was named poaka after the English name pork or porker which resembles the old Polynesian name of puaka but must not be confounded with it.

The dog (kuri) figures a good deal in tradition. Turi is stated to have given his wife a dogskin cloak as an exchange gift to her father Toto for the Aotea voyaging canoe. Though dogskin cloaks were not made in Hawaiki, the story is rendered impressive by enumerating the names of eight dogs, the skins of which entered into the manufacture of the alleged cloak. The names of the dogs were as follows:


On the arrival of Aotea at Rangitahua (Kermadecs) two dogs were sacrificed to the god Maru. Grey (44, p. 214) gives their names as Whakapapatuakura, the same as number 3 in the above list, and Tangakakariki, a variation of number 5. After arrival in New Zealand, Turi's daughter, who was pregnant, induced her husband to procure dog's flesh for her by stealing two of her brother's dogs. Their names were Papatuakura, a shortened form of number 3 and Mataware, a shortened form of number 4. Ihenga of the Arawa canoe, discovered Lake Rotoiti by the aid of a dog named Potakatawhiti which figures as number 1 in the list. Though the names of dogs could be repeated, it seems as if later incidents were given extra detail by borrowing from older stories.

Dogs' bones have been found connected with moa-hunter remains and thus give evidence that dogs were also brought in by the first settlers.

Dogs were seen and described by Captain Cook. Greenhide strips were used in dogskin cloaks and tufts of white dogs' hair were used to ornament a type of cloak and the taiaha club. The breed became extinct after European occupation.

The Polynesian rat (kiore maori) came as a stowaway in the voyaging canoes and when it became a forest dweller living on berries and roots, it formed a choice article of food, particularly when preserved in fat as huahua. Its value as food probably led to its being added as part of the imports in the narratives of the Fleet.