CHIEFESS Kaahumanu’s pet hog was no ordinary creature. He was handsomely plump, with tusks and black bristles that shone from the tender care he received from his kahu, or keeper. The chiefess had selected one of her court women to look after him. Among the kahu’s duties was to ai mama the animal, as with all royal children. She would first chew the food, then hand-feed it to him.
Because he was an integral part of her life, Kaahumanu shared her name with him as well, and he was granted all of the kapu, or sacred privileges, of her rank. His status was above that of the ordinary commoner. He roamed and foraged at will, and was not held responsible for any transgressions he might commit. If he was found in a sweet potato garden, for example, the farmer could only gently urge the animal away, without touching or harming him
One day in 1824, the pet disrupted a worship service in Hilo simply by wandering into the meeting hall. The entire congregation scrambled toward the exits of the thatched house, displacing the preacher in the rush. Loud shouting failed to chase the hog out; no one dared approach Kaahumanu’s sacred pet. Finally, the kahu appeared and proceeded to lomi, or massage, the pig into a deep slumber. Only then did the congregation and preacher return and the service resume.
Among Hawaiian royalty, Kaahumanu was not alone in her fondness for pets. Visitors to the court of Kamehameha V were constantly entertained by his testy, Hawaiian-speaking parrot named Pahua. Pahua was also the chant name of Kamehameha V’s procreative parts, symbolic of royal virility and the continuity of the Hawaiian race. In the 1860s, the Kauai chanter Kaehu composed a lively oli in honor of both Pahua; it is still enjoyed today for its mirthful double-entendres.
Princess Kaiulani’s pet birds were more exotic. She inherited rare white peacocks from her mother, Likelike, who had received them from Theophilus H. Davies. Kaiulani also had a pony named Fairy, who occupied many of her childhood hours.
Dogs, of course, were the pets of royalty too. As a child, Queen Emma had a fluffy, white pet dog, as did her young son, Prince Albert. In fact, the prince and his dog are depicted in a well-known 1864 posthumous portrait by artist Enoch Wood Perry Jr.
The great warrior Kamehameha had a favorite dog named Boss, or Poki. So dear was this animal to him that after Poki’s death, Kamehameha had him deified as a demigod.
Evelaina, a mastiff belonging to Kamehameha III, demonstrated the proverbial dog’s devotion to his master. After the king’s death, his body was placed in the royal tomb at Pohukaina on the Iolani Palace grounds. As the crowds of mourners dispersed, Evelaina was found keeping watch outside the door of the tomb. Months passed and Evelaina remained beside his master. His keepers tried luring him away with food. He would leave to eat, then return to his vigil. They tried confining him. Invariably he would escape and be found outside the tomb. The last mention of Evelaina in the newspapers—more than two years later—reported that he could still be found keeping watch over his master.
Liliuokalani’s little dog Poni was her constant companion. In her final months, the queen turned over the care of Poni to her closest friend, Lahilahi Webb. When Liliu died, family members and intimate friends were present in her bed chamber, along with her devoted Poni.
(Illustration courtesy of (Bishop Museum)
Read more of Carol Silva’s fascinating, unique histories of the Hawaiian Islands:
Riding The Old Oahu Railway
Oh, We’re Going to a Hukilau
A Wealth of Water
Guardian of the Bones
The Significance of Hawaiian Names
The Sweet Side of Hawaii
Dining with the Royals
Tourists of Old
Land of Menehune