Great Wall of Kuakini believed to have protected food from roaming cattle


Editor’s note: West Hawaii Today, in conjunction with the Kona Historical Society, is pleased to present readers a weekly feature compiled by the society called “A Guide to Old Kona.” These articles and accompanying photographs have been compiled and provided by Kona Historical Society and were published previously in a book of the same title.

Great Wall of Kuakini

The Great Wall of Kuakini is a stone barricade, over 5 miles long, that stretches from Kailua to beyond Keauhou less than a mile from the coast. When John Papa Ii recorded his first impressions of Kailua in 1812, he wrote, “A stone wall to protect the food plots stretched back of the village from one end to the other and beyond.” It is possible this wall was enlarged during Gov. John Adams Kuakini’s time to control the increasingly problematic movement of cattle.

Before Polynesians settled these islands, Hawaii’s specialized environment included only two mammal species, the Hawaiian hoary bat and the monk seal. The colonizing Polynesians brought to Hawaii dogs, pigs, fowl and the Polynesian rat. These imported animals had an impact on the natural environment, but not as devastating an impact as the animals introduced by European sea captains after Capt. James Cook’s “discovery.”

Cattle, sheep, goats and large European boars were purposefully brought to the Sandwich Islands to stock Western ships with food supplies during their long sea voyages. Capt. George Vancouver, determined to establish cattle in Hawaii, carried seasick bulls and cows across the Pacific Ocean on board his ship two years in a row. In 1794, as special gifts for Kamehameha I, he successfully landed his final shipment of a young bull, two cows and two bull calves at Kealakekua Bay.

The cattle soon adapted to Hawaii, and, without a single natural enemy, proceeded to trample the countryside. They chewed crops, tender trees and the sides of thatched houses. They devastated not only gardens but also the native landscape. Wild bulls chased little children and terrified unwary travelers.

With no knowledge of cattle-raising, the Hawaiians were helpless to control the huge animals. Gov. Kuakini may have ordered the expansion of the older wall, originally built to stop pigs and dogs from damaging the upland gardens, to put a stop to midnight cattle stampedes through Kailua.

In the 1830s, King Kamehameha III brought Mexican-Spanish cowboys, called Los Espanoles or vaqueros, to Hawaii to teach his subjects horseback riding, cattle roping, saddle making and lariat braiding. The Hawaiians learned quickly. Before long the Hawaiian cowboy, or paniolo (named after his Mexican counterpart), became a colorful part of Hawaii’s changing 19th-century culture.

Modern road construction and housing projects have breached Kuakini’s Wall in several places. A section remains near the southern edge of Crossroads Center on the mauka side of Queen Kaahumanu Highway.

Copyright 1998 Kona Historical Society. Reprinted by permission.