New Zealand Rare Breeds Website: – Information
» Home » Breeds » Directory » About » News » Webmart » Projects » Gene Bank » Links » Join » Contact
New Zealand: Rare
Importation: 1990s
Origin: Israel

Awassi Sheep

A Rare Breed of Middle East Origin

Awassi sheep (Photo by Michael Willis)
Distinctive head of Awassi type sheep (Photo by Michael Willis)

      Around 1991 a New Zealand and Australian consortium imported about 150 embryos of an improved dairy strain of Awassi sheep from Israel. These were transferred into New Zealand ewes on Somes Island in the middle of the Welington harbour. The pregnant recipient ewes were then taken into quarantine at Flock House near Bulls, where the numbers were multiplied until the time of release in 1995.

      Within New Zealand the breed is controlled by “Awassi New Zealand”, but it has exported two thirds of the stock to Australia, where it is held by a sister company, “Awassi Australia”. Both of these companies carefully guard the breed, so that nobody else has access to them.

Awassi sheep (Photo by Michael Willis)
Awassi type ewe in Canterbury
(Photo by Michael Willis)

      There are, however, now other known Awassis in Havelock North, Taupo, and Timaru, along with a small group at Willowbank in Christchurch. While these may not be purebred, the Awassi characteristics are very dominant, and they are an interesting addition to New Zealand’s agriculture, where they are numerically one of the rarest breeds in the country.

      The fat tail, brown face and legs, and long floppy ears immediately differentiate the the Awassi from other breeds of sheep, together with their upright stance and relatively hairy white coat. The rams have large curled horns. Temperamentally they are very quiet sheep and will cluster around you nibbling your fingers in the fond hope of some rewarding treat.

Awassi sheep (Photo by Michael Trotter)
Awassi sheep at Willowbank Farm   (Photo by Michael Trotter)
Thanks to Michael Willis and Jock Allison for this information.

 » Breeders Directory listing  

© Copyright 
 » Go to Rare Breeds Home Page 
See also Navigation Bar at top of this page

Rare Breeds Conservation Society of New Zealand Incorporated

XHTML and CSS Valid icons