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Campbell Island Sheep
A Rare New Zealand Breed of Feral Origin
Campbell Island ram
(Photo by Karen Nicoll)
The first sheep were landed on subantarctic Campbell Island (over 600 kilometres south of the New Zealand mainland) in 1895 after a grazing lease had been taken up. (See » New Zealand for the location of Campbell Island.) Two thousand more were introduced in 1901, and a further thousand in 1902. Both of the first introductions are known to have been Merinos, but the last was of an unknown breed – at least some must have been longwools such as Lincolns or Leicesters.
As a result, the Campbell Island sheep are one of the few feral breeds known to have anything other than Merino blood; they range from quarter- to half-bred Merino-longwool crosses. Campbell Island sheep do not have the high proportion of coloured animals that occur in some feral flocks.
Campbell Island ewes at Winchmore Research Station
When farming was abandoned on Campbell Island in 1931 the remaining 4000 sheep were left to run wild. In 1970 half the island was fenced off and the sheep in the northern half were shot out, leaving only those in the southern half. Ten of the latter were brought to the New Zealand mainland in 1976, and by the late 1980s all the sheep remaining on the island had been exterminated. (See » The Feral Sheep of Campbell Island for details.)
Descendants of the ten sheep rescued were kept on Government farms, where they were maintained as a purebred flock until mid-2005 – a small group is still in existence. Some breeding up (see » Grading Up Programmes) has also been undertaken at Invercargill from rams released from the purebred flock.
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