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About Feral Sheep
in New Zealand
New Zealand has no native wild land mammals but with the advent of European settlement a steady stream of animals was introduced, starting with Cook's visits in the 1770s and continuing until this day. Many were deliberately released into the wild, but a number of species of domestic livestock also escaped into the more inaccessible country, particularly in the earlier days of farming when good fencing was not widespread.
Eventually groups of feral cattle, sheep, goats and horses became established in various areas – as well as pigs, which were often deliberately liberated. Many of these wild populations were found not only on mainland New Zealand but also on the offshore and Subantarctic islands, often descendants of livestock deliberately introduced as a food supply for shipwrecked sailors.
In recent years efforts have been made to wipe out feral livestock, largely because of the damage they cause to native vegetation. However, it was recognized that these feral animals, especially those groups which were established during the nineteenth century and which had had little or no contact with modern livestock breeds, could well have important genetic characteristics that have been lost in today's domestic breeds. Representatives of these groups have been rescued and are now being farmed throughout the country.
The Rare Breeds Conservation Society recognizes the following breeds of feral sheep in New Zealand, listed in geographical order, north to south, followed by off-shore islands – names in blue link to breed description/photo pages – Raglan, Mohaka, Omahaki, Arapawa, Clarence, Woodstock, Diggers Hill, Hokonui, Stewart Island, Chatham Island, Pitt Island, and Campbell Island.
NOTE: In an article on » Feral Sheep in New Zealand that was published in 1976, flocks were listed from the following nine localities: Omahaki, Mohaka, Arapawa Island, Clarence, Waianakarua, Hokonui, Chatham Island, Pitt Island, Campbell Island. By 1984 flocks from Raglan and Woodstock had also been recognized. (See references below.)
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