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New Zealand: Rare
Diggers Hill Sheep
A Rare Breed of New Zealand Origin
Diggers Hill sheep (Photo by Karen Nicoll)
Diggers Hill sheep are named after the locality in western Southland, just south-east of Lake Monowai, where the breed evolved in a feral state. They have, somewhat confusingly, also been referred to as “Takitimu”, “Dean Forest” and “Fiordlander”, but the term Diggers Hill is preferred and used here.
They appear to be basically of Merino origin, but are distinct enough to be a recognizable breed, although there is some variation in type. They are also typical of New Zealand feral sheep – small body weight, less hair on the extremities, single lambing, and a tendency to shed their fine but chalky fleece.
The photograph below was taken on a property adjacent to Diggers Hill, where they won’t interact with other breeds on the farm to the point that if they are in the same paddock they will remain in separate mobs. These sheep have never been shorn (as they shed their wool) or treated with conventional animal health treatments. They are only handled to shift paddocks or once a year bought into the yards for the annual stock count. They have a wild nature and do not like to be handled too closely (they jump a bit like goats). The lambing begins every year in May and I am told that is how they have always behaved, including the ones still in the wild. All of our sheep are white but the manager has seen some black ones in the wild.
Diggers Hill sheep (Photo by Cindy Eagle)
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