Mohaka rams

About the Rare Breeds
Conservation Society of New Zealand

Free-ranging goats on Arapawa Island, at the northern end of the South Island.  (Photo by Betty Rowe.)
Free-ranging goats on Arapawa Island, at the northern end of the South Island.

As animal breeders have constantly sought to improve their livestock, some of the original breeds have dwindled to low numbers and even died out.  In Britain alone over twenty breeds of farm animals have become extinct since 1900.   Worldwide, the rate of loss has been estimated as about one breed per week, so the genetic diversity of livestock is rapidly becoming reduced.   A common breed can become rare and then extinct in a very short time unless someone is caring for it.   This has happened to sheep, cattle, goats, pigs, poultry and horses.

In New Zealand there are a number of domestic breeds that are rare both here and overseas.   There are also breeds, such as the Arapawa goats (see photo), Kaimanawa horses and Auckland Island pigs, that were deliberately or accidently released into the 'wild' and which are now considered to have heritage status.   New Zealand can therefore play a part in the world-wide effort to preserve the world’s livestock diversity. (See Loss of Biodiversity in Livestock.)

The Rare Breeds Conservation Society of New Zealand, was founded in 1988 and is administered by a Committee elected under its Constitution. The Society maintains contact and exchanges publications with similar overseas organizations – the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (UK), the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC), Rare Breeds Canada, the Rare Breeds Trust of Australia, and FERME (France) – and it is a member of Rare Breeds International. (See our Links page for links to these and other organizations.)

Does it matter?

Rare Breeds Auction
Annual Rare Breeds auction in Christchurch

Farmers naturally want to use the most productive, healthy and hardy stock they can, and to produce for the current market – which inevitably changes according to consumer requirements.   For a variety of reasons it is worth retaining the original breeds:

Why have a Society?

Rare Breed Cape Barren goose (Photo Jeanette McIsaac) The Cape Barren Goose is a rare breed from across the Tasman.

Many people find unusual animals attractive to look at, to breed, to keep or to exchange with friends.   On their own they can do only so much.   Getting organized can help them develop contacts, share experience, get advice, build up their knowledge and avoid mistakes and losses.   As a group, lay people, scientists and managers can do much more than individuals working alone.   And they can develop a common voice in the interests of endangered livestock.

The aims of the Rare Breeds Conservation Society are:

The Society has established a Rare Breeds Gene Bank to help retain valuable genetic material by cryopreservation.

Website Details

© All New Zealand Rare Breeds Website material is Copyright – in the first instance to the writer or photographer concerned, secondly to the compilers of this website and thirdly to the Rare Breeds Conservation Society of New Zealand Incorporated.     All Rights Reserved World Wide.   See Website Information for details on this website.

Miniature Horse and Shropshire sheep (Trotter/McCulloch photo) A small Miniature Horse stands beside a large Shropshire Sheep on Canterbury property.

Benefits in joining the Society

See Join the Rare Breeds Society for details about joining on line or by post.


See our Links page for links to other Rare Breeds organizations, specialist groups, allied interest groups, and personal advertising/information pages; or the Breeders Directory for links to personal advertising and information sites and pages.

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