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Arapawa ram
Arapawa sheep on Arapawa Island
(Photo by Betty Rowe)

Arapawa Sheep

Breed Description

The Arapawa sheep are the feral sheep of Arapawa Island in the Marlborough Sounds. Their origin is uncertain origin, some evidence suggesting that they are derived from Merino sheep that were introduced into the Island in the early to middle years of the nineteenth century, but DNA research indicating that their closest relationship is with Gulf Coast sheep of North America. The following breed description was compiled for the Rare Breeds Conservation Society in 2002.

Origin: These sheep are derived from the original feral sheep of Arapawa Island.

Head: Long narrow face with no wool. Slender upright ears clear of any wool. (The ram has a distinctly broader head.) Little or no wig.

Eyes: Alert and bright – clear of wool. Note pupils appear to be rounded.

Neck: Long tapering from the head. (In rams more strongly set on shoulders.)

Shoulder: Narrow (broader in ram and may be raised).

Body: Long lean and symmetrical. Straight back with the narrow tail set low on rump. (This gives a somewhat hunched appearance when rump is rounded.) A full tail is a characteristic of the breed.

Legs: Long, light boned set relatively close together and free of wool. Feet with formed upright narrow. Colour reflects coat. Feet exhibit a resistance to footrot.

Wool: Very fine (micron count from 11 to –). Fine crimp. Wool shows a tendency towards self shedding, particularly in belly area. Anal area generally free of wool. Breed exhibits some resistance to fly strike.

Pigmentation: Can be ‘self coloured’ (all black), or black with white points (an even blaze, white bib, white tip on tail, white socks on feet), or piebald with random white patches, or pure white. Note – In the original feral flock 90% displayed some form of pigmentation. There would appear to be no moorit type colouration.

Behaviour: Typically displays a very alert carriage – active athletic. When moving casually or when in repose, the head tends to be carried low, but is distinctly raised when alerted. Flocks tend to display a strong self breed preference.

Lambing: Can ovulate throughout the year. Ewes display high fecundity and easy lambing. Lambs display a hairy birth coat. Vigorous from birth with high initial growth rate. Ewes typically have large clean udders.

Flesh: Fine grained – lean with distinctive gamy flavour.

Horns: Rams well horned. In good condition horns may grow to one metre plus, and have about 1.75 turns. Ewes may be polled or have skurs of varying length. Horn colour tends to reflect coat colour.

General Comments: Of strong constitution, members of the breed display considerable longevity.

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» Feral Breeds statement
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