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•   No longer in New Zealand   •

New Zealand: Extinct
Importation: 1908

Scottish Blackface Sheep

A Breed of Scottish Origin

Blackface sheep
Blackface sheep   (Photo by Richard Webb)

The Scottish Blackface is one of the oldest recorded breeds in Britain. Extremely hardy, with a long, harsh, coarse coat, its supreme characteristic is its ability to survive the hard diet and harsh winters of the Scottish Highlands. Both sexes are horned.

The Otago Witness for 2 December 1908 (page 25), in reported on the Otago Agricultural and Pastoral Society’s annual summer show, noted “There were among the sheep an interesting exhibit, sent down from Canterbury. These were two specimens of the pure Blackface breed of sheep—an animal that is seldom, if ever, seen in New Zealand,—and they were a source of curious interest to many sheep-farmers. The Blackface, said an elderly Scotsman, who seemed delighted at discovering animals that were representative of a breed he had once known well, are common enough in the high, wild country in the remote Scottish Highlands, where they flourish on pasture that would spell starvation to the more delicately-constituted Leicester or Shropshire.”

It is reputed that the Canterbury imports (four ewes and two rams) were intended for use on the South Island’s high country stations, where it was hoped they would set an example and lead the Merinos into shelter during winter storms. It may have been a good theory but the shearing shed story is that the Blackfaces simply followed the Merinos into trouble!

The fate of these sheep is unknown, and although there are references to “blackface” sheep in New Zealand both before and after this date, these do not appear to be the pure Scottish breed.

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