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New Zealand: Rare
Overseas: None
Origin: Feral

Pitt Island Sheep

A Rare Breed of New Zealand Origin

Map of New Zealand showing the position of Pitt Island

      In the nineteen-seventies a feral flock of several thousand sheep could be found on Pitt Island in the Chatham group (see map).

      These possibly derived from Saxony Merinos first taken to South-East Island – another island in the Chatham group – in 1841 and later transferred to Pitt Island. In any case, the flock is known with certainty to have been in existence for almost a century.

      A Reserve for 300 of these animals was created on Pitt Island in 1981. A number have also been taken to mainland New Zealand.

Pitt Island rams
Pitt Island rams (Photo by David Tuart)

      Pitt Island sheep are almost all coloured and have the self-shedding fleeces characteristic of feral breeds. The rams are impressively horned – up to a metre long measured around the curve.

      In a study made of the sheep on the Reserve in 1981, Dr M. R. Rudge found that only 11.1% of rams and 8.8% of ewes were white; 97% of rams were horned but only 13% of the ewes had true horns, though 54% of the ewes had scurs.

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Rudge, M. R., 1983. "A reserve for feral sheep on Pitt Island, Chatham group, New Zealand" New Zealand Journal of Zoology. Volume 10, pages 349-364

   See also:
» The Pitt Islanders
» About Feral Sheep
» Feral Breeds statement
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