Sheep farming has played a huge part in New Zealand’s economy. From 1856 to 1987, it was the most important farming industry.
British navigator James Cook brought sheep to New Zealand in 1773 and 1777. In 1814 missionary Samuel Marsden moved a flock to the Bay of Islands, and in 1834 sheep were put on Mana Island, near Wellington, to feed whalers.
The first farms were set up in the 1840s:
Sheep from Australia were driven round the coast from Wellington to Wairarapa.
William and John Deans brought Merino sheep to the Canterbury Plains.
Whaler Johnny Jones farmed 2,000 sheep in Otago, on land leased from Māori.
From the 19th century, farmers mated different breeds to produce sheep for particular conditions. The first New Zealand breed was the Corriedale –a cross between the Merino and several English breeds.
Other New Zealand breeds include:
New Zealand Romney, which makes up about two-thirds of the national flock
Drysdale, which has hairy wool used in carpet
Perendale, which is good for meat and wool, and can live in cold, wet places
Coopworth, which produces a lot of meat and wool on good farmland.
Today, farmers place increased emphasis on breeding sheep for improved meat or wool production. Agricultural competitions bring sheep farmers and affiliated business’s to town to showcase the very best that Canterbury and New Zealand has to offer.
This years New Zealand Agricultural Show will bring to the competition the following breeds:
English Leicester Lincoln, Romney, Cheviot
Perendale, Borderdale, Southdown
South Suffolk, Suffolk, Oxford
Dorset Down, Hampshire
Ryeland, Dorset Horn, Poll Dorset
Texel, Dorper, White Dorper
East Fresian, Shropshire
Black & Coloured Sheep