Defining "Rare" and Determining Which Breeds Are Included in this Project?

It is difficult to come to an agreed terminology for rare breeds internationally. There are several studies that assess the components that put domestic agricultural animals at risk or "endangered" .  Since Australia offers "an ark", geographically (and legislatively) protected from the rest of the breeding world, it seemed important to consider only the ability to sustain sheep based on the populations in this country.  Therefore, for the purpose of this project, the focus is on Australia and the ability to maintain the existing breeds of sheep that are currently here (regardless of their rarity in other places in the world).

The Rare Breed Survival Trust in the United Kingdom produces an annual Watchlist.  They comment that breeds go on various levels of their watchlist not only by the registered breeding female population size, but also considers genetic factors (including genetic erosion) and breed density in a geographic area (e.g. geographically concentrated and therefore highly vulnerable to disease).

The Rare Breeds Trust of Australia (RBTA) has historically used primarily animal registrations as the indicative measure of breed numbers, assuming that animal registrations are indicative of the overall numbers of purebreds being bred.  There is some mention in documents of using other components (like population density) to add to the endangerment equation in the future.  

A paper produced by the RBTA (RBTA, 2006) has provided the basis of the first "rare" breed sheep for this project. 

Rarity Status of Sheep Breeds in Australia (as at 2006)  

In 2006 a publication put out by the Rare Breed Trust Australia (RBTA, 2006) assessed the status of sheep breeds and classified them in the following categories.  It is unclear if simply breeding numbers or geographic density has also been considered when identifying the condition of these breeds.  Though it is unlikely that breeding density is as big an issue in Australia as it is in the UK (unless the breeding numbers are composed of a single flock).

Extinct or lost from Australia

  • Cotswald
  • North Devon
  • Teeswater

Critical (<300)

  • Horned Polwarth (Aust only)
  • Camden Merino (Aust only)
  • Carpetmaster (NZ, Aust)
  • Booroola Merino (Aust only)
  • Zenith (Aust only)
  • Shropshire
  • Dorset Down (listed twice in report)
  • Elliotdale (Aust only)
  • South Dorset Down
  • Cormo

Endangered (<500 breeding ewes)

  • Lincoln
  • English Leicester
  • Ryeland
  • Drysdale (estimate only)
  • Tukidale (estimate only)

Vulnerable (<900 breeding ewes)

  • Cheviot
  • Hampshire
  • Dorset Down (listed twice in report)

At Risk (<1500 breeding ewes)

  • Romney

Recommended for Investigation

  • Perendale
  • Coopworth
  • Gromark

New creations or introductions

  • East Friesians (87 breeding ewes)
  • Texeldown (279 breeding ewes in 2003)
  • Wiltipol (431 breeding ewes in 2003)
  • Aust Finn (204 breeding ewes in 2003)
  • Centre Plus (unknown)

Many of the sheep listed in this Australia list are originally from the UK and are also on the the Rare Breed Survival Trust's Watchlist which is updated annually.