As animal breeders have constantly sought to improve their livestock, some of the original breeds have dwindled to low numbers and even died out. In Britain alone over twenty breeds of farm animals have become extinct since 1900. Worldwide, the rate of loss has been estimated as about one breed per week, so the genetic diversity of livestock is rapidly becoming reduced. A common breed can become rare and then extinct in a very short time unless someone is caring for it. This has happened to sheep, cattle, goats, pigs, poultry and horses.

In New Zealand there are true breeds that are rare both here and overseas. There are also feral strains that are of historical and scientific interest, such as the Arapawa goats (see photo), Kaimanawa horses and Auckland Island pigs. New Zealand can therefore play a part in the world-wide effort to preserve the world’s livestock diversity. (See Loss of Biodiversity in Livestock.)

The annual Rare Breeds auction in Christchurch is attended by buyers and sellers from all over the South Island. For details see Auction Notice .

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