About Stewart Island Sheep
The first large-scale sheep farming venture
on Stewart Island, New Zealand, was commenced in 1874 on what proved to be
unsuitable terrain at Scott Burn. Within a few years other sheep runs were
taken up on drier land at Island Hill and Kilbride in Masons Bay on the western
coast. Prior to this only small numbers of sheep had been kept on the island
for household supply, mostly at The Neck (on the east coast). Sheep farming was
never greatly successful on the island, although it did continue until the
Sheep that escaped from farming operations
formed a feral population and some have been recovered in recent years and
maintained on the mainland. These are described as being very like those from
Arapawa Island in size (i.e. relatively small) and general appearance – the
rams having particularly fine horns. They are mostly black and often have a
patch of white on the nose and between the eyes, and a white tip on the tail.
They are very alert and aware of what is
going on around them. In a group, a female will often act as a ‘lookout’ for
the approach of strangers. The ewes are very protective of their lambs. They
don’t need drenching and don’t get daggy. On lean feed they tend to hold their
condition better than commercial breeds.
Since the cessation of farming, the
Department of Conservation has taken steps to eradicate feral sheep (and other
feral animals) from Stewart Island to prevent them damaging native forest and
the habitat of native wildlife.
Photo Source: New Zealand Rare Breeds (www.rarebreeds.co.nz).