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    Rights: © Copyright 2016 University of Waikato. All Rights Reserved.
    Published 21 July 2010 Referencing Hub media

    Breeds of sheep evolved from the time when sheep were first domesticated. Dr David Scobie explains how some individual breeds of sheep were first created with distinctive characteristics to suit the environment.

    Terms to discuss: breed, trait

    Questions to consider:
    What is a breed of sheep?
    What influences selection of certain traits over others?

    Dr David ScobieAgResearch
    Bakewell was the first person that started making breeds and gradually took them from a sort of a wild group and then domesticated them and then pulled out traits that we’re really interested in and then fixed them into what we call breeds which can be very distinctive.

    The Romney sheep that are really common here in New Zealand, we have honed them down from Romney Marsh sheep that came from the UK, and they suit the environment. Some of the more recent breeds have come from other countries, like the Finnish Landrace, is not truly a breed, it is a loose connection of sheep that are roughly similar in most respects. We are using those animals to cross with Romneys and improve the reproduction of other breeds.

    Merinos have been bred by nature to survive in harsh conditions because that is where the people who farm them have chosen to keep them, so they do have to live through snow storms and live on fairly rough vegetation. If you go back through the history of either say the Merino breed or the Romney, you can see dramatic changes in the appearance of those animals and one would assume the production of those animals as well.

    Australian Finnsheep Breeders Association
    The New Dishley Society
    Public Domain
    Peter Nijenhuis
    The Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Australia
    Liam O’Malley