Sheep, sheep and more sheep!

14 July 20

By Frank Morris

Charles Bidwell is credited as being the first to establish sheep farming in New Zealand.

Born in England, Bidwell joined his brother on a trip to Sydney in 1841. Two years later he headed for New Zealand with 1600 sheep, some of which he sold to Nelson and Port Nicholson; he drove the rest of the flock, of around 350, into the southern Wairarapa valley.

At the last count there were about 27.4 million domesticated sheep of various breeds ensconced in New Zealand’s Rich Pasturelands, which represents roughly 5 sheep for every person.

The lush farmsand meadows are covered in grasses and clover that “have been cultivated to such a high level of nourishment that a single acre will support one dairy cow to ten sheep”, noted one report.

There is a mix of different breeds to be found. Some of the popular ones include the white-faced, hornless Corriedale, developed in New Zealand for its wool and meat. It has bright, soft fleeces and produces good quality lambs.

The hornless Lincoln, reportedly the worlds largest sheep, is also found in Australia and North and South America, it produces long, short wool that is mainly used in the manufacture of carpets.

There is also the small, hornless and short-fleeced Southdown, originally from England, they are raised for wool and meat with a white face and legs.

Charles’s brother, John, settled in New South Wales but made several visits to New Zealand. He also notched up some notable achievements while he was there: he was the first European to climb Mt Ngauruhoe; and he made the first collection of New Zealand alpine plants.

The sheep farming pioneer, Charles, died in New Zealand in 1884.


This column has been written by retired journalist, Frank Morris and appears in Issue 1 of Haere Mai, an online magazine helping to inspire and invigorate New Zealand travel dreams.

>> Read more of  Haere Mai here

>> Visit the Grand Years blog to read more of Frank's stories here

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