Bos taurus

Common Name(s)

Feral cattle, wild cattle




Feral cattle occur in New Zealand on areas with thick forest understory or shrub cover due to hunting pressure. They are herbivorous, mainly feeding on a wide range of shrubs and young trees, including broadleaf, fivefinger, kotukutuku, mahoe, pate, tawa, wineberry; ferns, particularly Histiopteris incise; and sedges, grasses and herbs.


Hardly mistaken for other large mammal species, but cannot be distinguished from domestic stock. They size varies greatly with sex, age and bread. Both sexes can have horns, however the horns of cows are generally longer and thinner than those of bulls. The hair is either straight or curly, with a wide range of colours.

Threat To Plants

Browsing, crushing and trampling of the vegetation severely alters species regenerations and vegetation composition (only unpalatable and browse-resists species will persist).


Scattered around both main islands, including populations on the North Island in Northland (Reatea, Te Paki, Warawara and Waipoua forest), eastern Raukumara Range, Whenuakura/Moeawatea area. On the South Island feral cattle can be found in Westland (Whataroa Valley), Karangarua Valley, Southland (Catlins Mountains). Feral cattle have been eradicated from all mayor offshore islands.

Year Introduced

1814 (Bay of Island)

Reason For Introduction

Food and barter

Colonisation History

First introduced to New Zealand at the Bay of Island by Samuel Marsden in 1814, further introductions followed from then on and already in 1919 cattle had escaped and went wild. They were most widespread between the 1860s and 1880s but due to progressed settlement and more intensive farming methods and later direct wild animal control, they have declined ever since.