Ovis aries

Common Name(s)

Feral sheep




Feral sheep occur on rough pasture in broken scrub and forest from the coast to up to 2000 m. They are herbivorous, mainly feeding on grasses and herbs with only a small proportion of woody plant species.


Feral sheep are hard to be confused with any other mammal species due to their unique woolly coat (white, dark brown or black). There are over 200 breeds of this species differentiated in their physicals characters.

Threat To Plants

Browsing of palatable species and trampling damage may alter species regeneration and vegetation composition.


Currently 7 discrete populations on both main islands: Mohaka River valley, Omahaki in the Ngaruroro River Valley, Woodstock near Mount Oxford, Greenstone Ecological District, Waimanakarua River valley and Hokonui Hills and Dean Forest in Southland. A further 4 herds are located on offshore islands: Arapawa Island, Mason bay on Steward Island, the main Chatham Island and Pitt Island.

Year Introduced


Reason For Introduction

Source of meet, milk, wool and hides

Colonisation History

First introduced to New Zealand by Samuel Marsden in 1814. Herds used to be kept on extensive unfenced ranges often bordering undeveloped land and therefore feral population used to be widespread around the 19th century.