To coincide with the publication of the 2023 Watchlist, RBST launched a new fundraising campaign, focusing on the Watchlist designated Priority Breeds - the most endangered native livestock and equine breeds.

Native breeds are important, both for what they are and what they do, and RBST is working hard to promote their business and environmental benefits to farmers, land managers and smallholders. First and foremost, our native breeds provide a great source of sustainably produced food and fibre and, at a time when the consumer is placing more importance on the provenance of the items they put in their shopping baskets, they have an important role to play. Native breeds also provide significant environmental benefits; their grazing helped shape many of the landscapes and habitats we now cherish. To preserve – or restore – these, the animals that did so much to create them should be the starting point.

Sadly, however, we are never going to be able to save some of our rarest breeds through the efforts of farmers and landowners alone. The situation with some breeds is so critical that we need to take specific and immediate action if we are to secure their future. These are the Priority Breeds that RBST is targeting with specific breed support projects.

These are just some of RBST’s Priority Breed projects:

  • Gloucester Cattle– working with the Gloucester Cattle Society, RBST is devising breeding strategies to address the working genetic and geographic concentration of the breed.
  • British Lop – in 2019 RBST launched a major project to establish the genetic profile of the British Lop, making it easier to distinguish it from other pig breeds, a process that can be rolled out to benefit other breeds.

  • North Ronaldsay – RBST is carrying out a genetic analysis of the breed to assess the degree of inbreeding. In the light of what this reveals, RBST can work with breeders to develop the appropriate breeding programmes.

  • Eriskay ponies– RBST continues to work with the Eriskay Pony Society to increase the number of animals being bred. The goal is to considerably increase the numbers of this critically small population.

  • Old English Goat– alongside the Old English Goat Society, RBST is rolling out a conservation plan to increase the number of both breeders and animals. The aim is to double the numbers of both by 2024. 

  • Rare poultry – In partnership with a number of breed societies, RBST is implementing a new approach to conservation breeding, ensuring breed standards are maintained while increasing genetic diversity.

The Priority Breeds appeal will help to ensure that the funds are in place to finance projects like these to secure the future for our most threatened native breeds.