The Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST), the only UK charity dedicated to monitoring, preserving and promoting rare breed farm animals and horses, have released the 2018 Rare Breeds Danger List report, setting out the current state of the country's rarest breeds at risk of extinction.

Hitting the highest danger level of breeds most likely to die out are (number of breeding females 2018):

  1. Vaynol cows – 12
  2. Cleveland Bay Horse – 64
  3. Suffolk Horse – 80
  4. British Landrace pigs – 138
  5. British Lop pigs – 161

UK rare breed animal numbers are at crisis point, with animals that have been around since Viking times, in danger of being lost from the British landscape forever.

Danger zone

Of the types of animals most at risk in 2018, pigs (British Landrace and British Lop) and horses (Suffolk Horse and Cleveland Bay Horse) are all in the danger zone.

Tom Beeston, CEO of The Rare Breeds Survival Trust said; “These rare breed animals are going to end up as dead as a Dodo unless their numbers increase dramatically. With the publication of the Danger Watchlist, we are calling on Government bodies and consumers to support our work.

“We need more than £10m in the next decade to pay for our Gene Bank, where genetic material is stored so that we can recreate a breed, a bit like the film Jurassic Park. And although it might sound odd we want more people to eat rare breed meat to drive demand for the animals.

“These animals are beautiful to look at, uniquely British and deserve to be protected for future generations.”

Horses and Ponies

Suffolk horse by Claire WatsonOur rare breed heavy horses (Suffolk Horse, Clydesdale) who used to plough the fields of the UK, were ‘called up’ during the First and Second World Wars to pull gun carriages (‘War Horse’ film) are now in danger of dying out forever. During the wars, over a million of these horses were used by the army for active service. Farmers don’t use Clydesdale, Shire and Suffolk horses for ploughing anymore because 99.9% of farms use tractors.  These horses are noble, majestic animals with great personalities that can be shown, ridden and driven. Action is desperately needed to breed more of these heavy horses. 

Pigs

Gloucestershire Old Spot piglet by Claire WatsonThe UKs appetite for bacon continues to rise with 87 million breakfasts last year (Kantar Worldpanel data) including sizzling rashers. Roast pork for Sunday lunch and ham for sandwiches, mean pork is a popular consumer choice.

However, the demand for pork over the past few decades has led to intensive production of pigs for lean meat with little waste. Rare breed pigs like the Gloucestershire Old Spots and Tamworth do now feature on gastro-pub menus, and the Rare Breed Survival Trust believe it’s very important for consumers to ask for these rare breed animals when they go out to eat.

The British Lop and British Landrace pigs are in extreme danger. Pigs produce large litters of up to 12 piglets, but the problem is that celebrity chefs and restaurant owners haven’t heard of these rare breeds so there is no market for them. RBST is working to change this.

Cattle

Longhorn Cattle by Claire WatsonRare breed beef is becoming of greater interest to chefs and restaurants. Highland cattle used to be on the danger list in the 1970s, but and are now considered great meat and popular with consumers. Counter-intuitively; this is a good thing, because the more people that eat rare breed meat, the greater the demand and the more animals will be bred.

Of greatest concern are Vaynol due to the critically low numbers, with British White cattle also being hit hard with a significant decrease since last year.

The Future

Ominously, the report shows that some breeds will be lost forever unless funding is urgently found from the government and public funds.

We need to raise £10,000,000 to make sure all the UK's native breeds are safe from extinction, please make a donation below.  

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