Rare Breeds Survival Trust says its new RBST Watchlist, published today in a fresh format, reflects growing recognition among farmers and smallholders of the commercial potential and environmental importance of the UK’s rare breeds of livestock and equines.


RBST works across the UK to save and safeguard the future of rare and native livestock and equine breeds, and its Watchlist is the annual situation report for these breeds. The outlook for many of the UK’s rare native breeds has remained broadly unchanged, thanks to continuing interest from new breeders, the commitment of dedicated Breed Societies, conservation programmes at the 25 RBST-accredited farm parks, and generous public support for RBST’s work.


The way the RBST Watchlist is produced has also been updated this year to give a more holistic view of each breed’s outlook, reflecting robust measures of the genetic diversity within each breed, not just the numbers of breeding females registered as previously used. The new Watchlist is also presented in a simpler style to clearly show Priority and At Risk breeds, and can be found at


However, the Watchlist also shows that there remain a significant number of Priority breeds where the outlook is of particular concern, with ongoing trends of very low populations as well as lack of genetic diversity. These breeds include:


  • Gloucester cattle – famous for the crucial role of Gloucester dairy cow Blossom in Edward Jenner’s 1796 experiment which paved the way for the first vaccine. Breeding numbers have been low but consistent for some years, but herd numbers have declined significantly from 54 herds in 2006 to 27 herds in 2020.
  • Tamworth pigs – the closest living relative of the Old English Forest Pig. In 2020 there were only 29 herds that registered offspring in the year, down from 66 in 2010. Female registrations in 2020 were 125, down from 268 in 2010.
  • Cleveland Bay Horse – England’s oldest breed of horse and Yorkshire’s famous coach horse, breeders include Her Majesty the Queen at the Royal Paddocks, Hampton Court. 13 breeders registered progeny in 2020, falling from 22 in 2018.
  • Eriskay ponies – the small but strong working ponies of crofters on the Western Isle of Eriskay. In 2020 7 females were registered, a very low number but an important increase from 2 in 2018. 6 herds registered progeny in 2020, up from 2 in 2018.
  • Old English Goat - often called the “original smallholder’s goat” because of its popularity with smallholders in the 19th Century. With an estimated population of just 74 living adult females in 2019/2020, the breed is now the rarest UK native breed of goat.


RBST Chief Executive Christopher Price says: “Farming with rare and native breeds has become increasingly attractive over the past few years, as consumers place a premium on great tasting, locally sourced meat that is kind to the natural environmental and based around high standards of animal welfare. At the same time, we have seen Government policy starting to reflect the value of our native breeds to maintaining our natural environment and promoting biodiversity.


“The new Watchlist more clearly shows a number of breeds which are At Risk but with an improving outlook for their survival well into the future, including Traditional Hereford cattle and British White cattle, Oxford Sandy and Black pigs, New Forest ponies, Bagot goats and Golden Guernsey goats, Leicester Longwool sheep, Boreray sheep and Greyface Dartmoor sheep. However, there are breeds in all our livestock and equine categories which remain a Priority and we are working closely with Breed Societies and RBST-accredited farm parks to improve their position with vital conservation programmes.


“Last year’s births were largely the result of pre-pandemic breeding programmes so we will be keeping a very close eye over the coming months on the impacts of last year’s restrictions, particularly on the equine breeds.”


Visit to find out more about keeping rare breeds and to donate to the charity’s conservation programmes.




For more information, interviews or images, contact Isobel Davidson, [email protected] or 07725 470917




  1. Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) is the sole charity dedicated to promoting and preserving the UKs rare and native breeds of farm livestock. Started in 1973, RBST monitors numbers of animals, and threats of inbreeding and geographical concentration. It promotes the breeding and registration of rare and native breeds. Through its 4,500 members, staff and support groups it provides a network of knowledge to support and encourage breeders to reduce these threats. See the website
  2. Native breeds provide a major contribution to our rural economy, both economic and culturally. There are around 30,000 herds and flocks of native breeds in the UK. They contribute over £700 million to UK local economies.
  3. The methodology for generating the RBST Watchlist has been updated to better reflect the importance of genetic diversity with measures of inbreeding, as well as number of breeding females.
  4. RBST categorises livestock breeds as Priority, At Risk or UK breeds, highlighting breeds of most concern as being rare with increasing inbreeding, to breeds of least concern is not rare and has inbreeding well managed.
  5. With thanks to breed society secretaries, Grassroots Systems Ltd and the Farm Animal Genetic Resources Committee (FAnGR), with whom RBST collaborates to collect data for the Watchlist.