The RBST Watchlist is produced annually; it is the single most important document we publish. It is significant as it highlights any changes in breed population trends and so plots the success of one of the Trust's key charitable objectives.

The watchlist is divided into 5 categories:

  • Critical
  • Endangered
  • Vulnerable
  • At Risk
  • Minority

The breeds are placed into appropriate categories based on species and the total number of registered breeding females in the United Kingdom. However there are other factors that affect a breed's position on the watchlist such as geographical concentration. There are more breeds native to the UK that are not classed as rare; these breeds are listed in Category 6 other native breeds. So far 16 breeds now in category 6 were previously in categories 1-5 and have successfully progressed into category 6. This clearly illustrates the successful work being carried out by dedicated breeders, breed societies and Rare Breed Survival Trust.

Any breed wishing to be accepted onto the Watchlist should submit a minimum of 25 years (preceding application) of continuous verifiable pedigree data in the form of annual registrations. If electronic records exist, these should be supplied in full. Any supplementary information will be discussed with the Breed Society before use. In addition, all breed analyses will be released only to the Breed Society in the first instance - all subsequent releases must come with Breed Society approval. A breed whose numbers of registered breeding females are estimated by the Trust to be below the Category 6, "Other Native Breeds", threshold will be accepted into the appropriate Watchlist category.

A numerical guide to the 2012 Watchlist categories

Category Cattle Goats Horses Pigs Sheep
1. Critical Less than 150 Less than 100 Less than 300 Less than 100 Less than 300
2. Endangered 150-250 100-200 300-500 100-200 300-500
3. Vulnerable 250-450 200-300 500-900 200-300 500-900
4. At Risk 450-750 300-500 900-1500 300-500 900-1500
5. Minority 750-1500 500-1000 1500-3000 500-1000 1500-3000
6. Other native breeds Greater than 1500 Greater than 1000 Greater than 3000 Greater than 1000 Greater than 3000


  • Placement of a breed within Watchlist categories may not be wholly defined by registered breeding female population size (the numeric thresholds serve as a guideline). Population genetic factors (such as inbreeding and genetic erosion) and current trends in breed density and distribution (geographical concentration in a small area) can mean a breed will be highly vulnerable to disease outbreaks, and so are also included in making assessments of endangerment.
  • If insufficient information exists to fulfil all current guidelines, the RBST may occasionally otherwise recognise breeds it considers to be of genetic conservation importance.
  • In addition to the registered flocks of Boreray and Soay sheep, feral populations exist in the western isles of Scotland.
  • The following breeds of Irish Origin can be found in the UK and historically have been a part of British agriculture: Kerry and Dexter cattle, Galway sheep and the Irish Draught horse and Connemara pony.