Shepherds Watch Over Merino Flock In New Zealand's Mackenzie Country

Sheep Thrills: A Merino's Tale

Spotlight on the "King" of all sheep.

Merinos, often referred to as the "King of Sheep," are prized for having some of the finest, softest wool of any sheep in the world. And New Zealand is prized for, among other things, being home to lots and lots of Merinos: As of 2015, there were an estimated six sheep per inhabitant. (Pictured: A flock at Blue Mountain Station in Fairlie, New Zealand, where shepherds look after 15,000 Merinos on over 30,000 acres of land.)

DOWN UNDER Fiona Goodall/Getty Images DOWN UNDER How did New Zealand become home to so many sheep? They were first introduced to the island in 1777 by legendary British explorer Captain James Cook. Later, a missionary brought flocks to surrounding islands in order to feed whalers. By 1856, the country had a thriving sheep market. (Pictured: Shepherds Mike Trotter and Bryn Drummond check their flock for foot rot, an infectious disease, on April 3, 2018.) WOOLY BULLY Fiona Goodall/Getty Images WOOLY BULLY Over the last couple of decades, an increase in dairy farming in New Zealand and a high demand for mutton from China have caused flock numbers to dwindle. Regardless of this drop in population, —in 1982, there were 22 sheep per person— the island remains the third largest global Merino supplier, with a market valued well over $100 million. (Pictured: A sheep awaits a hoof inspection at Blue Mountain Station.)
Shepherds Watch Over Merino Flock In New Zealand's Mackenzie Country
sheep jump through the gateway at blue mountain station on april 3 picture
Fiona Goodall/Getty Images SQUAD GOALS Fiona Goodall/Getty Images SQUAD GOALS BLACK SHEEP Fiona Goodall/Getty Images BLACK SHEEP