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New Zealand Arapawa Goat Association

New Zealand Arapawa Goat Association

(Incorporating the International Arapawa Goat Association)

Arapawa goats with kids
Arapawa does with kids in Canterbury New Zealand



Without doubt the most interesting feral goats remaining in New Zealand are those of Arapawa Island in the Marlborough Sounds. They are a relatively small breed (smaller than modern milking goats) and come in a variety of colours – patterns of white, fawn, brown and black being common – and they usually have distinctively patterned faces. The males have widely sweeping horns, the females shorter backward-pointing horns.

Arapawa buck
Arapawa buck at
Willowbank Wildlife Reserve

It is widely believed that these goats are a surviving remnant of the Old English breed, possibly descendants of a pair released by James Cook in the late 1700s (see Timeline.) The colour and markings of the animals appear to be very similar.

Cook left goats on Arapawa Island in 1773 and at nearby Ship Cove in 1777. The particular breed of these goats was not recorded but they could well have been Old English.

The earliest known record of goats being seen on Arapawa Island since Cook’s time was in 1839, when they were reported as being present in numbers at the Te Awaiti shore whaling station.

DNA analyses undertaken in Spain in 2007 indicated that the Arapawa goats were a genetically important breed in their own right and only distantly related to a number of other breeds investigated at the time. Unfortunately, no DNA material of the original Old English goat was available for comparison. See Arapawa DNA for details.

The goats of Arapawa Island have never numbered more than a few hundred, and were always subject to intermittent hunting. In the 1970s they came under the threat of eradication when it was thought that they were seriously damaging the island’s native forest. As no acceptable proof could be produced of their antiquity or rarity – or of any immediate commercial potential – a programme of severe culling was instigated.

Fortunately, the dedicated efforts of Arapawa Island resident Betty Rowe, ably assisted by numerous volunteer helpers, to some extent thwarted the efforts of the cull team, with the result that a small but viable population of Arapawa goats was saved. But with the Department of Conservation’s priority being the protection of the native fauna and flora on its Arapawa Island’s reserves, the existing goats are still being subjected to culls.

To ensure their survival, a number of these goats have been removed from the Island and are being bred by a few enthusiasts in various places throughout mainland New Zealand. In 1993 a breeding group was exported to the USA and another group was sent to Great Britain in 2004. More recently to help expand the genetic pool, Alison Sutherland who founded the New Zealand Arapawa Goat Association, obtained the co-operation of Department of Conservation to recover nine more – three bucks and six does – from various locations on the Island in 2013.

The total number of Arapawa Island goats in domestication worldwide is still only about five hundred.

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The first organization to be specifically formed to further the interests of Arapawa goats was Arapawa Goat Breeders – USA.   This was followed in 2008 by the International Arapawa Goat Association with breeders in North America, Great Britain and New Zealand, and in 2011 by the New Zealand Arapawa Goat Association, each having its own website. In 2013 the International Association merged with the New Zealand one, and now operate this website.


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New Zealand Arapawa Goat Association

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