What Is the Ratio of People to Sheep in New Zealand?

The ratio of sheep to people in New Zealand is about seven sheep for every one person. The country's human population is about 4.5 million, and there are estimated to be more than 30 million sheep in New Zealand. The country has one of the highest ratios of sheep to people in the world. By comparison, Australia — another country with a high sheep population — has a ratio of less than five sheep per person. The ratio in New Zealand has declined from a high of 22:1 in 1982, because of factors such as drought conditions and a decrease in wool prices that has reduced the incentive to raise sheep.

More about New Zealand:

  • The first sheep in New Zealand were brought to the country by British explorer Captain James Cook in 1773.
  • New Zealand’s sheep population first began to grow quickly during the 1860s because of cheap prices for buying sheep from Australia as a result of droughts. In 1862, for example, the city of Canterbury, New Zealand, received more than 13,000 sheep from Australia.
  • The cattle population in New Zealand increased by about 110% from 1980-2010, while the sheep population dropped by 55%.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the current ratio of people to sheep in New Zealand?

As of the latest data, the ratio of sheep to people in New Zealand is approximately 6 to 1. This means there are six sheep for every person in the country. While this ratio has decreased from historical highs where there were over 20 sheep per person, New Zealand still has a significant sheep population, with millions of sheep grazing its pastures.

How has the sheep population in New Zealand changed over time?

The sheep population in New Zealand has seen a decline from its peak in the 1980s when there were over 70 million sheep. According to Statistics New Zealand, the sheep numbers have decreased to around 26 million in recent years. This decline is attributed to factors such as changes in land use, with more land being used for dairy farming, and economic shifts that have made sheep farming less profitable.

What impact does sheep farming have on New Zealand's economy?

Sheep farming is a significant part of New Zealand's agricultural sector and contributes to the country's economy through wool production, meat exports, and associated industries. According to the Ministry for Primary Industries in New Zealand, the export revenue from sheep meat and wool is substantial, with sheep meat exports alone worth billions of New Zealand dollars annually.

What are the main breeds of sheep found in New Zealand?

New Zealand is home to several sheep breeds, with the most prevalent being the Romney, known for its wool and meat. Other common breeds include the Merino, prized for its fine wool, and the Coopworth, which is a crossbreed known for its high fertility and good meat production. These breeds are well-suited to New Zealand's varied climates and topography.

How does New Zealand's sheep population compare to other countries?

While New Zealand has one of the highest ratios of sheep to people in the world, it does not have the largest sheep population globally. Countries like China and Australia have larger total numbers of sheep. However, New Zealand's sheep farming practices, quality of produce, and the ratio of sheep to humans remain distinctive aspects of its agricultural identity.

Discussion Comments


Why is the sheep population so large?

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