Udderly Amazing Heritage Breeds

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Udderly Amazing Heritage Breeds

Did you know that certain species of cattle are endangered? Many people don’t think of cattle as being endangered, but some even face critical endangerment just like the Sumatran tiger or Mexican spider monkey. Here at Nashville Zoo, the two devon steers at the Grassmere Historic Farm are considered critically endangered due to modern farming techniques and selective cattle breeding. This type of cattle is, therefore, categorized as a heritage breed.

What are heritage breeds?

Heritage breeds are traditional livestock animals that have been established for centuries and were common prior to industrial agriculture practices. 11 species of livestock are categorized as heritage breeds: donkeys, cattle, goats, horses, sheep, pigs, rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys. 

At Nashville Zoo, we have several heritage breeds: 

  • American milking devon - considered critically endangered
  • Belgian hare - considered “recovering”
  • Belted galloway - on the watch list
  • Cotswold sheep - threatened
  • Miniature donkeys - on the watch list
  • Nigerian dwarf goats - graduated from the conservation priority list in 2013

Why are heritage breeds important?

The conservation of heritage breeds is vital because it:

  • Ensures future diversity of agriculture
  • Protects our food systems by sustaining livestock and poultry with valuable genetics
  • Fosters better land and topsoil where the animals graze
  • Provides small farms with a competitive edge by raising animals who have robust health, foraging skills, and the ability to adapt to a changing climate
  • Highlights the history and culture of traditional agricultural practices 

3 Ways to Help Heritage Breeds

  1. Check out the Livestock Conservancy to learn more about heritage breeds, their origins, and how they continue to shape our world today. The Livestock Conservancy is actively working to protect over 150 endangered livestock, equine and poultry breeds from extinction by educating the public, connecting breeders and sharing information, research, and conservation efforts. 
  2. Visit the Historic Home and Farm on your next Nashville Zoo visit to learn more about our collection of heritage breeds. We love and appreciate our heritage breeds at Nashville Zoo!
  3. Share this Facebook video with your friends and family and encourage them to learn more about heritage breeds.


Posted by Nashville Zoo at 14:29

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