The days when there were 20 sheep for every Kiwi are long gone.

The ratio that New Zealanders were once known for around the world has shrunk considerably in recent years, and a new release of statistics shows it continues to decline.

From 2007 to 2012, the number of sheep being farmed in New Zealand dropped by almost seven million to 31.2 million, Statistics New Zealand said. That's the equivalent of about seven sheep for every Kiwi.

Go back 30 years and there were 70.3 million sheep in New Zealand and only about 3.18 million people living here.


At the time there were about 22 sheep to every person but a gradual decline, driven by factors such as lower wool prices, droughts, and competition from other farming activities like dairy and forestry, have seen the number drop significantly.

"The myth [that there are 20 sheep for every Kiwi] is busted. The information is now out of date," Statistics New Zealand said. "However, it is still true that people in New Zealand are greatly outnumbered by sheep and our sheep-to-person ratio is high relative to other countries."

New Zealand's sheep-to-human ratio is still higher than Australia's (five sheep per person).

Humans are also outnumbered by cattle in New Zealand, with 6.2 million dairy and 3.9 million beef cattle calling Aotearoa home.