It's a secret farmer Brian Hales doesn't hide. He loves a taste of the exotic.

Now his Wimbledon flock of exotic, rare and historic sheep has grown to 300, with 18 breeds represented.

"Wherever possible, I try to replicate their natural environment," he said.

The latest addition to the Hales flock are Stewart Island sheep.


As the name suggests, these sheep came from Stewart Island and were thought to be extinct because of the Department of Conservation's eradication programme of feral animals from the island.

However six sheep were rescued by a hunter and sent to quarantine on the mainland.

"Classed as feral and historic, much of their background is unknown. However, it is thought that settlers from the Shetland Islands, off the coast of Scotland, brought them to Stewart Island in the 1870s," Brian said.

"The fibre of the sheep suggests they are pre-industrial revolution. It is inconsistent in form, super fine, crimped, four to six inches in length and is grey, blue or brown in colour, with the micron assessed at 24 to 25.

"Being feral for more than 100 years, it has retained its original characteristics without the influence of modern breeds, making it an ideal fibre for the cottage industry.

"I'm sure woolcrafters will drool."

The sheep are large, over 70kg, with a strong loin and rump. They have a fat tail which is cropped, and a white blaze. Rather than bleating, they bark, or make a grunting sound, or cough to warn of danger. They were easy to manage, Brian said.

"Thanks must be given to Ron and Kath Gallagher for their efforts in saving the Stewart Island sheep," Brian said.


"This year, a flock of about 26 Stewart Island sheep was given to the Rare Breeds Conservation Society to distribute throughout New Zealand.

"I have been fortunate enough to acquire seven of these sheep. Another six members of the society have also acquired Stewart Island sheep and are equally excited as I am to see their potential for the cottage industry.

"My Stewart Island sheep will be shorn at 11.30am on Sunday, October 7, by Richard Welch, at my annual exotic sheep shearing day.

"The fleeces will be thoroughly examined for their potential and will be made available at that point to enthusiastic crafters. They will love them."

Planning is well under way for Brian's annual exotic sheep day, with entry and his traditional country hospitality free.

Exotic and other and historic sheep breeds will be shorn, with expert advice and wool available for visitors.

"We will also be cooking in cafes using recipes suited to the exotic varieties," Brian said.