Learn about the Rare Breeds

As a Rare Breeds Centre our aim is to help conserve and promote the UK's Rare Breed Livestock through education and breeding programmes.  


 Bagot Goats 


Bagot goats were probably brought back to England by returning Crusaders, and likely trace their ancestry to goats of the Rhone valley. The goats were said to have been given to John Bagot of Blithfield by King Richard II of England to commemorate the good hunting the King had enjoyed at Blithfield, where even today it lives a semi-wild existence.   Bagot goats are mainly used for conservation grazing.  They are good at clearing scrub and will usually choose to browse hedges over grazing grass.


  • Bagot goats are small to medium in size.
  • Both sexes have large curving horns.
  • They have long hair, with a distinctive colour pattern being black forequarters and white on the rear part of the body. Some have a white blaze.

You can read more about the Bagot Goat here

Golden Guernsey Goats 


Golden Guernsey

Originally from Guernsey the first reference to Golden Guernsey goats is in an island Guide Book of 1826. The breed was nearly wiped out in the Second World War when most livestock on Guernsey was slaughtered during the German occupation.


  • The breed is generally smaller than other milking breeds and fine-boned.
  • The head should have no tassels
  • The ears are erect with a slight upturn.
  • Facial line is dished or straight.
  • Skin a shade of gold, neither pink nor grey.
  • The coat can be long or short and is observed in all shades of gold with or without small white markings and blaze or star on head, but no Swiss markings (light coloured legs, ears, tail and facial stripes). 

You can read more about the Golden Guernsy Goat here

Old English Goat -  part of our conservation grazing herd at RSPB Blean Woods in Kent

 Old English Goat

The Old English goat was the native breed of the UK before the major imports of foreign goats to the UK after 1880. Previous to these imports, regional differences would have been present, but the vast majority of goats were of the Old English breed.  They are  naturally adapted to the British Climate and their constitution and hardiness are two of their greatest characteristics. 


  •  The Old English goat is cobby in nature, and shorter than more modern breeds, standing at around 26" at the withers
  • The outer coat may be any length from short to shaggy, but it is never smooth or sleek. There may be a fringe of long hair along the back and/or down the hindquarters.
  • The copious fine cashmere undercoat is particularly noticeable in winter, but it should be detectable even in summer.
  • Colour is variable, usually shades of grey or brown and often with black markings
  • They are known for producing moderate amounts of milk - perfectly suited to self-sufficiency!

 You can read more about the Old English Goat here

Leicester Longwool 

Leicester Longwool

Leicester Longwools are one of the rarest native breeds in the UK with  fewer than 500 registered ewes.  The breed is relatively hardy and able to cope with cold conditions. However in common with most longwools the breed is not best suited to prolonged wet periods.   The wool is popular with hand spinners and well suited to direct marketing of woollen products.   


  • A very tall, long legged breed with a characteristic long wool fleece. 
  • Ewes weigh around 80-100kg and rams, 100-150kg. 
  • Animals have woolless white faces and legs and both sexes are polled.
  • There is also a black strain of the breed

You can read more about the Leicester Longwool here 

Greyface Dartmoor 

Greyface Dartmoor

It is thought that sheep have been a part of the Dartmoor landscape since prehistoric times, in fact, some say that the native Dartmoor breeds were descended from the Iron Age Soay sheep. This breed was known for its ability to survive and reproduce in adverse weather conditions, and was the best suited breed to utilise hill and mountain grazing.


  • A sturdy longwool breed with a long, lustrous fleece.
  • Ewes weigh around 60-70kg and rams, 75-100kg. 
  • The white face should be the only part of the sheep that is free of wool.
  • There should be distinctive black or grey speckling around the nose.

 You can read more about the Greyface Dartmoor here

Norfolk Horn

The Norfolk Horn was originally developed to graze the heathland of Norfolk and is similar to many of the British hill breeds. The breed started to decline in popularity during the 18th and 19th centuries when it was replaced by more productive breeds such as the Southdown.  By the 20th century the breed was on the verge of extinction with only one flock in existence after the First World War.  Although still a rare breed the Norfolk Horn is a long way from extinction with several large flocks throughout the country and a growing number of breed enthusiasts. 


  • The Norfolk Horn is a long legged, rangy breed with a thick white fleece.
  • Ewes weigh around 70kg and rams, 90-95kg. 
  • The head and legs are black and both sexes are horned with the rams having heavy spiralled horns.

 You can read more about the Norfolk Horn here

Middle White Pigs

Middle whites originated in the 1850's when Large and Small whites were crossed. In the first half of the 20th century the breed became known as "The London Porker" as there was a high demand for the meat in the capital.   The Rare Breeds Centre is part of the society breeding project.
  • The Middle White is a medium sized breed. Sows weigh around 200kg and boars around 280kg.
  • Middle Whites are white pigs with characteristic snub noses and large prick ears. 
  • The breed has a stocky build and is more compact than many pig breeds.

You can read more about the Middle White here

Exmoor pony

The Exmoor pony is a horse breed native to the British Isles, where some still roam in a semi-wild existence on Exmoor, a large area of moorland in Devon and Somerset in southwest England. They are hardy and used for many activities, contributing to the conservation and management of several natural pasture habitats.  The breed nearly became extinct following World War II. 

Our Exmoor pony called Cookie shares his field with Dylan the Donkey.


  • Stallions stand up to 12.3 hh, and mares up to 12.2 hh, with short clean legs. 
  • Exmoor Ponies are bay, brown and dun in colour and carry characteristic mealy markings on the muzzle and around the eye and flanks. 
  • Their thick winter coat, mane and tail helps to keep them warm and dry.

 You can read more about the Exmoor Pony here


Derbyshire redcap chickens

Redcaps are a native English bird that have been written about since at least the early 19th century. Derbyshire Redcaps were common on British farms until the middle of the 20th century, particularly around the southern Pennines. The name "redcap" comes from its unusually large comb.   The Rare Breeds Centre is part of the society breeding project.


  • Their main identifying feature is the rose comb.
  • The bird has a plumage ground colour which varies from orange to deep nut brown with body feathers ending in a half-moon spangle. 
  • The birds have black tails, horn-coloured beaks, red faces, lobes and wattles with slate coloured legs and feet. 
Buff Orpingtons chickens
Orpingtons are named after a town in Kent where they originate from. The Buff colouration that our group have was developed in 1894.  Orpingtons have a very placid, friendly and docile nature, one that is tolerant of being handled.

  • Buff Orpingtons are heavy, large broad body.
  • Plumage is fluffed out feathers and a curvy, short back.
  • Orpingtons come in two sizes of large fowl and bantam.

Light Sussex chickens
The Sussex chicken is a large gentle and docile breed. During the first half of the 20th Century the Light Sussex was one of the most commercially important breeds. Since then more modern hybrids have taken over. 
  • The Sussex is a heavy soft feather breed.
  • It has a broad flat back and has a stocky appearance. 
  • Its tail should be at a 45 degree angle, it has red earlobes and dark orange or red eyes, but white skin and legs.
  • The bantam is more numerous than the large fowl.
  • Eight standard colour varieties exist- Light (the most popular), Speckled, Brown, Silver, White, Buff, Red and Coronation. Some varieties such as the Brown, Buff, Red and particularly the Silver, have become very rare.
Marsh Daisy chickens

Marsh Daisy's are hardy and love to forage for food.  The Rare Breeds Centre is part of the society breeding project.
  • The Marsh Daisy is an active, upright and attractive bird.
  • The male head is dominated by an impressive rose comb and striking white ear lobes.
  • Both sexes have beautiful rose combs. Unlike 'single combs' (the most common variety for example in Legbars) rose combs usually lie flat on the head are covered in round knobbles. Often the comb extends back behind the head.
  • The main colours are Brown, Buff and Wheaten, much rarer are the Blacks and Whites, although enthusiasts are still working to completely stabilise the 3 main colours.


The Seabrights wonderful gold or silver laced markings make the breed a popular ornamental show bantam. They are happy inquisitive birds and they do well in mixed flocks. They like to forage but will also tolerate confinement. The bird can fly so they need to be contained.


  • The breed is a true bantam, there is no counterpart in large breeds.
  • The breed has an upright and alert carriage with rounded breast carried forward and downward- pointing wings.
  • Sebrights have a rose comb and the legs are blue.
  • The UK Sebright Club only recognises the Gold and Silver varieties, but other combinations of lacing are allowed in some European countries.


Pied / Crollwitzer Turkeys

Pied turkey breed is thought to date back to the 1700's. They are a very ornamental bird that are popular in the poultry showing circle. 
  • It is very alert, upright and exceptionally ornamental
  • The plumage of both sexes is similar with black, white and black and white feathers giving the distinct pied colouring.  
  • The eyes are light brown, the beak light horn and the legs and feet pink which darkens with age.
  • Mature males can weigh up to 10kgs (22lbs) and mature females 5.4kgs (12lbs).
  • Day-old poults are a yellowish white throughout the body. Through the down pure white feathers grow and the familiar black markings begin to appear at around 6-8 weeks.
Sebastapol Geese

They can be raised for meat but most are kept for ornamental purposes, which is why the breed is in decline.  Those with curled feathers are unable to fly.
  • There are two main feather-types: the smooth-breasted and the curled-feather. 
  • The first is basically a normal, smooth-feathered bird apart from exceptionally long, trailing scapular and thigh feathers that form a dense canopy of silky ribbons that often reach the floor.
  • The second type has a much curlier appearance. The breast tends to be covered in a mass of tightly curled feathers; the wing and thigh coverts are reduced to long wisps and ribbons; 
  • The size of modern birds range from  12 - 16 lbs for males to 10 - 14 lbs for females.

 Pekin Duck 

First domesticated some 2000 years ago, the Pekin duck was standardised in the UK in 1901, but it has a long history before this point. 
These were donated to the Rare Breeds Centre by a local schools hatchling project. 


  • The present-day European Pekins are upright with particularly dense plumage.
  • The general shape of the Pekin is that it resembles a small, wide boat, standing almost on its stern, and the bow leaning slightly forwards.