Between 1900 and 1973 we lost 26 native breeds of livestock in this country, in addition to many varieties of poultry. Breeds with evocative names such as the Goonhilly ponies, Somerset Sheeted cattle, Lincolnshire Curly Coated pigs, and Limestone sheep, have all gone. The Rare Breeds Survival Trust is working to make sure that no more rare breeds of farm animal in the UK become extinct.
Natural pastures need grazing to prevent the grasses swamping other plants and herbs and many rare breeds do this extremely well. Not only do they graze on the right sort of plants, but often they are lighter than mainstream breeds and do less damage to the ground in poor weather.
"Primitive" breeds are better able to digest poorer plants and thus can help to remove gorse, birch, hawthorn or willow scrub, coarse grasses and sedges etc. Grazing a conservation grassland with rare breed livestock brings dual benefits; increased environmental value of the grassland and a more secure future for the rare breed.
More information on breeds of sheep, cattle, pigs, goats and ponies can be found here.