Origin & History

New Zealand agriculture has been closely associated with this sheep since its origins. In the beginning, export income was primarily derived from the sale of wool, but early in the century a thriving export meat trade developed with the United Kingdom (since highly diversified) with the advent of refrigerated meat shipping, and the production of meat became of importance. Quite a large area of New Zealand falls midway between the sparser grazing that suits the Merino and the richer pastures on which the Romney and other British longwool types do best. It was logical to consider crosses between these two types quite early in New Zealand pastoral history.

It was found that the first-cross Merino/longwool sheep yielded an acceptable and uniform type, but that a wide variation occurred when subsequent halfbred matings were undertaken. The need to fix the type was appreciated by James Little, who came to New Zealand in 1863 from Scotland, bringing some Romney sheep for two large properties, “Corriedale” and “Balruddery”, both in the low-rainfall area of North Otago in the South Island. While working on these two properties, Little, an experienced sheep man, crossed the Romneys on Merino ewes, and by heavy culling began to evolve a sheep of the special type required, and one which would breed true. He later dropped the Romney/Merino cross, but, having proved that a specially efficient breed for light-rainfall country could be evolved by the right methods, he began work in North Canterbury with Lincoln/Merino crosses.

Corriedale Ram © Graham Meadows Photography
Corriedale Ram © Graham Meadows Photography

In 1903 the New Zealand Sheepbreeders’ Association admitted the new breed to a flock-book appendix as “Inbred Halfbreds”, recognising the name of Corriedale in 1911. Corriedale breeders established their own association in 1910, and 1924 published their own flock book containing details of 87 flocks. By then the breed was established in South America, Australia and North America with considerable success, large exports of flock as well as stud sheep having gone to those countries. Top stud sires and ewes are still in regular demand by overseas breeders. While the expansion of the Corriedale breed in New Zealand is necessarily limited by the area of the country for which it is most suitable, its special characteristics make if perfect for many overseas conditions. The number of Corriedales in the world exceeds 100,000,000 comparable with Merino numbers.

Corriedale Ewes © Graham Meadows Photography
Corriedale Ewes © Graham Meadows Photography

Breed Description

A medium to large sheep, the Corriedale is especially suited to all types of grazing in lighter rainfall areas; it is widely used in New Zealand on every sort of country from intensively grazed lowlands and plains, to all but the very highest mountain grazings, and in similar environments world-wide.

The ewes are excellent mothers, and the Corriedale is a dual-purpose sheep, producing big fleeces and top-quality meat lambs, either from Corriedale or Down sires. The wool is bright, dense, bulky and soft-handling.

Corriedale © Chris Hoseason
Corriedale © Chris Hoseason

Breed Classification

A flexible, medium-sized breed suited to drier environments. It has a comparatively long productive life of up to seven years.

A dual-purpose breed, with equal emphasis on meat and wool. Rams are used for crossing with Romney or Perendale flocks to increase their body size, and to improve the fineness, weight, handling and colour of their wool.

Location: Corriedales are located in the drier parts of New Zealand. The breed is most common in the South Island, in Marlborough and the eastern areas of Canterbury & Otago, and in the drier parts of the North Island. Canterbury & Otago, and in the drier parts of the North Island.

Corriedale Ewe and lambs © Graham Meadows Photography
Corriedale Ewe and lambs © Graham Meadows Photography
Bodyweight Wool

Ewes: 65-80 kg (143-176 lb)

Rams: 85-105 kg (187-231 lb)

Fibre diameter: 28-33 microns (adults);
24-30 microns (hoggets)

Staple length: 75-125 mm (3-5 inches)

Fleece weight: Range 4.5-6.5 kg (10-14 lb)
Average 5.5 kg (12 lb)

Uses: Adaptable to many uses, including medium-weight outer garments, worsteds and light tweeds, and hand- knitting yarn


Good length of carcase and muscling provides lean lambs for slaughter at an early age, or at a later age for heavyweight lamb grades


90-130 percent

About 2.8 million