The Livestock Conservancy invites you to celebrate International Heritage Breeds Week Sunday, May 21 through Saturday, May 27. During the ninth annual celebration, the Conservancy is sharing the critically important message that rare breeds of livestock and poultry are an important part of the climate solutions needed for a changing planet.

Biodiversity matters.  Today, ¾ of the world’s food supply draws on just 12 crops and five livestock species according to the United Nations.  Yet, global demand for livestock products is expected to increase 70 percent by 2050.

“Many of our breeds contain traits carefully developed over hundreds of years,” describes Dr. Judy Brummer, Interim Executive Director for The Livestock Conservancy.  “Today, heritage breeds serve as primary reservoirs of the genetic diversity found within most domesticated species of animals.  Up to 50 percent of a breed’s biodiversity is found nowhere else within the species.”

Breeds of livestock and poultry depend on individual breeders for their survival, as they exist only in domesticated species.  That’s why the Conservancy’s 4,000+ farmers, ranchers, and shepherds throughout America serve as a volunteer army in the fight to save irreplaceable genetics.  Embedded within the DNA of 192 breeds on their Conservation Priority List are sustainable solutions to face tomorrow’s changing environment.  And they’re exquisitely suited to meet today’s small-scale farming and homesteading goals.

Today, Santa Cruz Island sheep are being used for fire mitigation in the drought-stricken west.  Brahma chickens thrive in cold climates as good winter egg layers.  And long-lived Florida Cracker cattle produce excellent beef in hot and humid regions with poor pasture quality.

Florida Cracker Cow

“Failures in breed conservation are easy to recognize because numbers tell nearly the whole story,” continues Brummer.  “They either fall drastically or the breed becomes extinct, such as the Narragansett Pacer horse in the mid-1800s.  The Pacer’s popularity for crossbreeding led to insufficient pure-blooded breeding stock and eventual breed collapse.  The Livestock Conservancy has worked for more than four decades to ensure that never happens again.”

By raising awareness about these endangered breeds through International Heritage Breeds Week, The Livestock Conservancy promotes their usefulness in providing fiber, meat, milk, work, sport, or conservation grazing. A major factor in successful breed prosperity is the steady demand for the breed’s products and services.

“Each breed best fits a specific environment,” concludes Brummer.  “Yet, when a breed goes extinct, those genetics are lost and can never be recovered.  Many heritage breeds retain traits like natural immunity, drought tolerance, easy birthing, flavor, mothering instincts, and foraging abilities that are important both today and tomorrow.”

To learn more about International Heritage Breeds Week, where to locate heritage breed products in your local area, and how you can get involved in the rare breed conservation of cattle, chickens, donkeys, ducks, geese, goats, horses, pigs, rabbits, sheep, and turkeys, please visit our Promote Conservation page.

Find Out About Heritage Breed Week Events Near You

May 15-21, 2023. Join the Moab Museum in Utah on Thursday, May 18, 2023 at 11am and 2pm on the Museum Lawn as we will be joined by  Canyonlands Back Country Horseman of Utah members: Stephen Schultz, Naomi Wilson, and Melissa Wardle from as they will be bringing their Heritage Breed Sulphur Herd – Colonial Spanish Horses and presenting Utah’s Sulphur Herd – Mustangs with Colonial Spanish Horse Heritage. This will be an opportunity for guests to see and learn about this historic Heritage Breed found here in Utah that for centuries survived with little to no outside influence high in the remote juniper covered valleys of Utah’s Mountain Home Range. Sulphur Herd horses are believed to be one of the purest herds of Spanish horses left in America. Learn more here.

May 18-21, 2023. Come celebrate International Heritage Breed Week 2023 at the Little Rock Zoo in Arkansas!

Visit the Homeplace 1850s Farm in Golden Pond, KY May 20-21 as they celebrate International Heritage Breed Week. They will talk about chickens to mules and their value to the farm and what each animals’ role is. Many breeds of farm animals are endangered and throughout the weekend, they will show you some of the heritage breeds they use at the Homeplace. Admission fees apply. See more here.

Farm Day at the Nashville Zoo on May 20, 2023 kicks off International Heritage Breeds Week (May 21-27), which aims to raise awareness for nearly 200 endangered livestock and poultry heritage breeds. Heritage breeds are traditional livestock animals that were common prior to industrial agriculture practices. Nashville Zoo’s Historic Farm is home to several heritage breeds, including American milking devons, Cotswold sheep and more. See more info here.

Participate in exciting activities, watch fascinating demonstrations, learn about Conner Prairie’s efforts to preserve heritage breeds, and discover what makes these rare animals so special. Meet and Greet with animals all across the grounds. Learn about how livestock has changed throughout the years and how the livestock of the past are important for us today! Learn more here.

Heritage Breeds Activities — Featherston Barn

  • At the central hub of Heritage Breeds Week, explore different activities available at your leisure such as an animal product matching game, coloring sheets, build a breed, forage identification, and so much more!

Digital Scavenger Hunt — locations throughout the grounds

Join Apple Hill Farm in Banner Elk, NC as they celebrate International Heritage Breeds week May 21 to 27! They are offering public tours all day Wednesday through Saturday during Heritage Breeds Week. After Memorial Day, they’ll be open 7 days a week! Join Apple Hill Farm for a guided walking tour (reservations required) and learn all about all the animals they raise and care for. They are home to a small herd Randall Lineback Cows. See more here.

The Accokeek Foundation is offering farm tours to see their heritage breeds, including Hog Island sheep, in honor of Heritage Breeds Week May 15 through May 27. They have a variety of tours for groups including for youth and students, for visitors, and for large groups. See more about their farm tours here.


For more information, please email or call The Livestock Conservancy at (919) 542-5704.  Staff specialists are available for interviews and additional high-resolution photos can be provided upon request from the world’s largest collection of heritage breed photos.