The Mighty Merino Sheep

On farms high in the Southern Alps, merino sheep grow the world's finest wool. Experiencing life on a working sheep farm is a New Zealand must-do.

New Zealand boasts the highest sheep density of any country on earth. The country’s twenty-seven million ovine inhabitants outnumber people roughly six to one.


While we tend to think of sheep as all looking the same, there is actually remarkable diversity between breeds. Size, wool colour, and appearance all vary greatly. Perhaps the most recognisable sheep breed is the merino. Once the sheep of Spanish nobility, merinos were gifted to the king of England in the 18th century. From there they were taken to South Africa, Australia & eventually New Zealand.


Merino rams (male sheep) are easily distinguished by their impressive curled horns. The ewes (females, pronounced “yous”) can be identified by their pink noses and wrinkly necks. Almost all New Zealand’s merinos live in the Southern Alps of the South Island where they thrive in rugged mountain terrain and grow the finest wool in the world.


New Zealand merino wool is sought-after worldwide. It is used to produce quality suits, high-performance outdoorwear and fashion clothing. Companies like SmartWool (USA), Armani (Italy), John Smedley (United Kingdom) and J. Press (Japan) all use New Zealand merino.


Sheep farming is central to New Zealand culture and a taste of farming life is a must for any New Zealand holiday. Wilderness Lodge Arthur’s Pass is a stylish nature lodge on a 4000 acre working merino sheep farm. They have been farming sheep here for over 150 years and specialize in sharing this unique experience with guests.


Wilderness Lodge guests can explore the property on their own or join real farmer guides to see border collie sheep-dogs in action, watch sheep being shorn with the old fashioned hand blades (like big scissors), and learn how the world’s finest wool is grown. Take a look here to learn more about life on the Wilderness Lodge farm.


You can't beat the setting of this Lodge overlooking the mountains and the valley. The sheep muster and shearing demonstration were a highlight of our trip to the South Island! - TripAdvisor

New Zealand is a land of sheep and no holiday visit would be complete without a visit to a working farm. You will look at that favourite woollen sweater in a whole new light!

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