Many familiar breeds of farm livestock became rare or extinct as farming methods changed in the post-war years. In Britain, the formation of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) in the early 1970s was a turning point - since then, not a single traditional breed has been lost in this country, and its example has been a spur and a blueprint for many other countries in Europe and North America. The Trust is a practical organization which recognizes above all that the loss of the breeds would mean the loss of an invaluable and irreplaceable gene pool. No one can predict the needs of future generations and it is vital to conserve as wide a gene pool as possible. The old breeds of cattle, pigs and poultry have retained the hardiness and thriftiness that the agricultural wisdom of the 1960s and 1970s deemed unnecessary. This book tells of evocative animals such as White Park and Chillingham "wild" cattle which had been exhibited in Regents Park in the late-19th century, and were at Whipsnade from its opening in the late 1920s. It tells of the rescue of the old Norfolk Horn sheep, which had dwindled to one tiny flock of a dozen animals, and it tells of a lost opportunity to save from extinction some intriguing pig breeds such as the "woolly" Lincolnshire Curly Coat and the attractive Dorset Gold Tip. The book traces the growth of the Trust from a band of enthusiasts, inspired by Lord Zuckerman of the Zoological Society of London, into a mature organization which runs the largest annual sale of pedigree livestock in Britain. It also publishes a monthly journal, "The Ark",and it hosts international conferences on the conservation of animal genetic resources. Above all, it saves the breeds, giving technical and financial help to breeders, setting and maintaining standards, investigating and assessing each breed's characteristics and unique qualities, and then finding the means of exploiting those qualities so that more breeders and producers are encouraged to keep the breeds and increase their numbers. Valerie Porter is the author of "Practical Rare Breeds", "Cattle: A Handbook to the Breeds of the World" and "Pigs: A Handbook to the Breeds of the World".
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