Heritage breeds are the pure breeds of animals – those that have not been subject at some point to genetic modification. Some of the best examples exist among traditional livestock. During the Industrial Revolution, experimentation with genetics for certain farm animals became a mainstream practice that led to the danger of extinction of original breeds as a desire for uniformity among productive breeds made indigenous animals unnecessary.
Many of the world’s heritage breeds are nearly extinct. In fact, the Memphis Zoo devotes efforts toward preserving a variety of heritage breeds in order to save this key part of farming history. Several heritage breeds can be found in our Once Upon A Farm exhibit. Brush up on your knowledge of these special animals below!
The Caspian horse is a small horse native to northern Iran. Although it’s small enough to be considered a pony, its conformation, gaits and character more closely resemble a horse. This rare breed was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in the mountains of northern Iran in the 1960s. The first Caspian horse to leave Iran was imported into the United States in 1966.
We house two duck breeds at the Memphis Zoo. The American Pekin duck, also known as the Long Island duck, is the most common variety. Due to their good temperament, Pekin ducks make excellent pets! The call duck is a small breed of domesticated duck. Why is its name “call duck,” you ask? It’s because their energetic, high-pitched call is one-of-a-kind!
American Guinea Hog
The American Guinea hog is a rare breed of black pig that is unique to the U.S. They are smaller than most other breeds, with adults ranging in weight from 150 to 250 pounds. They are clever creatures, and if they do not receive proper training, they will outwit their owners!
There is no other bird in the world as numerous as the domestic chicken, but with the industrialization of these animals, many breeds were sidelined in preference for a few rapidly growing hybrids. Every domestic chicken at the Memphis Zoo is a heritage breed. Domestic chickens live in communities with a strict social hierarchy, led by a dominant rooster.
You can see all of these animals at the Memphis Zoo during your next visit. Just stop by the Once Upon A Farm exhibit and tell the keepers about your new knowledge of heritage breeds!