Monday, February 19, 2007

The Encyclopedia of Historic and Endangered Livestock and Poultry Breeds

I have been fascinated with historic breeds for a long time. I joined the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy in 1985, and there I met many dedicated people who have devoted their lives to rare breed conservation. I was fortunate to serve as a delegate to the Third Global Conference on Domestic Animal Diversity, where I met conservationists from around the world. As a result, Yale University Press published The Encyclopedia of Historic and Endangered Livestock and Poultry Breeds.

The hardy, multipurpose Dominique chickens that came to the New World with the Pilgrims and later traveled in pioneer saddlebags to help settle the West were once too numerous to count; by 1990 a mere 500 hens survived. This is but a single example of the diminishing diversity of farm animals: half of once-common livestock breeds are endangered, others are already extinct. The need to preserve farm animal diversity is increasingly urgent. Farmyard animals may hold critical keys for our survival and with each extinction, genetic traits of potentially vital importance to our agricultural future or to medical progress are forever lost

• complete information on the history, characteristics, qualities, and traits of 138 endangered livestock breeds (goats, sheep, swine, cattle, horses, other equines) and 53 poultry breeds (chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese)

• where these breeds may be seen today

• the degree of rarity of each breed in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada

• information on feral livestock populations

• 160 color photographs and over 80 black and white photos and historical illustrations