The Irish Native Rare Breed Society (INRBS) is a society dedicated to the promotion of indigenous breeds of domesticated livestock. The society aims to facilitate cooperation between individual breed societies and others who are interested in the breeds for their own sake and those who see a use for the breeds in farming and areas such as land management.
The society was originally The Irish Rare Breeds Society (IRBS) and has been in existence since the 1990’s and following a reorganisation of its structures was renamed in 2019 and incorporated as a company limited by guarantee with representatives of each of the indigenous breed societies entitled to sit at board level.
The aim of the society is to promote indigenous breeds and to foster links with individuals and agencies who see a value in the breeds themselves and the role that the breeds can play in areas such as high nature value farming and conservation grazing. Some indigenous breeds are extinct such as native breeds of pigs and upland sheep, and certain cattle breeds.
However, there are uses for outdoor pigs and upland and indeed woodland and coastal sheep in land management so the society will work with representatives of relevant non-irish breed societies in ensuring that anyone wishing to explore the best breeds and species of domesticated livestock to use in various applications can be advised accurately on breed selection.
The role of rare native breeds in nature conservation
In today’s world of information and communication, a growing awareness of interconnectedness between what might previously have been considered separate entities has begun to emerge. Perhaps this understanding of connectivity and networks was innate within previous generations or civilisations.
Agriculture is more than just about food production. The Irish word for agriculture, ‘talmhaíocht’, captures its essence eloquently; working with the ground as opposed to simply taking from it. Agriculture is embedded in and wholly reliant on the natural environment. It can and has shaped our landscape and our natural environment. Much of Ireland’s habitats and species are directly dependent on agriculture. And as much a part of this nexus involving farming and ecology are the domesticated animals, bred over centuries to support and deliver, to carry and to pull, to provide and to be provided for. Over 12 million cattle and sheep accompany us in Ireland today, a familiar ever-presence. This familiarity is borne from generational linkages to farming as much as seeing them dotted across the grasslands or mountainsides.
There is a proud heritage of animal breeding in Ireland, from the diminutive Dexter to the mighty Irish Draught. These (Irish) animals are as much a part of Ireland’s heritage as our music or literature. They are part of us as Irish people and part of us will always be part of them. Those that carry the torch to maintain these breeds and genetic heritage in today’s world are cut from the same cloth as those who carry the torch to safeguard our natural heritage including grasslands, curlews and freshwater fish. They value something that is essentially a link between our past and our future, whatever that may look like.
Ireland’s native breeds are part of the equation of managing and safeguarding our natural environment, important habitats and treasured species. Man, beast and land operating in a harmonious balance, with respect for all is a sustainable future that many of us would like to see. Our native breeds can and should be very much part of this story.
This website, supported with funding from the National Parks & Wildlife Service of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, is built on the foundation of information sharing, networking and awareness raising. The advantage of a website means that not alone is the information easily accessible, but that it can be added to as time goes by.
The team involved in producing and curating the website are to be commended for their hard-work, dedication and expertise. It is hoped that the website will foster a greater appreciation of our native breeds and the role they can play in managing our environment. Linkages are made between habitats and breeds and hopefully this will foster linkages between conservation practitioners and breeders. All part of a modern network with the shared goals of learning from and using our past to deliver a more sustainable future.
Membership and Affiliation
Breeds that do not currently have official recognition but for which there is evidence to suggest that following on from DNA testing there may be the basis of attaining breed status are eligible for affiliation also and can nominate representatives to sit on relevant committees with the aim of attaining official breed recognition.
Individuals with an interest in indigenous and rare breeds generally can join also.
The annual fees for official breed societies to affiliate is €100, €40 for emerging breed societies and individual membership is €20.
Head over to the Farming for Nature Forum which you can use to ask questions about farming for nature matters.