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Black Rams of Poronui

A Special Encounter

The rain was pouring down as hunting guide Mark McGlashan and I returned to our vehicle after a fruitless scouting trip. Rounding a corner we surprised three black arapawa sheep rams that were sheltering under some trees. They ran a few metres then turned to stare back at us. All were striking animals but the leader on the left stood out as a great curl and a half trophy.

Three ram running in Poronui landscape


The arapawa wild sheep found within the Poronui hunting estate can trace their genetic heritage back to Arapawa Island, located in the Marlborough Sounds of the northern South Island. The wild flock that has lived there for decades has merino sheep traits as shown by their impressive horns. What makes the arapawa sheep truly distinctive is that they are a coloured breed. The main colours are grey white, dark brown, or black; often with white blazes on the forehead. Though hunters will be confronted by many individual animals that are a cocktail mix of all the colours on offer.

A group of ram running around Poronui

Arapawa sheep characteristics

This breed of sheep is gregarious, fast-moving in gait, and wary. It is a lean and wiry animal that has no wool on the face. They are spread right across the property but being a grazing herbivore they are mostly found in open areas such as grass clearing and cutover hill-faces. They are a nervous breed, which means they are always moving, and react quickly to sightings or smell of potential danger threats. Rams are often found traveling in small groups though at times single rams will join up with a mob of ewes. Spot and stalk hunting works very well.

Black Ram Appearance

The dark rams Mark and I busted out of cover were peas in a pod in looks with the trophy big ram being obviously older. Their dreadlock fleeces were dark chocolate, their clean faces were jet black, and their eyes were a hooded yellow. They were eye-catching. In my experience brown and grey white are the more common solid colours amongst the arapawa flocks so to find three dark, trophy rams travelling together was rare.

two black ram being photographed

A Top Trophy

These rams were living near to other sheep but had elected to remain apart perhaps due to the cunning nature of the old ram. With a loud snort, he indicated our meeting was over and retreated into thicker cover. The hunter who succeeds in outwitting this unique aged ram will have a great trophy.

A hunter in Poronui showing his trophy

Greg Morton
Previously New Zealand correspondent for USA based publications The Hunting Report; The Bird Hunting Report and The Angling Report, Presently writes a monthly article named Fair Chase for New Zealand Fishing News and a hunting blog for Poronui.
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