New Zealand to export embryos of Valais Blacknose, 'world's cutest sheep', to US

After proving a hit in New Zealand, the world's cutest sheep is off to the United States next.

The Valais Blacknose sheep - described as "more like dogs than sheep" - have gained fans at agriculture shows across the country in recent years.

They've also proven to be wildly popular online, with internet users loving their black faces, ears and feet, shaggy fringes and white fluffy fleece.

On Tuesday, the first purebred embryos of the sheep from New Zealand winged their way to the US, following the first export of semen from the sheep to Canada and the US last year.

"We believe the opening up of this new market provides exciting opportunities for the wider New Zealand sheep industry, especially given our current competitive advantage in managing the impacts of COVID-19 on our ability to produce and trade agricultural products," said Lindsay Strathdee, spokesperson for Valais Blacknose New Zealand.

Valais Blacknose NZ is a partnership between breeders Strathdee and his wife Sally, based near Motueka, and Christine Reed in south Wairarapa.

Exporting the embryos came after three years of negotiations between New Zealand's Ministry for Primary Industries and the United States Department of Agriculture, Strathdee said.

It also involved a "huge effort over a number of years" by veterinarians and breeders in North America.

New Zealand to export embryos of Valais Blacknose, 'world's cutest sheep', to US
Photo credit: Supplied

The purebred lambs born from New Zealand embryos will be sold in the US from March next year.

"We have a philosophy of importing embryos from only best prize-winning flocks in the United Kingdom, which maintain only the very best genetics for our North American clients," said Strathdee.

Valais Blacknose are native to Switzerland, though are bred around the world.