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A landrace is a race of plants or animals that are ideally suited for the environment in which they are grown, or sometimes work. They are ecologically distinct populations with obvious genetic diversity. Landrace animals or plants usually grow well and need little, if any, assistance from people. Landraces are usually older stocks that have not been exposed to modern breeding methods. They are an important part of traditional agrodiversity, sometimes called “folk varieties” or “heirloom” seeds. Local farmers have produced landraces for centuries.
Landrace breeds of sheep have flourished in a number of localities for generations. The Pomeranian coarsewool is also known as the Rauhwolliges Pommersches Landschaf, or as the Pommernschaf. Fishermen favor its wool in winter. It has been bred in small flocks along the Baltic Sea in Pomerania and Mecklenburg since the 19th century, and its preservation is due to the poverty of the small farmers who were unable to switch to the more lucrative fine wool breeds of sheep.
Dogs that are landrace breeds occur in many different localities. Some were developed for hunting, others for herding, guarding, or just to show. The salukis of the Middle East are a landrace breed developed purely for desert hunting in wide open spaces. In contrast, Scottish border collies often show a number of variations, but are still recognizable, especially when they work a flock of sheep.
Beginning in 1895 Danish landrace hogs were developed from the native Danish hog and the large white hog imported from England. The crossing of the two kinds of hogs has enabled Denmark to become a great bacon exporting country with England as a major market. In 1934, the U.S. Department of Agriculture received a shipment of the Danish landrace and began to crossbreed them at various agricultural experiment stations. The Danish landrace contributed to the development of the American landrace. However, other strains of hog, including small strains of Poland China, and larger strains of Swedish landrace and Norwegian landrace played a role in increasing the breed’s gene pool. There are a number of swine landrace associations (Poland China Record Association, American Berkshire Association, Gute Sheep Society of Sweden, and the American Landrace Association).
In many places, such as the Andes Mountains, local farmers have developed landrace seeds. Using traditional techniques they select, store, and propagate their specialty seeds. Other areas such as Nepal are rich in landrace diversity.
- F. Ellen and Katsuyoshi Fukui, Redefining Nature: Ecology, Culture, and Domestication (Oxford, 1996);
- Peter Walstra, Growth and Carcass Composition from Birth to Maturity in Relation to Feeding Level and Sex in Dutch Landrace Pigs (Wageningen, 1980).