New Zealanders who for decades have endured jokes about being outnumbered 20-to-one by sheep have a new farm animal majority to worry about: cows.
A record 5.8 million dairy cattle were counted in the year ended June 2009, Statistics New Zealand said today - well more than one animal for each of the country's 4.3 million citizens.
In contrast, sheep numbers declined to some 32 million in 2009, less than half the peak of 70 million reported in 1982.
"Increased numbers in the milking herd have resulted in there being one milking cow for every New Zealander," farm statistics manager Gary Dunnet said.
"In 2009, New Zealand had fewer than eight sheep per person."
The new figures are unlikely to do much to discourage the ribbing New Zealanders often get on the topic get when they travel abroad.
Australians in particular tease their near neighbours in the Pacific Ocean about the popularity of sheep in New Zealand, usually in jokes of questionable taste.