With a rising world population and economic development, the global demand for meat, milk and other animal products is increasing dramatically. Controlling parasitic diseases in livestock, in particular helminth infections, could rapidly improve productivity and resource utilization. There is a growing interest in indigenous ruminant breeds because these animals have adapted to survive with minimal maintenance in the presence of high exposure to parasite infection. Recent findings on the mechanisms of parasite resistance in indigenous breeds are discussed, and the possibility that such studies may lead to new insight into the immunity and control of parasites proposed. These findings have important implications for the preservation of poorly characterized local indigenous breeds.