What Kind of Goats?
There are six breeds of Dairy Goats that are registered with the American Dairy Goat Association that are most commonly used for pack goats. A pack goat can be any breed or cross-breed of goat. All the breeds have different personalities and different physical characteristics. If you are interested you should check out as many breeds as possible before making your purchase. A good pack goat needs to have long, good, strong legs. Personality is a major component of a good pack goat. A good temperament makes up for a lot of size faults with a pack goat. [The Ober Taz was one of our smallest goats, but he had endurance and "heart" to spare on long treks. Like the energizer rabbit.] It is not recommended to take any fertile goat into the wilderness. Most pack goats are wethers (neutered males) because they tend to get larger than the females and do not have the odor and behavior problems of bucks. Does are not recommended as pack animals due to udder chaffing and that the udder may snag on brush and harm the goat. NOTE: The Bore breed is a meat goat and very seldom will you find a pure bred one that can pack due to legs being too short. However, crossed into other larger breeds they can improve the muscle quality.
[We have had a high success rate with goats of undeterminate breeding. Cross-breeds tend to exhibit the best of each breed.]
The Alpine is a breed of goat that originated in the Alps. The goats of Alpine type that were brought to the United States from France where they had been selected for much greater uniformity, size, and production than was true of the goats that were taken from Switzerland to France.
Size and production rather than color pattern have been stressed in the development of the Alpine. No distinct color has been established, and it may range from pure white through shades of fawn, gray, brown, black, red, bluff, piebald, or various shadings or combinations of these colors. Both sexes are generally short haired, but bucks usually have a roach of long hair along the spine. The beard of males is also quite pronounced. The ears in the Alpine should be of medium size, fine textured, and preferably erect. Alpines are attractive animals with white and/or black facial stripes. Color is of little significance to the packer, but to the breeder it is important because the prettier ones tend to sale first. [Unless, like us, you pre-order from a breeder that only breeds what are sold and future breeding stock. We agree to accept one of the male kids, sight unseen.]
Alpines are fine boned and a little smaller than Saanens or Toggenburgs, but the quest for the monster Alpine to rival or surpass these bigger breeds is firmly under way among reputable pack goat breeders. Mature females should stand not less than 30 inches at the withers and should weigh not less than 135 pounds. Males should stand from 34 to 40 inches at the withers and should weigh not less than 170 pounds. Alpine horns are distinctive, more black and more tubular, taller scimitar shape. (More antelope looking.)
Alpines are hardy, adaptable animals that thrive in any climate while maintaining good health. They are very agile on rocks and very friendly but tend to show increasing independence after two years of age. Weak pasterns occur in some bloodlines, but seldom affect an exercised wether. They train easily and are very in tune to the people with whom they work. Watching for slight movements or gestures, even making eye contact with humans, traits not as common in other breeds. Docile and friendly, but with instincts running at high gear. Only Toggs are as (or more) alert on the trail.
Don't ever offend your Alpine wether – he can be sensitive and high-strung after about age three. Alpines tend to be affectionate with people (when it's their idea) and detest being left behind. An older, experienced Alpine can be surprisingly trail wise, remembering the exact lay of a trail it's been on before, even when the trail is covered by a foot of snow, or remembering significant details about a route off the trail. (Even with years between times on the trail.) Any experienced goat can develop this sense, but Alpines seem to be the most adept at it.
Our LaManchas have, perhaps, the most obscure
history of any of the popular breeds. References were made to short-eared
goats as far back as ancient Persia. The exact background is
as yet, however, unknown.
As the Spanish missionaries were colonizing California, they brought with them a short-eared breed of goat suitable for either milk or meat production. If not true LaMancha's these animals were very close to them. As each new mission was established, seed stock from the former herd was transplanted to the new location, spreading the population through the West. This strain is usually thought to be the forerunner of our present LaMancha.
In more recent history, a crate of the short-eared goats was sent to the Paris World's Fair for exhibition (1904). The inscription was unclear, but the words, "LaMancha, Cordoba, Spain," were easily read. The name "LaMancha" stuck and became the accepted term for the American version as well. Phoebe Wilhelm is reported to be the first to establish a herd comprised of Lamanchas. She owned approximately 125 in the 1920's. As few true-type bucks were available, those of the other breeds were used to propagate the race. Even after years of hybridization, however, the true LaMancha characteristics continue to dominate.
The LaMancha has excellent dairy temperament and is an all around sturdy animal that can withstand a great deal of hardship. The LaMancha is (like the Obers) one of the smaller breed used for pack goats. The LaMancha face is straight with the ears (or lack of) being the distinctive breed characteristic. The external, visible part of the ear is like a little tuft with no cartilage. LaManchas come in about any color you like. The hair is short, fine and glossy. Horns are of a lighter brown or black, and smallish, tending to curl back more like the Big-Horn sheep as the animal ages.
LaManchas are one of the most consistently lovable and agreeable of all the breeds for a pack goat. Bonding with humans is exceptional. LaManchas will follow you anywhere and therefore are a little easier to train. (In fact the term “underfoot” fits them well.) They are possibly the most intelligent breed. You have to experience the LaMancha to fully appreciate them.
[We have loved our Munchy's and Munchy mixes. "In Trouble" is another term that they wear well. These boys are the first to cross the camp line and enter tents, check out the fire, investigate the gear and so on. The LaMancha breeder we acquired Star from told us a good axiom: “You will either have to love them, or you will hate them; Munchy's do not allow a middle ground.”]
Nubians (correct Registry Name: Anglo Nubian)
Nubians were developed in England by crossing British goats with bucks of African and Indian origin. The Anglo Nubian is an all-purpose goat, useful for meat, milk and hide production. It is not a heavy milk producer but has a high average butter fat content. As it is the best suited of the dairy goat breeds to hot conditions, the Anglo Nubian has been used in grading-up programs in many tropical countries to increase the milk and meat production of local breeds.
The Nubian is a relatively large, proud, and graceful dairy goat. A mature doe should stand at least 30 inches at the withers and weigh 135 pounds or over, while the males should stand at least 35 inches at the withers and weigh at least 175 pounds. The Nubian goat is named for Nubia, in northeastern Africa. The originally goats imported from Africa, Arabia and India were long legged, hardy goats that had some characteristics desired by goat breeders in England. English breeders crossed these imported bucks on the common short haired does of England prior to 1895 to develop the Anglo-Nubian goat. In the United States the breed is usually spoken of as the Nubian.
The Nubian is regarded as an "aristocratic" appearing goat and has very long, pendulous ears that hang close to the head. The Nubian carries a decidedly Roman nose and is always short haired. Horns are thick, and tend to be flatter off the base then the other breed used for packing. Nubian's can come in about any color, solid or patterned, but black, red or tan are the most common colors, any of which may be carried on combination with white. Usually there is shorter hair on the Nubian males, particularly along the back and on the thigh, than is commonly found on the Swiss breeds.
The head is the distinctive breed characteristic, with the facial profile between the eyes and the muzzle being strongly convex. The ears are long (extending at least one inch beyond the muzzle when held flat along the face), wide and pendulous. They lie close to the head at the temple and flare slightly out and well forward at the rounded tip, forming a "bell" shape. The ears are not thick, with the cartilage well defined. The hair is short, fine and glossy.
Nubians are famous for the duration of milk production and the high butterfat content of their milk. They are also famous in the pack goat community for lying down in the trail when you want them to go. They tend to be the most stubborn of the goat breeds, and are noisy, making a distinctive sound. Even Nubian kids sound like they are complaining. Their size and sturdiness is desirable, but there disposition makes them nearly useless as a pack goat. [That said, all of our Nubian crossbreeds have been excellent packers. But you get "airplane ears" with crossbreeds -- the ears extend from head two or three inches then fall another two to four inches depending on the cross. These outward extending, floppy ears, tend to lend an "I can fly" look to the goat.]
The Oberhasli is a Swiss dairy goat. This breed is of medium size, vigorous and alert in appearance. Its color is chamois. Does may be black but chamois is preferred. Chamois is described as: Bay - ranging from light to a deep red bay with the later most desirable. Markings are to be: two black stripes down the face from above each eye to a black muzzle; forehead nearly all black, black stripes from the base of each ear coming to a point just back of the poll and continuing along the neck and back as a dorsal stripe to the tail; a black belly and udder; black legs below the knees and hocks; ears black inside and bay outside; bucks often have more black on the head than does, black whiskers, and black hair along the shoulders and lower chest with a mantle of black along the back. The face is straight. They have erect ears and are a medium small breed. Horns are tan with an easy scimitar curve, but more round.
Oberhaslis are one of the smallest breeds used as a pack goat. But they are used for a dairy goat ‘fault' that is very common to this breed. It's called "hockiness," a tendency for the hocks of the hind legs to be turned inward. This makes a goat more agile on rocks, but obviously leaves less room for a large, pendulous udder. A hocky goat can bound up the side of a near vertical cliff. As far as the serious goat packer is concerned, the hocky tendency in the Oberhasli is a fortunate throwback to the natural form of the wild goat.
Many Obers seem to be aquaphilic they like water. [We have not seen it to the point of LIKING, but our Obers did not require water training, they simply followed us through.] This can be a definite advantage since most goats have to be trained to cross streams due to their natural fear of water. Obers have a pleasant, mellow, easygoing personality. Some breeders are working to increase the size on this breed for a better packgoat.
Saanens (pronounced: saw-nen)
The Saanen dairy goat originated in Switzerland, in the Saanen Valley. Saanens are medium to large in size, weighing approximately 145 lbs/65kg, with rugged bone and plenty of vigor.
Saanens are white or light cream in color, with white preferred. The hair should be short and fine, although a fringe over the spine and thighs is often present. Ears should be erect and alertly carried, preferably pointing forward. The face should be straight or dished.
The breed is sensitive to excessive sunlight and performs best in cooler conditions. The provision of shade is essential and tan skin is preferable. They usually have a large udder capacity and are popular with dairies due to the quantity of milk they produce.
Saanens are often big boned and sturdy. Horns are large at the base, long, tan in color, and a flattened scimitar shaped, and deeply ringed. This breed's disposition for packing is perfect – super- mellow and quiet, virtually silent on the trail and in camp. The lovable personality is a strong plus, Saanens are most serviceable in alpine elevation and at cooler temperatures. Their light color and pink skin is linked to a tendency to overheat in hot weather, and this holds true for Saanens that have been crossbred with other breeds. Also, some bloodlines tend to be prone to weak pasterns. Generally, this should not be cause for concern if the goats come from a genuine Packgoat breeder.
The Toggenburg is a Swiss dairy goat from Toggenburg Valley of Switzerland at Obertoggenburg. They are also credited as being the oldest known dairy goat breed.
This breed is medium size, sturdy, vigorous, and alert in appearance. Slightly smaller than the other Alpine breeds, the does weight at least 120lb/55kg.
The hair is short or medium in length, soft, fine, and lying flat. Its color is solid varying from light fawn to dark chocolate with no preference for any shade. Distinct white markings are as follows: white ears with dark spot in middle; two white stripes down the face from above each eye to the muzzle; hind legs white from hocks to hooves; forelegs white from knees downward with a dark lien (band) below knee acceptable; a white triangle on either side of the tail; white spot may be present at root of wattles or in that area if no wattles are present. Varying degrees of cream markings instead of pure white acceptable, but not desirable. The ears are erect and carried forward. Facial lines may be dished or straight, never roman.
Horns are large at the base, long, tan in color, scimitar shaped, and deeply ringed.
Generally, Toggs have strong legs and strong pasterns, but beware of short legged strains (more common in the western states.) Wethers should be at least 34 inches high at the shoulder when four years of age.
Toggs are less mellow and independent the other breeds, especially as they get older. Along with these traits comes an advantageous wariness in the woods. This breed makes for an excellent watch goat which is not noisy but will stare in an alarm posture. Furthermore a goat's night vision is remarkably acute. A small tinkle bell on a Togg around camp at night will keep you aware of intruders -animal or human- beyond your own senses.
Never lose your temper with or abuse a working Togg, either in the training phase or when the goat is an adult. These are very sensitive creatures who enjoy their independence. They are loyal, but from a distance. Typical behavior is to avoid being saddled, be a model packer until camp is made, then go off quickly and stare back at the human. This is merely a Togg's way of stating his independence. Be accepting. There are worth the patience. Toggenburgs perform best in cooler conditions and have great endurance.
There is also another breed that is for meat production that shows good qualities for packgoats. [We have had a very favorable success with them.] Bred in the harsh environment of New Zealand the Kiko goat can make a good packer. Bold and strong, they can be friendly and docile when properly raised and trained. As a breed they are known for the distances they can cover.
The primary characteristic of the Kiko goat is its hardiness and its ability to achieve substantial weight gains when run under natural conditions without supplementary feeding. In New Zealand it has been called the "go anywhere, eat anything" goat signifying its ability to thrive under less than ideal conditions.
The Kiko is large framed, generally white (although many Kikos carry genes for color and colored Kikos are capable of registration) with a coat that ranges from slick in summer to flowing hair when run in mountain country in winter. Mature males display substantial characteristic horns and are of a bold disposition. The horns are brood first curving back, then outward in a spiral pattern. Ears tend to be airplane to droopy. The Kiko doesn't really jump out at you with its looks, as a matter of fact, some folks say they look like plain old brush goats; but what the Kiko lacks in good looks it makes up for in endurance. The Kiko is a consummate browser and will range extensively when run in open country.
The Kiko is not affected by substantial climatic variation and is equally at home in sub alpine mountain country and arid brushland. Perhaps the defining characteristic of the breed is the rate of growth. The kids are born of average size but with considerable vigor. From birth to weaning the Kiko displays a rate of growth at least equivalent of any other purpose bred meat goat breed but this is achieved without the management and feed inputs generally required for satisfactory meat production in other breeds. The Kiko goat needs less deworming, less hoof trimming, has less disease and less kidding problems, they grow rapidly, have sound feet, are parasite-resistant, need minimal maintenance input.
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