We don't believe the "perfect packgoat" exists. But, there are attributes that you need to be aware of when picking your prospect. If you are a light, weekend packer you will be able to use a goat with some flaws, but the harder you intend to work your goat, the more of the following items you will have to take into consideration.
- Prospects should be:
- CAE and CL free-(goat viruses-CAE looks like arthritis, & CL is an abscess forming disease)
- Minimum 34" at the withers-(our Oberhasli's are not this big, but if you want a large load this is the minimum size.)
- Minimum 200 pounds-(same comment as height, the smaller the mass the less weight they can carry)
- Leg length proportionate to body (no dachshund looking conformation -- like the Boer breed of goat)
- Flat back from withers to loin-(helps carry weight evenly)
- Withers and croup both same distance from the ground-not going uphill or down-(keeps pack from sliding)
- Cannon bone 1/3 length of upper leg-(longer stride)
- Good bone size in legs and feet
- Wide across hip and shoulders-(good weight bearing surface)
- Legs track reasonably straight when watched from the front-(elbows should not "wing" out - come away from the body)
- Slightly hocky-good angles to hocks when viewed from the side and back give better traction and stay sounder than posty (very straight) legs.
- Body type -(should look muscular in appearance -not a dairy goat type- with thigh/gaskin muscles well defined; shoulders and neck should also show good muscle tone.)
These, of course describe the "perfect" goat, but the harder you plan to work, the more they need to have good proportion and strong bones and feet.
(Here we have to say that one of our 'best' packers most definitely did not fit this profile. He was bow-legged, pigeon toed and his hoofs rolled as he stepped. But it never was an issue with him keeping up. And we work our boys hard.)
To de-horn or not to de-horn, that is the question. There is a lot of controversy over this. Horns work as a cooling system in goats. They are also a major liability in herd management.
The arguments pro and con are many. Whichever you decide on, all your animals should be the same, or expect the de-horned to be "lesser" in the herd and bullied by those with horns. Most breeders automatically de-horn new kids. The buyer usually must ask for this not to be done if they want horns.
A goat can have all the great conformation in the world, but if he's not a "gung-ho" goat mentally, he's worthless as a packer. Good packgoats like to work and spend time with people. It's obvious when they're very small. In fact, if they follow into the training mud puddle for their bottle, they are likely to be good packers.
Our experience is that "attitude" plays an extremely important part in a packgoat. We recommend choosing a goat that is friendly, curious, doesn't mind being touched places, and one that has an alertness and brightness to its character.
Some goats are lazy. Nubians particularly have a reputation for this, but this doesn't mean that all are. And Nubian crosses can give you size while maintaining the more work oriented traits of the smaller breeds.
A goat from a reputable packgoat breeder will have been bred to select for gung-ho goat qualities. Goats should show that they are well-socialized and not exhibit fear or aggressiveness toward people. By the time they are weaned, they should not be butting or jumping up on people. It's cute in kids but not in full grown spoiled monsters. Your goat should be willing to respect you, just like any other working animal.