Breeds of Goats

There are six common dairy breeds here in the US and several meat-type breeds. Any type of goat can be trained to pack, you just have to decide on what type of goat will fit your needs.

Alpine goats can come in any color, their ears are upright and they are an alert, hearty animal in any climate. They enjoy working and adapt well to new environments. They are a medium to large breed.

The French-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.

The French-Alpine is a larger and more rangy goat and more variable in size than are the Swiss breeds. 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. French-Alpine females are excellent milkers and usually have large, well-shaped udders with well-placed teats of desirable shape.

LaMancha goats can come in any color. Their ears must be 2 inches or smaller to conform to their breed standard. They are a hearty sturdy breed of medium size that are very people orientated. (Ed: Most LaManchas have a small “gopher” ear. This lack of a recognizable ear can be off-putting at first, but their sweet disposition will soon grow on you.)

The LaMancha goat originated in Oregon by Mrs. Eula Frey from short-eared goats of a type found not only in LaMancha, but throughout spain. It has excellent dairy temperament and is an all-around sturdy animal that can withstand a great deal of hardship and still produce. Through official testing this breed has established itself in milk production with high butterfat.

Nubian goats are a medium to large breed with long floppy ears and a roman nose. They can come in any color. Most Nubians prefer not to work and some are very vocal at feeding time or if you separate them from the herd. (Ed: This reflects a very common bias against Nubian goats that began with the recognized goat guru, John Myioncynski. Many folks have Nubians that work very well for them. On the other hand, I have to admit that I don’t like Nubians either ;-) .

Anglo-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 (between four and five percent). The Anglo Nubian breeding season is much longer than that of the Swiss breeds so it is possible to produce milk year round.

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 Anglo-Nubian is a relatively large, proud, and graceful dairy goat. The Anglo-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.

Oberhasli goats are bay in color. Shades of red with black markings on head, top-line, underbelly and legs. Their ears are upright and Oberhasli’s are a medium sized goat that enjoys working and tolerates water easily.
Saanen goats are a large dairy breed with upright ears and they have strong bones. Saanens are white or light cream in color. These large white goats are kind and gentle but they do better in cooler climates.

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. A few white hairs through the coat and about the ears are permitted. 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; bucks frequently have more white hairs through the coat than does.

Toggenburg goats are of medium size with upright ears. They come in shades of brown from light fawn to dark chocolate with white markings on face, ears, around tail and legs. A nice independent goat with good stamina that will work for you if treated kindly. (Ed: The word “independent” passes by quite fast here, but many Toggs can be quite aloof. If you are looking for cuddly, these are not the breed.)

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. Toggenburgs perform best in cooler conditions. They are noted for their excellent udder development and high milk production, and have an average fat test of 3.7 percent.

Saanen goats are medium to large in size with rugged bone and plenty of vigor. They are white or light cream in color, with white preferred. They make good pack animals and are especially good in crosses with other breeds.

The Saanen dairy goat originated in Switzerland, in the Saanen Valley. Saanen does are heavy milk producers and usually yield 3-4 percent milk fat. It is medium to large in size (weighing approximately 145 lbs/65kg) with rugged bone and plenty of vigor. The breed is sensitive to excessive sunlight and performs best in cooler conditions. The provision of shade is essential and tan skin is preferable.

Boer goats are primarily a meat breed lop ears and showing a variety of color patterns. They are a very stocky animal, and can get very heavy. They work well in crosses with other breeds.

The Boer is an improved indigenous breed with some infusion of European, Angora and Indian goat breeding many years ago. Several researchers agree that the indigenous populations were probably from the Namaqua Hottentots and from southward migrating Bantu tribes. The name is derived from the Dutch word “boer” meaning farmer and was probably used to distinguish the native goats from the Angora goats which were imported into South Africa during the 19th century. The present day Boer goat appeared in the early 1900’s when ranchers in the Easter Cape Province started selecting for a meat type goat.

The South African registry was established in 1959. Since 1970 the Boer goat has been incorporated into the National Mutton Sheep and Goat Performance Testing Scheme making it the first goat breed involved in meat production performance testing.

The male goat is called ‘buck’ and female goat ‘doe’. The Boer goat is primarily a meat goat with several adaptations to the region in which it was developed. It is a horned breed with lop ears and showing a variety of color patterns. The Boer goat is being used very effectively in South Africa in combination with cattle due to its browsing ability and limited impact on the grass cover. Producing weaning rates in excess of 160% the Boer goat doe is a low maintenance animal that has sufficient milk to rear a kid that is early maturing. The mature Boer Goat buck weighs between 110-135 kg (~240-300 lbs) and does between 90 and 100 kg (~200-225 lbs).

Meat Goats and meat crosses are sturdy goat of medium height with lots of muscling throughout. Their muscling seems to limit them in jumping ability and agility on certain types of terrain. Cross them with the dairy breeds for pack goats gives you a more sturdy frame and an animal that will be able to pack more weight when mature. Some of the Boer cross goats have a bit of a tendency to be more stubborn.

Cross-Breed goats seem to be stronger and healthier then the full blooded goats. Some of the largest goats I have seen were cross-breeds. Quite a few packgoat people use the cross-breeds and are very happy with them. My personal preference is the Oberhasli/Alpine/LaMancha crosses. This type of crossing gives me a sound, healthy and friendly goat that is a joy to work with and be around. People in cooler climates like to cross the larger Saanens into other breeds for a large outstanding pack animal.

Mini Breeds like the Pygmy and the Nigerian Dwarf can be used for packing but the amount of weight they can carry and the distance they can travel will be much reduced. Acquiring gear for these little goats can be a bit of a problem also. But if you just take little strolls and want the company of the goats or for them to just carry your lunch then they may work for you.
(Ed: So my answer to the question, “Which breed is best” is, “whatever ones you have.” All goat packers end up in a love affair with their animals, so “their” goats are naturally the best packers around. This is relatively analogous to “my grandkids.”
Expanded Information on Nigerian Dwarf goats:
Expanded Information on Pygmy goats:


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