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    7 Popular Goat Breeds: Which One is Right for You?

    Authored by Jodi Helmer

    Planning to add goats to your homestead? Learning about different breeds is the key to understanding which goats will be the right fit for your goals.

    Whether you’re new to goat-keeping or want to add some diversity to your existing herd, these seven breeds are worth considering.

    Nigerian Dwarf

    The breed, which originated in West Africa, is a small milk goat breed. Nigerian dwarf goats stand less than 20 inches tall and weigh an average of 75 pounds. Both does and bucks have soft coats with short to medium hair in a color combinations like black, chocolate, gold and white and Dalmatian, a black and white spotted pattern.

    Nigerian dwarf goats produce a surprising amount of milk for their size and their milk is higher in butterfat than other dairy goat breeds. 

    It’s their gentle natures that make Nigerian dwarf goats popular. The gentle natures of this small goat breed make them a favorite for 4-H and FFA projects because their dwarf statures make them easy for children to handle.

    Pygmy goat

    These petite goats stand less than 23 inches tall and weigh as little as 60 pounds, making them one of the smallest goat breeds. The small, stocky goats are about the size of large dogs and are as playful as puppies. 

    Their color patterns include solid black or grizzled black, grey or brown with white intermingled throughout their coats. Bucks have long beards and manes.

    The pygmy is a milk goat breed that can produce one to two quarts of high butterfat milk per day.

    Nubian goat breed

    Although the Nubian goat has been called “America’s favorite dairy goat breed” thanks to the ability to produce more than six pounds of milk per day, it’s actually a dual purpose breed raised for milk and meat.

    Nubian goats are large goats weighing between 175 and 300 pounds with short coats in a range of colors and patterns, including black, tan and chestnut. Pendulous ears are one of their most distinctive features (and make them adaptable to hot climates).

    It’s a friendly breed with an easygoing demeanor.

    Toggenburg

    The Toggenburg goat is believed to be one of the oldest dairy goat breeds. 

    Named for the region of Switzerland where the breed originated, Toggenburgs have thick coats that are great for cold climates. Their coloring ranges from light to dark brown with unique markings that include white ears with dark spots in the middle and two white stripes down their faces.

    It’s a smaller goat breed weighing around 120 pounds and the average doe is in milk for about 158 days (about 5 months). 

    Spanish goats

    As their name suggests, Spanish goats originated in Spain and were brought to the Caribbean (and later the U.S.) and continue to be prized as a great dual purpose breed. 

    There is a huge variation in color and size among the breed with larger goats weighing up to 200 pounds and favored for meat production.

    Once the dominant breed in the U.S, the arrival of other breeds led Spanish goats to fall out of favor. In fact, the Livestock Conservancy placed Spanish goats on its breed “watch” list as there are estimated to be fewer than 8,000 purebred Spanish goats in the U.S. The largest populations of Spanish goats are in Texas where they thrive in hot temperatures and rugged terrain.

    Tennessee fainting goats

    This breed goes by many names, including Myotonic, Tennessee Fainting goat and Texas Wooden Leg goat but all refer to goats with myotonia congenita, a condition that causes the muscles to contract and the goat to faint when it’s startled. 

    Although the breed dates back to the 1880s, it fell out of favor until a century later. Breeders brought the Tennessee fainting goat back for two purposes: as a meat breed and a novelty (pet) breed.

    Tennessee fainting goats are variable in size, weighing between 60 and 175 pounds and come in all colors. Does experience an extended breeding season and can produce kids every six months.

    Boer

    The South African breed can weigh between 190 and 340 pounds, making it the largest goat breed. Thanks to its sheer size and fast growth rate, Boer goats are a meat breed known for producing high quality, lean red meat.

    Despite their size, Boer goats are docile, which has made them a popular show breed. 

    Most Boer goats are white with red heads but the breed can also be solid white, solid brown or spotted (called paint).  Roman noses and pendulous ears make them distinct.

    Boer goats are known as a hardy breed that can thrive in difficult terrain unsuitable for other livestock—a quality that makes them popular for pasture management. The breed is well-suited to hot, dry climates.