14 Fascinating Goat Breeds From Around The World

Goats are one of the first species humans domesticated for their own purposes and the bond between animal and mankind remains.

Goat is one of the most widely consumed meats worldwide. Goat milk and cheese are very popular and gaining in consumption in North America, and luxury fibers like cashmere and angora also come from goats.

Goats are just really fascinating.

A Triple Purpose Animal

Angora goat.
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Goats are used for meat, milk, and even some of the most luxury natural fibre.

Beyond their economic value, goats are effective for land management, helping control weeds and brush, and are also popular as companion animals due to their friendly and sociable nature. Their adaptability and low maintenance make them invaluable assets in both agricultural and residential settings.

Wild Origins

Wild bezoar goat.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Goats are fascinating animals with a rich history that dates back thousands of years. The domestic goat, known scientifically as Capra aegagrus hircus, originates from the wild goat of Southwest Asia and Eastern Europe, specifically the Zagros Mountains.

The wild ancestor of all domestic goats is the Bezoar goat, or Capra aegagrus. This wild species still exists today and is found in mountainous regions across the Middle East and parts of Eastern Europe. Bezoar goats are known for their agility and ability to navigate steep, rocky terrains. They have a rugged appearance with a reddish-brown to grey coat and males often display a dark, long beard.

Alpine (France)

Alpine goats.
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Purpose: Dairy production.

Originating from the picturesque French Alps, Alpine goats are celebrated for their adaptability and robust milk production. These goats are as resilient as they are productive and able to thrive in varying climates without a dip in milk yield.

Historical Fact: Alpine goats have a rich heritage dating back to their breeding in the mountainous regions of France. They were officially recognized as a breed in the 19th century but have a lineage extending further into the past. Introduced to the United States in 1922, they quickly became a staple in dairy herds due to their hardiness and productivity.

Angora (Turkey)

Angora goats.
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Purpose: Fiber (Mohair) production.

The Angora goat, which originated in the Ankara region of Turkey, is esteemed for producing mohair, a luxurious and silky fiber. These goats are pivotal in the luxury textile industry, contributing to high-end fabric production.

Historical Fact: The breed’s development in Asia Minor dates back centuries, with its valuable fiber long being a guarded treasure. It wasn’t until the 19th century that Angora goats were exported to Europe, spreading their renown globally. Historically, mohair was a textile reserved for royalty and the elite, enhancing the prestige of garments made from it.

Boer (South Africa)

Two Boer goats.
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Purpose: Meat production.

Named after the Dutch word for “farmer,” Boer goats are robust creatures bred primarily for their meat. They are renowned for their fast growth, high fertility, and substantial meat yield, making them a favorite among meat producers.

Historical Fact: The breed was developed in the early 1900s from indigenous goats of South Africa mixed with Indian and European breeds. Boer goats have set the global standard for meat goat production, thriving in various environments and proving their worth as a commercial livestock breed.

LaMancha (USA)

LaMancha goat.
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Purpose: Dairy production.

Recognizable by their very short ears, LaMancha goats are an American original known for their excellent dairy production. The high butterfat content of their milk makes it especially good for cheesemaking.

Historical Fact: Mrs. Eula Fay Frey developed LaMancha goats in Oregon around the 1930s. Their ancestry is believed to trace back to Spanish goats brought to Mexico and the U.S. They gained official breed recognition in the mid-20th century and are prized for their friendly nature and consistent milk output.

Nubian (England)

Nubian goats.
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Purpose: Dual-purpose, milk and meat.

Nubian goats are among the most recognizable goat breeds with their distinctive long, floppy ears and Roman noses. They are valued not only for their striking appearance but also for their rich, high-butterfat milk. They come in a mini version too.

Historical Fact: Nubian goats were developed in England in the late 19th century, but their genetics are a mix of African and Indian goat breeds. This heritage gives them their unique look and ability to thrive in hotter climates, making them popular worldwide.

Damascus Goat (Middle East)

Damascus goat.
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Purpose: Dairy and meat production, as well as breeding for unique appearances in shows.

The Damascus goat is prized not only for its productivity but also for its unique and striking appearance, especially when mature. Grown, it’s known as the ugliest goat in the world. This breed features a prominent convex profile, with a long, often twisted or curved nose, and large, expressive eyes. These distinctive features become more pronounced as the goat matures.

Historical Fact: Originating from the regions around Syria and other parts of the Middle East, the Damascus goat has a long history of being bred for both its utility and its appearance. It is particularly valued in beauty contests held in the region, where its unusual looks, including its dramatically pronounced facial features, are celebrated.

Dutch Landrace (Netherlands)

Dutch landrace goat.
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Purpose: Originally used for milk and meat production.

Dutch Landrace goats are known for their resilience and adaptability, historically bred to thrive in the damp, lowland environments of the Netherlands. They have a varied coat color, often spotted or patched, which distinguishes them from other breeds.

Historical Fact: The Dutch Landrace is one of the traditional breeds of the Netherlands, with a lineage that dates back several centuries. They were once common on small farms and used extensively for milk production to support local cheese-making traditions. Over time, with industrialization and the importation of other high-yield dairy goats, the Dutch Landrace became less common, now often preserved for heritage and conservation purposes.

Cashmere Goat

Cashmere goats.
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Purpose: Fiber production.

Cashmere goats are famed for their fine undercoat of hair, known as cashmere, which is one of the most luxurious fibers used in the textile industry. The fiber is exceptionally soft, warm, and lightweight, making it highly prized for making premium clothing such as sweaters, scarves, and other fine garments.

Historical Fact: Although Cashmere goats have been raised in various regions, including Mongolia, Iran, Tibet, and Northern India for thousands of years, the term “cashmere” derives from Kashmir, the region that popularized the wool in the West. The luxurious nature of cashmere was a well-kept secret in Europe until the 19th century when it became highly sought after by the fashion elite.

Saanen (Switzerland)

Swiss Saanen goat.
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Purpose: Dairy production.

Saanen goats hail from the Swiss valleys and are renowned for being the largest of the dairy goat breeds, as well as for their calm demeanor and prodigious milk output.

Historical Fact: Originating in the Saanen valley of Switzerland, these goats have been a fixture in dairy farming since the 19th century. They are so revered for their milking abilities that they have been widely exported worldwide to improve national dairy herds.

Toggenburg (Switzerland)

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Purpose: Dairy production.

Toggenburg goats are recognized by their distinctive light brown coat and white markings. They are one of the oldest known dairy goat breeds, valued for their steady and reliable milk production.

Historical Fact: Originating from the Toggenburg Valley in northeastern Switzerland, these goats have been bred for centuries. They were among the first breeds to be officially registered in the early 20th century and have been a major influence in the development of other dairy goat breeds.

Kiko (New Zealand)

Kiko goat.
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Purpose: Meat production.

The Kiko breed is renowned for its hardiness and ability to thrive under natural conditions with minimal management. Kiko goats are primarily raised for meat and are known for their rapid growth rate and excellent survival traits.

Historical Fact: Developed in the 1980s by crossing local feral goats with dairy breeds such as the Saanen, Toggenburg, and Anglo-Nubian, the Kiko was bred to optimize meat yield in the rugged New Zealand terrain, focusing on survivability and minimal care.

Pygmy (West Africa)

Pygmy goat kid.
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Purpose: Pets, show animals, and meat.
Highlight: Pygmy goats are a small breed, often kept as pets due to their friendly and docile nature. Despite their size, they are also raised for meat and are popular in show circuits for their charming and lovable qualities.

Historical Fact: Originally from the Cameroon Valley of West Africa, Pygmy goats were brought to the United States in the 1950s for zoological gardens. Their popularity quickly spread as they became favored as companion animals and participants in goat shows.

Sable (USA)

Sable goats.
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Purpose: Dairy production.

Sable goats are essentially colored Saanens, exhibiting a range of coat colors other than white. They share the same physical structure and high milk production qualities as their Saanen relatives.

Historical Fact: Sable goats were officially recognized as a distinct breed in the late 20th century. They originated from Saanen goats that exhibited recessive color genes, and have gained popularity due to their striking appearance and excellent dairy capabilities.

Nigerian Dwarf (West Africa)

Nigerian dwarf goats.
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Purpose: Dairy production.

Nigerian Dwarf goats are another small dairy breed known for the high butterfat content of their milk, which makes it ideal for artisan cheese production. They are also popular as pets due to their playful and friendly nature.

Historical Fact: Despite their name, Nigerian Dwarf goats were developed in the United States from West African dwarf goats that were originally imported as food for captured carnivores heading to zoos. Over the decades, selective breeding enhanced their dairy qualities while maintaining their small size.

Benefits of Goat Milk

woman in white dress milking a dairy goat
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Learn More: 10 Surprising Benefits of Goat Milk

Benefits of Goat Meat

Boy with goat herd.
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Learn More: Goat Meat Benefits & Recipes To Try

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Jacob's ram.
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Learn More: 21 Adorably Fascinating Sheep Facts

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