Martok
March 5, 2012
Martok, a Nubian goat
Photo by Sue Weaver
Yay! Today’s my birthday! Don’t I get even more studly as I age?

Today is my birthday! I asked Mom if I could blog about my favorite subject. She said I could, so I’m going to talk about goats.

According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, as of Jan. 1, 2012, the U.S. played home to 2.84 million goats. They include 360,000 dairy goats; 146,000 Angora goats; and 2.36 million other goats. That’s a lot of goats!

Twenty-eight goats live on our farm. Besides us obviously superior Nubian goats, we have Boers, a Sable (Sables are colored Saanens) but also registered as a separate breed), an Alpine, a Spanish and several mixtures—mostly Boer and Nubian, though Big Mama is Boer and Saanen.

The American Dairy Goat Association has registered more than 1 million dairy goats since it was formed in 1904. It recognizes eight breeds: Nubians, Alpines, Saanens, Sables, LaManchas, OberhaslisToggenburgs and Nigerian Dwarfs. There are miniature versions of all these breeds except Nigerian Dwarfs; they’re registered with another organization, the Miniature Dairy Goat Association.

Besides dairy goats, there are brawny meat goats, such as Boers, Kikos and Savannas; long-coated fiber goats, such as Angoras, Cashmeres (Mom wrote an article about them in the July/August 2010 issue of Hobby Farms), Pygoras and Nigoras (they’re part Angora and part Nigerian Dwarf). Some breeds, like Pygmies, dual-purpose Kinder goatsMyotonic goats and rare San Clemente Island and Arapawa Island goats are in categories all by themselves.

We goats were one of the first wild species domesticated by humans. Scientists believe that happened about 10,000 years ago at a village called Ganj Dareh in the Zagros Mountains of what’s now Iran. Our ancestor was a wild mountain goat called a Bezoar goat. No wonder we like to climb on things!

For thousands of years, we goats have been used for our meat, milk, hides, hair, horn, bones, sinew, and dung for fuel and fertilizer, and as draft animals to pack goods and pull carts all over the world. Bride prices and dowries were paid in goats, and goats sometimes provided sacrifices for humans’ gods.

Some goats became military mascots, like William de GoatSergeant Bill and Nan. The British have a long tradition of white Kashmir military goats, like William Windsor, also known as Billy, who was lance corporal in the 1st Battalion, the Royal Welsh, and retired in 2009 after eight years of mostly exemplary service. His only mess-up happened in 2006 when, in a parade honoring Queen Elizabeth’s 80th birthday, he failed to keep in step and kept trying to head butt a drummer’s backside. Billy was demoted to fusilier (the equivalent of private) for three whole months. His replacement is called William Windsor, too. Like his predecessors, the new Billy’s pay includes a daily ration of Guinness stout and two cigarettes, which he eats.

Stay tuned! I’ll have more about us goats next week.

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