Use: Alpines excel as dairy animals in both commercial operations and on small farms, producing a high volume of milk over a long lactation period. Their milk has a good protein and butterfat content, lending itself well to cheese production. Characterized as friendly and curious by their keepers, these goats can make terrific pets, show animals, and brush-eaters. Trained wethers can serve as sturdy pack animals.
History: As its name implies, the lovely Alpine goat has its roots in the Alps, that most famous of European mountain ranges. Still the most popular breed in France and widespread there, these goats are also known as French Alpines. Selection through the years focused on size and production instead of a common color or pattern such as the Toggenburg and Oberhasli display: hence, this breed developed an array of interesting colors and patterns. Early voyagers hauled these goats with them for milk and meat, releasing some of the animals on islands along their routes. Alpines first appeared in the U.S. in 1922, when Dr. Charles P. DeLangle and others imported the first documented herd, consisting of 18 does and 3 bucks, from France. According to the Alpines International Breed Club, the herd journeyed from Paris by steamer to Cuba, where they went through quarantine, and then on to New Orleans before continuing by rail to California. One of these adaptable and well-traveled animals apparently lived another 11 years.
Conformation: A medium to large-sized goat breed, Alpines flaunt a wonderful variety of colors and color combinations with sophisticated, descriptive French names like Chamoisee and Cou Noir. The Chamoisee pattern consists of brown to rich bay with black points and a dorsal stripe. A goat with the Cou Noir color pattern, which means “black neck,” has black front quarters and white hindquarters. Adult does should stand no less than 30 inches at the withers and weigh no less than 135 pounds; adult males, no less than 34 inches and 170 pounds. The breed possesses a straight face, short to medium-length hair, and upright ears that give it a decidedly alert expression. Bucks often have long hair along the spine and a pronounced beard. The American Dairy Goat Association’s breed standard discriminates against Roman noses, pure white, and Toggenburg colors/markings.
Special Considerations/Notes: Alpines are hardy, agile, prolific, and adaptable to a variety of climates. Like other goat breeds, they have a talent for escape, so sturdy fencing is a must. Given their fun colors, milk output, and friendly dispositions, it’s not surprising that they’re the second most popular breed in the U.S. after Nubians.