PHOTO: Ryan Somma/Flickr
Heidi Strawn
February 4, 2011

Use: Often referred to as the “Jersey” of the dairy goat world, the Nubian produces a creamy milk with a high butterfat and protein content, ideal for creating cheese, yogurt, ice cream, and soap. Their large size and sturdy build make them useful for packing and cart-pulling (although one packing source said they could be stubborn). Nubians tend to be more heavily muscled than the Swiss dairy breeds, so they can serve as dual-purpose meat goats, too. They’re also kept as fun pets, brush-mowers, and show animals.

History: The Nubian is thought to be one of the oldest goat breeds. This distinctive, floppy-eared breed acquired its name from the Nubian desert region in North Africa, but in fact present-day Nubians originated in Britain when breeders crossed English goats with exotic lop-eared goats from Africa, India, and the Middle East. These cross-bred animals became known as Anglo-Nubians starting in 1893, and they were recognized as a breed in 1896. Imported into the United States during the early 1900s, the Nubian has since become the most popular of dairy goat breeds in the United States.

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Conformation: The graceful Nubian is a large goat with an upright stance and high withers. Adult does should measure 30 inches or more at the withers and weigh at least 135 pounds; bucks, 35 inches or more and at least 175 pounds. Its Roman-nosed profile (more pronounced in the male than the female) and pendulous lop-ears make the Nubian stand out from the other dairy goat breeds officially recognized by the American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA). Those adorable ears should extend at least one inch below the muzzle when flat. Does have short, glossy fur while bucks wear a rougher coat, and both sexes sport a delightful variety of solid colors and color patterns: black, white, chestnut, spotted, patched, you name it. Indeed, the ADGA permits any color or pattern. Nubian enthusiasts characterize this breed as smart, friendly, active, and easy to train.

Special Considerations/Notes: Nubians can be somewhat more vocal than other breeds, especially during breeding season and at weaning time. Like most goats, Nubians are talented escape artists; sturdy fencing is essential. Thanks to its Middle Eastern, African, and Indian roots, the breed tolerates hot weather well (however, always provide plenty of fresh water), but also does fine in other climes when given proper housing. Watch those long ears, though, during frigid weather: they can be prone to frostbite if they hang into water troughs. Nubians often have a long productive life and they’re quite prolific, giving birth to twins, triplets, and even quadruplets.

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