PHOTO: North American Savannah Association
Heidi Strawn
February 4, 2011

Use: Savannahs are premier meat goats; they produce delicious, mild-tasting chevon and lots of it. While they resemble their Boer cousins in all but coloration, Savannahs are hardier, making them ideal goats for low maintenance input operations and for crossing with Boers and other meat and dairy breeds to increase hardiness and meatiness in the offspring.

History: According to the Animal Improvement Institute of South Africa, the Savannah goat was developed by the Cillier family of Douglas, an agricultural and stock farming community in the North Cape province of South Africa. In 1957, Mrs. Cillier’s Griqua servants presented her with the gift of a white buck goat. She purchased five indigenous does with white in their color pattern to breed to him and then selected for white coloration, heat and parasite resistance, and meat production. Though Savannah goats came to Canada in 1994 along with the first Boers imported to North America, they didn’t catch on here until quite recently. They are, however, a major meat-producing breed in their South African homeland.

Conformation: Savannah goats have long, broad, muscular bodies; does weigh in between 125 to 200 pounds and bucks, 200-250 pounds or more. Savannahs have a Boer look about them but are somewhat less Roman-nosed and most have slightly shorter ears. Bucks (and to a lesser degree, some does) display loose, supple, skin folds over their chests and necks, a trait being bred out of their show goat Boer kin. Their horns are strong, widely placed and of moderate length; they curve straight back from the crown of the head before gradually turning out in a symmetrical curve. Savannahs have short, white coats (a sprinkling of red, black, or blue ticking is permissible) with black skin, horns, nose, sexual organs, and hooves. Two or four teats are allowed.

Special Considerations/Notes: Savannah bucks are aggressive breeders and does, peerless mothers; Savannah does are protective, fertile, they kid with ease, and two to four kids are the norm per litter (the Cilliers’ herd was untended for one month prior to kidding and two months after; survival of the fittest weeded out poor doers early-on). Savannah goats breed year round. They were selected for strong jaws, long-lasting teeth, and sound legs so they could stand on their hind legs to efficiently browse brush, leaves, and any other green thing in their harsh environment. They easily endure heat, intense sunshine, cold and rain. Savannas are as tough as a goat can get. If you’re looking for a productive meat breed that doesn’t require codling, seek no further, this is your goat. There is currently no North American breed association specifically for Savanna goats but Pedigree International and the World Wide Sheep and Goat Archives maintain Savanna herdbooks.

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