Did you know that the Bilberry goat is one of the hairiest breeds and longest-horned goats in the world?
Yet despite their unique features and adaptability, this mysterious landrace breed is barely given any attention and is now on the brink of extinction.
However, you can help save this breed and raise awareness about them.
And by learning more about the Bilberry goats, you can help share the word about this wild goat breed.
So, in this article, we’ll share with you the:
- bits and pieces of the origin and history of Bilberry goats
- their distinguishing characteristics
- and breeding behaviors
So if you want to more insights into this breed, join us as we uncover every single detail that was discovered about them.
But before that, here’s a sneak peek of their tiny herd and what their main characteristics.
Bilberry Goat Overview
Males: 50 to 75kg
Females: 35 to 60kg.
Creamy/ Blonde with Gray Mane
8 years or more
What is a Bilberry Goat?
Bilberry goat is a landrace breed hailing from Bilberry Rock in Waterford City, Ireland.
They’re found nowhere else in the world, and experts regard them as a unique ancient breed.
This breed has a close resemblance to the Asian Pashmina Down Breed Group.
And their natural habitat in Bilberry Rock is composed of a steep quarry with adjoining grassland measuring about 14 acres in size.
They used to have a larger foraging area in the past, but we’ll discuss it later in this article.
Bilberry Goat’s Origin and History
Many local historians believe that this breed came into Waterford, Ireland, thanks to French Huguenots back in 1693.
However, no evidence supports this claim, and international scientists and goat specialists are still on the roll, studying the goat and their origin to find the mysterious origin of this breed.
The University College Dublin further intensified their efforts of uncovering the origins of Bilberry by taking biopsy samples for the wild breed’s DNA analysis.
But since these Bilberry goats have thick, shaggy coats, the National Dutch Landrace Goat Society believes that they descended from a cold weather goat.
Distinguishing Characteristics of the Bilberry Goat
Since this breed resembles the Asian Pashmina, how can you identify Bilberry goats?
What are the characteristics of the Bilberry goat that sets them apart from others?
In this section, we’ll discuss the distinguishing features of the Irish Bilberry goats.
Height and Weight
Bilberry goats have a large and stocky build which is built to endure harsh climates and cold weather.
As with all other goat breeds, male bilberry goats are usually larger than their female counterparts.
Female Bilberry usually weighs around 35 to 60 kg while the bucks are between 50 to 75 kg.
Bilberry goats are known as one of the hairiest goats to ever exist due to their long, silken shaggy creamy blonde coats with shades of gray on their mane.
They also have a decent amount of fringe that covers their eyes and long beards that flows down to their body.
Another interesting fact about Bilberry is that they have one of the longest horns among all goat breeds worldwide, which can grow up to 49 inches.
But females’ horns are generally smaller than the more dominant male Bilberry goats.
Bilberry goats can walk on steep slopes and mountainsides, thanks to the large spongy pads on their feet.
It enables them to balance and tightly grip while walking on hills and mountains.
But how well does this breed adapt to its environment?
Is Bilberry Goat Hardy?
Despite having extremely low numbers, this wild goat breed is well-adapted to the harsh environment, thanks to their thick coat that protects them from the cold and wet weather.
However, although these goats appear to have a strong physique, they’re not as adaptable as other popular and thriving breeds.
And they’re best preserved in their natural habitat.
Uses of Bilberry Goat
Due to their extremely low numbers, Bilberry goats are rarely used for meat or dairy production.
Breeding them out of their natural habitat isn’t ideal either because they’re highly dependent on the minerals in their home.
But it could be possible in the future.
Since not much is known about Bilberry’s origin and nature, further research and effort are needed to preserve and help this breed multiply and thrive.
Fun Fact About Bilberry Goats: Did you know that you can estimate a Bilberry’s age by counting the rings on its horn? The more rings it horn has, the older the goat is!
Bilberry Goat’s Breeding Habits and Reproduction
Just like other goat breeds, Bilberry’s mating season starts from August to December, and this season is called “rut”.
At the beginning of the mating season, Billies develop and emit a strong musky smell in their sweat glands to attract the female Bilberry goats.
Then, they will show their strength and dominance to their competitors by shaking their heads and butting each other with their long, strong horns.
Bilberry nannies can start breeding as early as one year old.
And they usually give birth to one or two kids per kidding.
The does take care of their kids, and their babies will follow them and depend on them until they’re 6 weeks old.
Bilberry goats’ life in the wild is challenging, especially in the first year of their life.
But resilient kids who get past this challenging period tend to have a longer life of around 8 years or more.
Bilberry Goat’s Conservation Status
Sadly, the Bilberry goat breed is now close to extinction.
There were only 7 Bilberry goats back in 2000.
And even though their number increased to 21 in 2005 and 42 in 2008, it still takes a huge effort to conserve and develop this nearly-extinct landrace breed.
To help protect this breed from extinction, the Bilberry Goat Heritage Trust was established in 2000.
But the land with an area of 14 acres or 5.7 hectares where they used to graze was already sold to a developer who plans to build houses in place of the Bilberry’s homeland.
The potential loss of the habitat that contains the mineral necessary for their survival puts Bilberry goats at a higher risk of going extinct.
This sparked debate, and appeals were made by people who value this unique landrace breed.
Even the Irish Wildlife Trust is also actively participating in the campaign.
However, this breed is not a protected species nor a Natural Heritage area under the Wildlife Act 2000.
But a petition was launched to prevent the destruction of Bilberry’s natural habitat.
This will be sent to the Waterford City and County Council, and everyone who supports the breed is encouraged to sign the petition.
Other Critically Endangered Goat Breeds
According to the Livestock Conservancy, 10% of livestock breeds are already extinct.
And out of 576 goat breeds in the world, 19 have become extinct, 90 are currently at risk, and 310 of them have limited conservation data.
Therefore, the Bilberry goat breed is not the only one hanging by a thread right now.
Here are other critically endangered goat breeds, according to Livestock Conservancy.
San Clemente Goat
As the name hints, this goat breed is native to San Clemente Island of California, specifically 68 miles west of San Diego, near southern California.
When the US Navy took over the island in 1934, the San Clemente goats were thriving, but they became a nuisance to native plants and wildlife.
That’s why the Navy conducted a systematic removal program to reduce the goat’s population.
6,000 were relocated to the mainland, and the remaining were exterminated to protect San Clemente Island’s natural ecosystems.
The breed is now regarded as critically endangered because there are only between 250 and 300 individuals left.
As of May 2023, The Livestock Conservancy has classified these fellows as “Critical”.
European colonists brought this breed to Arapawa Island, which is located at the top of the South Island of New Zealand, in the 1600s.
And just like the San Clemente goats, they, too, thrived on the island until they were deemed too damaging to their native forest and were hunted to reduce their population.
But these Arapawa goats survived, thanks to Betty and Walt Rowe, who started a sanctuary for these goats in 1987.
They’re also a critically endangered breed since there are less than 200 annual registrations in the United States.
Now, let’s talk about the goat breed that is currently on the watch list of the Livestock Conservancy.
These goats were imported by Spanish travelers from Spain to the Caribbean Islands in the 1500s and thriving in the 1800s.
But according to the Livestock Conservancy, there are around 8,000 Spanish goats left in the US.
However, since they’re still on the Watch List, that means there are less than 2,500 annual registrations of this breed in the country.
But what has caused the extinction of these goat breeds?
The modernization of agriculture and the emphasis on increasing productivity at the expense of other desirable features like:
- habitat adaptation
- mothering prowess
- and parasite resistance has been associated with the extinction of many breeds.
Due to the extinction of these breeds, genetic diversity has been declining.
How to Help Bilberry Goats and Other Endangered Breeds
Since more and more goats are getting closer to extinction, we need to work together to spread the word about these livestock treasures of the world.
How can you help save Bilberry goats and other critically endangered goats?
In this section, we’ll discuss the steps you can take to contribute to the preservation of these unique goats.
1. Raise Awareness
One of the most effective ways of helping these critically endangered Bilberry goats repopulate and stay in their habitat is through raising awareness and signing the petition.
It’s important to promote the importance of this unique goat breed to the world and its significance in maintaining genetic diversity.
By signing and sharing the word with social media, you can help save the lives of these critically endangered goats.
2. Raise a Critically Endangered Breed
The best way to preserve these nearly-extinct breeds is by raising one of them if you can.
Choose a breed from this list that is suitable for your environment and purpose, learn about breed standards, and get a breeding couple or at least a bred doe.
Then, start working on developing, maintaining, and improving the breed afterward.
Be sure to document your work and share it with others.
This way, you can spread the word and raise awareness for the need to preserve these goat breeds as you expand your herd or begin distributing them in your neighborhood.
3. Work With Livestock Conservancy
Each year, the Livestock Conservancy awards Microgrants between $500 to $2,000 to deserving applicants.
You can use these funds to raise the endangered goat breeds on the Livestock Conservancy Priority list.
Applications reopen every end of May through August, and the judging season is between September and October.
The winners are announced in November and December and are subsequently made public the following January.
However, to qualify for these Microgrants, you must:
- be living in the United States
- have a work experience with the livestock breeds listed on the Priority list
- use the support to help preserve the critically endangered goats
- have a clear outline of how the funds will be used
- prepare two letters of recommendation from professionals or educators
It can help you get the right tools and equipment and market to promote the breed to others.
But you’ll need to submit a written report on how the breed benefited from the fund granted to you within a year of winning.
Final Thoughts on Bilberry Goats
Bilberry goat is generally a hardy breed, but they’re a critically endangered breed that needs protection and a secure home.
It’s not ideal for meat and dairy production, but this mountain goat breed is important for biological diversity.
And you can help this breed by supporting the appeal to preserve their natural habitat in Ireland.
This rare goat breed is nature’s treasure that is nowhere else to be found.
If you could lend a helping hand to this breed and help preserve this breed, you’re giving the next generation a chance to discover the wonders of Bilberry goats.
Want to know more about other unique goat breeds in the world?
Check out the article below to discover one of the most bizarre-looking goat breeds labeled as the bulldog of the goat world.