Garganicas are medium-sized domestic goats that are dual-purpose, hardy, and most popular in Western Europe, though they are now listed as endangered.
It’s one of only eight autochthonous Italian goat breeds kept in the Associazione Nazionale della Pastorizia genealogical herd handbook.
Garganica goats are similar to, but should not be confused with the Garfagnina goat breed.
Garfagnina herds are a calico of colors, not just black or dark brown like the Garganica.
Do you want to know more about this goat breed?
We have everything there is to know about Garganica goats. Read on below!
Garganica Goat Characteristics
Garganicas are relatively slender animals with compact bodies, short legs, well-proportioned frames, and beautiful twisting horns.
Their bodies are of sturdy build with good muscling. They are well conditioned to the rugged terrain of the rocky Gargano Peninsula of Italy, from which they originate and still predominately reside.
They have small to medium-sized upright ears that are slightly pointed. Their faces are small for their body, with a slight dish (concave) at the nose, somewhat resembling dairy goat breeds.
Their eyes are expressive and very bright when healthy.
They have medium to long fur coats. They also have medium to long black beards, which are black to dark brown, matching the rest of their fur.
Garganica Goat Size
Garganica goats are about 29 inches tall (measured at the shoulder) as does, and 33 inches tall as wethers and bucks.
Does weigh about 110 pounds (50 kg), while the bucks and wethers weigh closer to 130 pounds (60 kg).
Garganica Goats Colors
Garganicas are always dark brown to black, and a few may have subtle highlights of reddish chestnut hues throughout the body. Most of them are raven black.
Even when their coats are long, they maintain a healthy glossiness that shines in the sunlight.
Garganica Goats Origin and History
Garganicas originated in the Gargano Peninsula in the Puglia region of southern Italy.
They have a long history in the region, and their development is closely tied to the traditional agricultural practices and needs of Southern Italy locals.
There, these goats are known as “razza nustrala”.
In their region of Italy, they are commonly kept for making a traditional cheese called, Cacioricotta, which is unique to the Gargano region of Italy. Caciocavallo is also another locally made cheese.
They are also used to create muscisca, or “muscisca prelibatezza del gardano,” a hardened meat made from Gargano or Monti Dauni goats.
This meat is exceptionally dry and lean, similar to American jerky. It is low in fat (about 4%) and high in protein (45% or greater).
What Are Garganica Goats Used For?
Garganica Goats Milk Production
They have a 3.71% protein content, with a low lactose percentage of 4.26%. This goat breed has a mean fat content of 3.6%.
They lactate for an average of 210 days, producing 117 to 162 kg of milk during this time. This is equal to 30 to 43 gallons of milk.
While Garganica goats are used for milk, they are more popular for cheese. Their cheese is mostly consumed in southern Italy alone and rarely outside the region.
In this area, it is often made in the style of Cacioricotta. They are also used to produce Caciocavallo cheese; we’ll share simplified recipes for each below.
How to Make Cacioricotta Cheese
- Garganica goat milk (sheep, cow, or goat milk are fine)
- Begin by collecting fresh sheep’s milk or the desired milk mixture. The milk should be of high quality and free from any contaminants.
- Pour the milk into a large stainless steel or copper pot and heat it gently over low to medium heat. Monitor the temperature, and gradually heat the milk to around 180-190°F (82-88°C).
- Once the milk reaches the desired temperature, add a small amount of rennet to coagulate the milk. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the appropriate amount. Stir gently, then allow the milk to rest undisturbed for about 20-30 minutes. During this time, curds will form.
- After the resting period, cut the curd into small pieces using a long knife or curd cutter. This process helps release the whey from the curd.
- Gently stir the curds while continuing to heat them. Gradually, the curds will separate from the whey. The whey should appear clear when the curds are ready.
- Carefully ladle the curds into cheese molds or a cheese-cloth-lined colander to drain excess whey. Allow the curds to drain for several hours or until they reach the desired consistency. Some makers may press the cheese lightly during this time to expel more whey and shape it.
- Sprinkle salt over the surface of the cheese, ensuring even distribution. The amount of salt can vary depending on personal taste, the milk used, and the goat’s diet, but light to moderate salting is typical.
- Cacioricotta cheese can be enjoyed fresh or aged for a short period (a few weeks). If you want to age it, place the cheese in a cool, well-ventilated area.
- Once the cheese has aged or set, it can be sliced, grated, or crumbled and used in various Italian dishes, such as pasta, salads, and bruschetta.
How to Make Caciocavallo Cheese
- Garganica goat milk (sheep, cow, or goat milk are fine)
- Cheese culture or whey from a previous cheese-making batch
- Start by collecting fresh milk from cows or a combination of cows and sheep. Ensure the milk is clean and free from contaminants.
- Pour the milk into a large stainless steel or copper pot and heat it gently over low to medium heat. Gradually raise the temperature to around 88-90°F (31-32°C).
- Add a cheese culture or a small amount of whey from a previous cheese-making batch to the milk. This helps kickstart the fermentation process. Stir well to distribute the culture evenly.
- Dissolve a small amount of rennet in water and add it to the milk, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Stir gently, then let the milk sit undisturbed for about 30-45 minutes to allow it to coagulate. During this time, curds will form.
- Use a long knife or curd cutter to cut the curd into small, uniform pieces. This helps release whey from the curd.
- Continue heating and gently stirring the curds. As the whey separates from the curd, it should appear clear. Gradually, the curds will become firmer.
- Carefully (while it is still hot) ladle the curds into cheese molds or a cheesecloth-lined colander to drain excess whey. Allow the curds to drain for several hours until they reach the desired consistency.
- Once drained, the curds can be shaped into traditional Caciocavallo forms. This usually involves twisting the curds into elongated shapes with a bulbous bottom and a thinner neck, resembling two “horse heads” or “cavallo” in Italian.
- Sprinkle salt over the surface of the cheese forms, ensuring even distribution. The amount of salt can vary based on your taste but is typically moderate.
- Caciocavallo cheese is aged for several months to develop its flavor. Place the cheese forms in a cool, well-ventilated area, and turn them regularly to promote even aging. Aging times can range from a few months to a year or more, depending on the desired flavor and texture.
- Once fully aged, Caciocavallo cheese can be sliced, grated, or melted and is often used in Italian dishes like pasta, and pizza, or enjoyed on its own.
Garganica Goats Meat Production
Since most Garganica goats weigh around 120 pounds, you can expect about 55 to 60 pounds of meat per mature adult.
Muscisca is a popular sun-dried meat from Garganica goats, intended to be eaten raw or cooked. Traditionally, it was eaten by shepherds during the transhumance season.
Transhumance is a seasonal form of pastoralism or nomadic movements when herders move their livestock for better grazing opportunities and to stand watch over the flock for protection.
Typically, they visit the mountains in the summer and the valleys in the winter.
Muscisca is ideal for this lifestyle because it’s high in protein and nutritional value. Plus, it stores easily, and it’s lightweight, so it’s easy to carry high volumes without being burdensome.
A half pound is about 2,000 calories, with 20 grams of fat, 25 grams of protein, and a measly 0.5 grams of carbs.
How to Make Muscisca Meat from Garganica Goats
- Lean cuts of goat meat (Gentile di Puglia sheep breed or Podolica veal are fine substitutions)
- Salt, to taste
- Fennel seeds, to taste
- Chili pepper, to taste
- Garlic, to taste
- Debone and transversely cut the rib of the goat into strips that are one inch wide and eight to twelve inches long.
- Season the strips with your seasonings to taste. Mix the seasonings and the meat in a bowl and then stir or shake the bowl (with a lid on) to coat the meat.
- Lay the strips on a food dehydrator rack and dehydrate until they are of jerky consistency.
- Alternatively, you can make this the traditional way (the irony in this statement is not lost on me). To do this, lay the meat in a secure area where it will get consistent sunshine and fair exposure to the breeze for fifteen to twenty days. This will turn the meat dark brown due to oxidization.
- The meat can be fried, added to stews, or eaten raw. It is a long-life product that will last at least three to twelve months or longer if vacuum-packed.
Garganica Goat Hide or Hair Production
Garganicas produce about 233 mm of guard hair. They are notably fine and soft, making them suitable for blending with other fibers or producing specialty textiles like luxurious shawls and scarves.
The leather produced from Garganica goat hides is known for its fine grain and soft texture, making it suitable for crafting high-quality leather goods such as gloves, bags, and small accessories.
Their leather products are valued for their strong durability and fine finish.
Garganica goat hair in textile production is a high niche market, but it can offer unique qualities to certain textiles, and it offers strong ties to the southern Italian region.
Garganica Goats Breed Population and Reproduction
There are fewer than 800 Garganica goats left with few to none of them living in the United States.
Garganicas have a 95% fertility rate and produce an average of 1.6 kids per birth (so 1-2 kids, with a slightly greater chance of having twins rather than a single baby).
How Long Are Garganica Goats Pregnant?
Garganicas typically have a 150-day gestation period, which is close to five months.
Average Garganica Goat Lifespan
There aren’t any specific studies or written records from Garganica keepers on the Garganica goat breed’s lifespan to accurately say how long these animals live.
However, goats that are well cared for can live into their late teens.
Garganica Goats Common Predators
The Gargano region of Italy is known for its unique ecological characteristics, including a distinct population of wolves.
These wolves are part of the broader Eurasian wolf population and are sometimes referred to as “Apennine wolves” due to their presence in the Apennine Mountains, of which the Gargano Peninsula is a part.
These mountains and their foothills are popular places for Garganica goats to graze during the summer months, which is why shepherds or goat herders are necessary.
The wolves in this area typically sustain themselves on deer, wild boar, small mammals, and the occasional livestock.
They were near-extinct for many years, but their numbers are making a comeback thanks to conservation efforts.
Wolves are still considered a species of conservation concern, so it is illegal for goat keepers to kill them without very good reason.
Marsican brown bears live in Trentino-Alto Adige and the eastern Alps of Italy and have a complex relationship with domestic goats.
Wolves are opportunistic omnivores and occasionally prey on domestic goats, particularly those kept in rural areas and on alpine pastures.
Farmers often take measures to protect their herds from bear attacks, such as using guardian animals, such as livestock guardian dogs, secure enclosures, and electric fencing.
Each of these measures is effective individually and highly effective collectively.
Brown bears, like wolves, are a protected species in Italy, and their population has been gradually increasing in recent years due to conservation efforts.
Conservationists work to raise awareness about coexistence strategies and promote tolerance for bears among local communities.
Though these bears can occasionally spell trouble for Garganica goats, they have an incredibly valuable role to play in ecosystems, and they even have several socio-economic benefits for the local businesses and communities.
Many people seem to forget it, but domestic dogs are natural predators, and that instinct does not always stay as dormant as we would like, especially regarding livestock.
Stray dogs, neighborhood dogs, and even our own pets can seriously injure or kill goats, which is why it’s so important to have secure fences and barns.
You can also add any other means of protection, such as electric netting, guardian dogs, cameras, or nearby people to watch and interfere as quickly as possible.
Countless news articles cover the hundreds of dog attacks, which is a great reminder to beef up security for our goats, however possible.
We have an in-depth piece, How to Keep Goats Safe From Predators at Night, which you may be interested in.
Are Garganica Goats the Largest Goat Breed?
Garganica goats are not the largest goat breed. They are a medium size, standing about 30 inches tall at the shoulder, and weighing about 120 pounds.
They are nearly 200 lighter than the largest goat breed, which is the Boer.
Boer goats are the largest breed, as they weigh up to 340 pounds. They are one of the most popular goat breeds in the United States.
They are friendly animals who make wonderful 4-H projects and can fill the freezer with delicious meat.
Garganica Goat Breed: Final Thoughts
While you are unlikely to see a beautiful Garganica goat in person unless you visit southern Italy, they are a wonderful breed that deserves our respect and conservation efforts.
There are fewer than 1,000 of them left, and we certainly hope that their population will make a comeback.
Garganicas have served their region with delicious meats, milk, cheeses, and luxurious fibers for many years, and they did it on difficult terrain with less-than-ideal grazing situations.
They have even proven to outperform well-known dairy goats, like the Saanen, in similar living conditions.
As a symbol of heritage and resilience, they remind us of the importance of preserving genetic diversity and cultural connections to the land.
The Garganica goat stands as a testament to the harmonious coexistence of traditional farming practices and the natural beauty of the Italian landscape.
Want to know more about other unique goat breeds? You might want to check the articles below!