With their beautiful white coat and majestic spiral horns, Girgentana goats surely have what it takes to turn every goat lover’s head.
Don’t confuse them with the Markhor goats because the twist of their horn is opposite to that of the Markhors’.
So where do Girgentana goats come from, and are they suitable for you?
In this comprehensive guide to Girgentanas, we’ll share with you the following:
- Origin and history
- Uses and temperament
- Hardiness of Girgentana goats
This is a rare breed with limited numbers. But if you’re lucky enough to find one in your area or abroad, we got some tips for you as well so how you can raise your Girgentana successfully.
But before that, here’s a quick overview of this breed and what it can offer.
Overview of the Girgentana Goat’s Characteristics
|Does: 80 cm
|Bucks: 85 cm
|Does: 46 kg
|Bucks: 65 kg
|Lively, intelligent, fairly Docile
|Primarily white with some brown speckles around their head and throat and sometimes on the withers.
What is Girgentana Goat?
Girgentana from the Bovidae family, with a scientific name of Capra Aegagrus Hircus, is a domestic goat native to Agrigento, a province in the Mediterranean island of Sicily, Italy.
Girgentana is derived from the term Girgenti, the former Sicilian name for Agrigento.
Though they’re not as popular as other goat breeds, they can easily capture the hearts of goat keepers due to their remarkable appearance.
But you may be wondering what’s so unique about these goats that makes them extraordinary and worth adding to your herd.
Well, let’s dive deeper to learn more about this rare goat breed.
Girgentana Goat Breed’s Physical Characteristics
Girgentana Goats are medium size breed with mostly white coats and some speckles around their head, neck, and withers. But sometimes their face is yellowish and grey.
The bucks can grow as tall as 85 cm, while does have an average height of 80 cm. In terms of weight, bucks can weigh up to 65 kilograms, while does is around 46 kilograms.
The most interesting feature of this Bovidae animal is its spiral horns pointing upward on both does and bucks.
The female Girgentana goats’ intricately woven horns reach 70 cm in length. Males’ horns are just as beautiful, although they’re more twisted and sometimes shorter than the females’.
They also have erect ears, which makes them alert in their surroundings. Both the does and buck have long, silky hair, but their long beard sets the buck apart from the does.
Uses of Girgentana Goats
Goats are one of the most profitable livestock. They not only give off milk but also produce savory meat.
In the case of Girgentana goats, they’re mainly used in milk production. A doe Girgentana can produce milk of about 450 liters per year, although lactation can vary from 1.1–9.9 lb, averaging at 3lb.
Despite not being a large dairy goat breed, they still have potential in sustainable farming and producing dairy products like cheese.
Their milk’s fat and protein content averages 4.3% and 3.7%, respectively. It’s not the creamiest, yet the cheese from Girgentana goat milk forms the firmest curd.
Girgentana Goats’ Temperament
These goats are intelligent, active, resilient, and fairly docile breeds. They are hardy and can adapt well to any environment. They don’t mind sharing spaces with other livestock like cattle.
This breed is also lively and companionable. They can be used as ornaments or pets.
However, like any other goat, the males become extra aggressive during the breeding season and fight for dominance and females.
RELATED: Keeping Goats As Pets
Are Girgentana Goats Hardy?
Sicily also has four seasons, summer, winter, autumn, and fall. However, the winter is mild, and the summer can be so dry that it sometimes rises to 35 to 40 degrees Celsius.
How could a Girgentana goat survive in such an environment?
It is because they are naturally hardy. They can tolerate extremely high temperatures, barren landscapes, and dry conditions.
This resilient breed can forage even on difficult terrains.
However, Girgentana goats’ long, spiral horns can be a disadvantage when foraging in wooded areas because they might get entangled with brushes, branches, or fences.
Girgentana Goat’s Origin and History
Girgentana goats can be found in Agrigento, a southern region of Sicily in Italy, but their origin is still a mystery yet to unfold.
Zoologists believe their ancestor could be Markhor from Central Asia because they share a unique characteristic: the spiral horn.
However, the Markhor’s horn twists opposite that of the Girgentana and other domestic goats with twisted horns, such as ibex and tur.
So, there’s a chance that the twisted horns’ origin is a product of gradual selection within some Asian herds or, based on herder’s preferences or beliefs, that twisted spiral horns provide some benefits.
This leads us to the possibility that the Asian origin was brought by Greek colonists to the island at around 750 BCE or Arabs in 827 CE.
Girgentana goats enjoyed glorious days in the 1920-30s when urban herders brought their goat door to door and to market to provide fresh milk directly from the teat to the villagers.
Girgentana milk has a mild flavor, primarily given to infants and elderly people.
But this tradition was abolished by new laws in the thirties that prohibited urban goat farming due to sanitary reasons.
As a result, goat-keeping’s image turned negative, and it was pushed out from urban areas to hills and coastlines.
But things changed in the nineties when the imported goats brought new diseases and failed to produce more cheese than the hardier local breeds like Girgentana.
Since then, farmers have been interested in establishing sustainable systems of top-quality dairy products from heritage breeds.
Girgentana goats were proven to be prolific dairy producers but faced competition from other popular breeds with similar productivity performance.
However, by marketing the breed’s products under the Slow Food Presidium label, farmers managed to preserve this beautiful breed and valorize their products.
Girgentana Goats’ Conservation Status
The herdbook for this breed was set up in 1976. And there were more than 30,000 Girgentana goats in the province’s highlands and coastline zone in 1983. However, they’re extremely rare these days.
According to reports, ten years later, the population dropped to a total of 524 Girgentana goats at the end of 1993, and they’ve been declining since.
At the end of 2001, the number decreased to 252 due to inbreeding.
The University of Palermo created a 12-year experiment program in 1990. The goal is to revive the breed, counter inbreeding, and prevent the loss of essential trait variants.
But still, in 2007, the FAO declared it an endangered species.
But thankfully, the population rose to 1,316 in 2004 and 1,546 in 2019, comprising 95 breeding males within 19 herds of around 80 goats each.
Furthermore, there was a small population conserved in Germany.
Studies about the Girgentana goat’s genetic structure were conducted to help save the goat from extinction, but they’re still critically endangered until now.
Girgentana Goats’ Breeding and Reproduction
The Girgentana does reach sexual maturity at 5 to 10 months old and enters puberty when they’re 6 to 12 months.
On the other end, the bucks mature a little earlier, at around 3 to 15 months old, and enter puberty on their 4th to 9th month.
When the does turn 18 months old, they become ready for breeding, while bucks’ average breeding age is 1 year old.
These goats generally have one breeding cycle, but healthy and active bucks can mate with 20 to 30 does in a season.
The female Girgentana’s gestation period usually lasts around 150 to 155 days, and they can give birth to 1 to 3 kids per kidding.
They are not hard to milk because they have well-placed udders, and their lactation period lasts 258 days but sometimes longer.
Girgentana Goats’ Predators
Like other goat breeds, the common predators of Girgentana goats are coyotes and dogs, but younger kids can fall victim to foxes, vultures, bobcats, and raccoons.
These herd animals tend to “bunch” as a defense mechanism to protect themselves. But they become a lot weaker when free-ranging individually.
But you can protect your goats by putting up a fence higher than 4 ft to keep the predators out and protect your goats.
Luckily, because of their near extinction, breeders carefully watch and guard them to preserve the breed. It might also be the reason why Girgentana goats are not used in meat production.
How to Care for Girgentana Goats
Since Girgentana is a very endangered species, they’re not readily available to buy here in the United States.
But if you manage to find and purchase some Girgentana goats, here are things you must prepare to help them grow and thrive.
Provide Enough Grazing Areas, Food, and Water
Every goat needs these essential things to grow healthy and reproduce.
Despite being good browsers, these creatures need feed to supplement their diet and grow healthier.
You can give them commercial goat feed, but you can also opt for hay, alfalfa, and some grains.
However, you must ensure they won’t overeat grains because that is a perfect recipe for goat bloating.
Although hardy, water is still essential to keep them hydrated, especially in extreme heat. So make sure they have access to clean, fresh water in their pen and foraging area.
Put Up a Strong Fence
As we said earlier, a fence is crucial, especially if wild animals roam in your area. It will protect your goats from predators like foxes and coyotes.
It can also help keep your goats in your area and prevent them from damaging your neighbor’s gardens and properties.
The minimum fence height for goats is 4 feet. But if you want to ensure your goats can’t escape, we recommend increasing the height and using reliable materials like electric fences.
You must also ensure there are no holes in your fence or ground where your goats can sneak out. Remember that goats are excellent escape artists, and Girgentanas are no exception.
However, since they have long, spiral horns, look out for them occasionally because they might get trapped in your fence while trying to escape.
Prepare a Well Built Shelter
Girgentana goats are hardy but still need a well-built enclosure that protects them from rain and extreme cold during winter.
Why? Because goats are afraid of rain and prone to pneumonia when they get cold.
It doesn’t have to be elaborate because a simple three-sided structure with good ventilation and a roof is enough to get them through bad weather.
But the size of your shelter should be ample for the number of Girgentana goats you want to raise. If you plan to reproduce them commercially, the bigger the goat pen, the better.
Set up a Milking Station
Because Girgentana goats are mainly used for milk production, it’s best to set up a milking station to collect their milk easily.
Having one is unnecessary if you’re not raising them for milk purposes or they’re still kids. But when they become mature and start reproducing, you should prepare a station for them.
Have Reputable Vet
Breeds like Boer goats are resistant to parasites and some diseases, but other breeds like Girgentana can fall victim to different health problems.
We can’t tell if unwanted troubles are about to come, so it would be better to consult a trusted vet and get your Girgentana regularly checked by them.
Pros and Cons of Girgentana Goats
To summarize the advantages and disadvantages of raising Girgentana goats, you can refer to these pros and cons:
- Good milk producer with firm curds
- Intelligent, resilient, and fairly docile
- Can adapt well to the environment
- Hardy, especially in hot weather
- Unique, spiral horns
- It’s a rare breed, so they’re hard to find
- The bucks can be aggressive in the breeding season
- Sometimes shows laziness
Girgentana Goats: Final Thoughts
Girgentana goats may not be the best dairy breed. But their unique and majestic beauty, dairy value, and hardiness make them a sustainable dairy goat breed option.
However, they’re critically endangered and rare, so they tend to be expensive and challenging to find and purchase.
If you fancy collecting unique breeds with good dairy production performance and active yet fairly docile temperament, they’re suitable for you.
But if you prefer highly productive dairy breeds, check out Saanen, a prolific milk producer from Switzerland.