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Rare Goat Breeds You Should Meet

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Goats are a versatile and hardy livestock species that have been raised for centuries for their meat, milk, and fiber.

While there are many breeds of goats, some are considered rare or endangered.

They have small populations and limited geographic distributions.

In this article, we will explore some of the rare goat breeds and their unique characteristics.


5 Rare Goat Breeds

San Clemente Island Goat rare goat breeds

San Clemente Island Goat

The San Clemente Island goat is a small breed found only on San Clemente Island off the coast of California.

It’s about 68 miles west of San Diego, near southern California.

The goats were believed to be introduced to the island by Spanish explorers in the 16th century.

Historians believe they dropped these goats off, hoping they would reproduce on their own.

The explorers then could periodically drop in and harvest the goats for meat as needed.

The US Navy began eradicating goats in 1991 after a study revealed that 15,000 to 18,000 goats lived on the 57-square-mile island.

6,000 were moved to the mainland, while the rest were killed to preserve the natural ecosystem of San Clemente Island.

Critically Endangered Breed

Today, the breed is considered critically endangered, with less than 250 to 300 individuals remaining.

The Livestock Conservancy has these fellows listed as “Critical” as of May 2023.

San Clemente Island goats are known for their hardiness and adaptability to the island’s harsh environment.

They are small and agile, with short hair that helps them regulate their body temperature in hot weather very well.

Dams give birth quickly, easily, and without assistance from people.

They are also resistant to parasites and diseases, making them a popular choice for sustainable grazing management.

If you need a good reason to take on a rare goat breed, consider this.

The bucks do not produce that foul scent gland odor that almost every other breed of buck does.

That means you can keep a buck on your property without him stinking up your place!

Most San Clemente goats weigh between 35 to 135 pounds, quite a wide range for a breed.

However, they are good milk, meat, and occasionally Cashmere producers, so you can take your pick on how large or small you want the creatures in your herd to be.

Their versatility and self-sufficiency have me rooting for them in hopes that their numbers will bounce back.

ALSO READ: 11 Best Cashmere Goat Breeds


Fainting Goats

Myotonic Goat / Tennessee Fainting Goat

The Myotonic goat, also known as the Tennessee Fainting goat or Fainting Goat, is a unique breed that is native to the United States.

They are called fainting goats because when they are startled, their muscles tense up, and they fall over.

This condition, known as myotonia, is harmless and does not affect the goat’s health or well-being.

That is, until a predator is involved.

Many goat-keepers add these goats to their flock as predator protection.

It may seem grim, but these fainting goats give the more valuable goats in the herd the opportunity to escape predators.

It’s the goat equivalent of tripping your slower friend when a bear is chasing you.

As you can imagine, this practice divides the goat-keeping crowd from a moral standpoint.

Myotonic goats are medium-sized and have a muscular build.

They range from 60 to 175 lbs.

Virginia State University found that these goats have a meat-to-bone ratio of 4:1.

For reference, most goats have a 3:1 ratio.

The meat has great flavor too!

This is likely due to the myotonic muscles that are frequently worked, which makes the meat surprisingly tender and flavorful.

They are known for their gentle nature and make great pets or companions.

They also produce high-quality meat and milk.

Most have horns, while some are polled.

Different breeding programs have different goals in mind when it comes to their natural horns.

Most have short coats, but a few varieties, mostly those in the north, have longer or shaggier coats.

A notable few even produce good-quality cashmere.

Recovering Breed

We estimate there are only 10,000 fainting goats left in the world.

The Livestock Conservancy has them listed as “Recovering” as of May 2023.

Recovering breeds have surpassed the “Watch” list and seem to be recovering; there must be at least 2,500 annual registrations in the United States.


spanish goat - rare goat breeds

Spanish Goats

Spanish travelers imported these goats from Spain into the Caribbean Islands in the 1500s.

From there, they were introduced to South, Central, and North America.

They were the only known goat breed in the southern region of the United States well into the 1800s.

Spanish Goats originated from the Mediterranean goats, which no longer exist.

Only their American offspring have survived today.

The number of purebreds is much lower

They were (and still sometimes are) crossed with Boer goats for meat production and Angora goats for cashmere and fiber production.

It appears that these goats have thrived in the southern states.

They are popular in Texas, but the southeastern States tend to produce goats that more closely resemble the original Spanish goats that once lived in Spain.

This is likely due to the heat and humidity.

These goats are versatile and a great source of meat, milk, hides, and occasionally cashmere.

Spanish Goats weigh 60 to 125 pounds.

They almost always have large, long, twisted horns. Their ears are long and horizontal too.

You can also find them in every color.

Watch List Breed

The Livestock Conservancy estimates that there may be as many as 8,000 Spanish goats left in the US.

However, they are on the “Watch List,” meaning there are fewer than 2,500 annual registrations of this breed in the United States.


Arapawa rare goat breed

Arapawa Goats

The Arapawa goat is similar to the San Clemente Island Goat in regards to how it survived.

This breed, too, was dropped off on an island called Arapawa, at the top of the South Island of New Zealand, by European colonists in the 1600s.

We initially thought this was an English breed.

However, recent DNA testing shows that this breed has strong ties back to South Africa.

Most likely, these goats were purchased around the Cape of Good Hope via ship and then transported to New Zealand and Africa.

Arapawa goats roamed Arapawa Island with little human intervention until the 1970s.

It was then that the New Zealand Forest Service deemed them too damaging to the native forest and began the process of removing them.

Betty and Walt Rowe lived in Arapawa Island, too, and started a sanctuary for these goats in 1987.

They started with 40 wild goats and worked to gain global recognition for the breed.

Thanks to their efforts, this breed has survived, but the numbers are low.

Critical Breed

Arapawa goats are listed as Critical by the Livestock Conservancy as of May 2023.

There are fewer than 200 annual registrations in the United States.

Back in 2011, The Livestock Conservancy estimated there were only 150 to 200 domesticated Arapawa goats in the US in total.

Arapawas are ideal for goat beginners as they are hardy, good mothers, self-sufficient, and stand up to parasites very well.

As you can imagine, with their South African and then New Zealand origins, they are much better suited for hot and humid climates rather than frigid or arid areas.

At 60 to 125 lbs., they are primarily raised for meat, though some are used as dairy animals.

They have long hair, but mohair is an uncommon use for raising them.

And beware; they can be flighty if unhandled.

But with proper human socialization, they are alert, docile goats that are well-suited for domestication.


oberhasli goat

Oberhasli Goats

These slender dairy goats are sometimes referred to as the Oberhasli Brienzer, especially in Europe.

The breed was developed in the mountains of Switzerland and then imported to the United States sometime in the early 1900s.

Their most notable start in the United States can be traced back to H.O. Pence, who imported four does and a buck in 1936.

Three of his does were bred to other purebred bucks prior to the import, giving him a decent-sized herd to start his purebred operation.

Most Oberhaslis in America can be traced back to this herd.

This breed is absolutely beautiful; I love the chamois coloring that they all exhibit.

All bucks must be this light to tan to burnt-reddish black shade to be accepted, though it is okay for does (but not bucks) to be solid black.

Oberhaslis are dairy-producing powerhouses.

They can produce around 2,000 pounds of milk over 265 days a year!

But did you know that the record is a staggering 4,665 pounds of milk in a 365-day period?

It’s true!

No wonder they stand well for milking and are very docile and calm around their humans.

And their milk tastes similar to a cow’s, too!

Though they are best known for their milk production, wethers are great candidates for pack animals.

Their gentle disposition and trust in humans mean they can traverse difficult terrain, even water crossings, better than most other pack goat breeds.

At one hundred to one hundred and twenty-five pounds each, most wethers can easily carry thirty to thirty-seven-pound trail packs.

Recovering Breed

The Livestock Conservancy has them listed as Recovering, so there are at least 2,500 annual registrations of Oberhaslis in the United States.


How to Help Rare Goat Breeds Recover

Create Awareness 

The fastest way to help repopulate these breeds is to build awareness.

Of course, raising these animals yourself is beneficial to the breeds.

But getting even more responsible breeders involved can have a big effect very quickly.

Educating farmers, breeders, and the general public about the unique characteristics and benefits of rare goat breeds can generate support and interest in their conservation.

And it goes deeper than that.

Talking about how wonderful they are at their jobs—as meat, dairy, mohair, pets, or pack animals—is an even more effective way to gain traction.

Even if you can’t raise goats on your own, you can support breeders in other ways by purchasing their products.

It encourages the breeders to keep up the good work.

Also, it can give you more opportunities to talk about these wonderful breeds and their contributions to society.

Encouraging breeders to maintain and expand their herds of rare goats through incentives and grants can also contribute to their recovery.

Collaboration between breeders, researchers, and agricultural organizations is essential in developing breeding programs that prioritize genetic diversity and promote sustainable breeding practices.

Lastly, promoting the consumption and marketing of products derived from rare goat breeds, such as specialty cheeses or fiber, can create economic incentives for breeders, fostering the growth and viability of these breeds.

By implementing these strategies, we can contribute to the recovery and preservation of rare goat breeds, ensuring their long-term survival, genetic history, and the maintenance of agricultural biodiversity.

Pick a Breed to Raise

Raising a goat

If you’re able to get hands-on and start breeding these rarer breeds on your own, that’s also a great leg up for them.

Be sure to find a breed from this list that is a good fit for your climate and purpose, research the breed standards, and track down a breeding pair (or a bred doe, at least).

Then, start your work with growing, preserving, and improving the breed.

As you grow your herd or start distributing these goat breeds into your community, be sure to continue raising awareness and speak up about why these goats are worthy of breed preservation.

Document your work, and share it with others.

Get Help From the Livestock Conservancy 

The Livestock Conservancy offers Microgrants every year, ranging from $500 to $2,000.

Applications are reopening at the end of May through August.

They’re judged in September and October, and then the winners are notified in November and December.

The winners are later publicly announced the following year in January.

You can download your application here.

Be sure to print it out and physically mail it to the Livestock Conservancy by August 19th.

How to Qualify For the Livestock Conservancy Microgrants

  • Living in the United States
  • Work experience with the livestock or poultry breeds that are listed on the Conservation Priority list. Each breed listed above is part of that list as of May 2023.
  • Must use this support from the grant to continue your farm operation, specifically pertaining to these rare breeds. Livestock, poultry, related tools, equipment, fencing, marketing, processing, production, agritourism, wood milling, and promotions are all valid uses of this money.
  • Clearly outline how the funds will be used. This should include a definitive timeline and a summary of how the grant will benefit the breed. You should also include two letters of recommendation from a professional relationship or educator.
  • If you win, you must submit a written report on the use and impact of the funds within one year of accepting the awarded money.

Youths age 8 to 18 are eligible for the Youth Microgrant.

It is similar to the National Microgrant but intended just for the youth.

Breed Association microgrants are also available.

These are designed to help US-based clubs and associations for these rare breeds to grow.

These organizations must have existed for three years prior to applying and must meet their state requirements for being a valid business.

Sole Proprietors and Partnerships are not eligible; the business or organization must be incorporated.

You can find the full Microgrant Program by the Livestock Conservancy here.

FAQs about Rare Goat Breeds

What makes a goat breed rare?

A goat breed is considered rare when there are fewer than 10,000 animals registered in the United States.

Some breeds are rare because they are not well-known or have limited geographic distribution.

Others may be rare due to a lack of demand or because they are not well-suited to commercial production.

Are rare goat breeds harder to care for than common breeds?


Rare goat breeds are not necessarily harder to care for than common breeds.

However, some rare breeds may have specific care requirements or be more susceptible to certain health issues.

It is important to research the specific needs of any breed before deciding to raise them.

What are some benefits of raising rare goat breeds?

For one, raising rare goat breeds can help preserve the animal’s genetic diversity.

You’ll also help promote sustainable agriculture and produce unique products such as specialty cheeses or fibers.

Rare breeds may also have desirable traits such as hardiness, disease resistance, or adaptability to specific environments.

How do I find rare goat breeds for sale?

To find rare goat breeds for sale, you can search online classifieds, attend livestock auctions or shows, or contact breed associations.

It is important, however, to research the seller and the breed before making a purchase to ensure that you are getting a healthy and genetically diverse animal.

Are rare goat breeds more expensive than common breeds?

Rare goat breeds may be more expensive than common breeds due to their limited availability and specialized traits.

However, the cost will vary depending on the breed, the seller, and the demand for the animal.

It is important to consider the long-term costs of raising any breed, including feed, housing, and veterinary care.

Rare Goat Breeds—Take Your Pick!

Rare goat breeds are important to preserve for genetic diversity and sustainability in agriculture.

As goat enthusiasts, we can help preserve these breeds by supporting breed associations, purchasing rare breed animals, and promoting their unique traits and products.

It is important to research the care requirements of each breed and provide them with a healthy and safe environment.

By working together, we can help ensure that rare goat breeds continue to thrive for generations to come.

So there you go!

If you’re interested in learning more about different goat breeds, check out our articles below!

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