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Pyrenean Goat

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The basics:
Traditionally native to the Pyrenees Mountains from which is takes its name, the Pyrenean Goat is a medium to large breed traditionally raised for milk and meat-kid production. It is believed to descend from some of the first goats kept in Mesopotamia more than 7000 years ago, making it one of the oldest heritage breeds.

Hardy and capable of surviving almost entirely on forage, the breed was traditionally quite popular among farmers and rural homesteaders, but due to lower productivity than many of their Swiss cousins the Pyrenean goat fell out of style and declined sharply throughout the 20th century. After falling to near-extinction levels by the mid-1990s, several local groups made conservation of this breed a high priority and numbers have since climbed from ~400 head to just over 3000 head by 2010. Meat kids are generally sold in spring for Easter, while milk may be sold fresh or mixed with cow milk to make a variety of cheeses.

Appearance / health:
Since a concrete breed standard wasn’t really established for the Pyrenean breed until fairly recently, the characteristics of individual goats can vary widely. Colors vary, but Pyrenean goats are typically dark brown or black with pale bellies and legs. They may also be white, gray, yellow or a mix of colors thereof; white spotting on otherwise solid-colored animals is also a fairly common trait.

From the Association to Safeguard the Race, Pyrenean goats should be tall, with strong bones, medium length or long hair, a strong head, beards for both sexes, and heavy, slightly floppy ears. Breeders should avoid thin legs, weak limbs, small ears and black stripes on the back.

Goats are sensitive animals that can suffer from various infectious and chronic diseases that are sometimes undetected until too late. Vaccinations, as well as de-worming and de-lousing applications must be conducted as needed. Milking goats should be checked regularly using prescribed mastitis tests for udder health. Milking areas should always be clean and the goat’s teats treated with teat dip after milking to prevent mastitis.

Goats must be inspected frequently to detect any signs of poor health, infections, or other ailments. Signs include cloudy or teary eyes, dull or fluffed up coat, droopy tail, hunched back, or poor appetite. A veterinarian should always be on call to address health concerns.

Behavior / temperament:
Goats are inherently curious, active, intelligent, and social. They are known to have the ability to overcome enclosures by unraveling the gate, climbing over the mesh, or pushing and ramming the fence down. Goats have good coordination and balance and can manage to climb low trees, ledges, and overhangs. Their curiosity leads them to constantly investigate items with their mouths; most items get chewed and swallowed. With a little patience, goats can be taught to carry or pull loads, respond to calls, and lead a herd. As social animals, they easily get along with other farm animals.

Housing / diet:
As herd animals, goats are best kept in pairs or groups. As grazers, they require an outdoor habitat that is securely fenced to prevent escape or foraging in restricted areas. The area should be large enough to allow the goat to roam. The recommended habitat per goat is 200 sq. ft. of yard or pasture plus a sheltered or indoor area of about 15 sq. ft. The sheltered area should be adequately built to keep the goats safe from rain and strong winds.

The ideal food for domesticated goats is alfalfa hay and grass hay. This should be available daily in quantities of at least 3% of the goat’s body weight. Small quantities of feed grain and concentrates (often protein-enriched) like goat show or goat grain can also be given to add nutrition. Supplements are often used to address deficiencies inherent to local habitats.

Clean water is essential to a goat’s daily diet. It should always be available and provided where it cannot be soiled. Dirty and moldy water is hazardous to the goat’s health. Milking goats should be kept away from aromatic or strong-tasting foliage like garlic, onions, mint, and cabbage, which could taint the flavor of the milk.