Sahelian Goat

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Other common names: Sahel Goat; Sahélienne; Cheèvre bariolée; Fulani; Sahel; Gorane;West African Longlegged; Niafounké; Nioro

The basics:
The Sahelian Goat is a member of the Savanna group of goats. They appear to have first been domesticated in the Sahel (Saharan margin) region of Africa some 8,000 years ago, when the region was fertile. The Sahelian Goat may be one of the first domesticated varieties of goats, and may have been domesticated independently of the goats of the Middle East. Today, Sahel Goats can be found all the way from Senegal and Mali down to Nigeria and Niger. They are probably the most common goat type in West Africa, and all other West African breeds (such as the Sokoto and the Nigerian Dwarf) are ultimately derived from them.

It is often said that the Sahelian Goat looks more like a sheep, and they are traditionally kept in mixed flocks with sheep. Primarily they are raised for meat and skin and are only rarely milked (Nigeria being the exception, where all goats are milked). There is considerable variation in the morphology of the Sahel Goat across West Africa, with the Nigerian breed being noted for being short-legged. This is a truly important breed because it is the parent for all other West African goats. The Sahelian Goat is also a genetic resource that has almost completely been ignored.

First kidding occurs usually about 18 months, bearing mostly (70%) one or two kids, with lactation persisting to 5-6 months. Dressing percentage (males and castrates) at 25-30kg liveweight 46-48%.

Appearance / health:
In appearance the Sahelian Goat can look quite thin, with a narrow body and a shallow chest. The legs are typically long and spindly (but can be short, as in Nigeria). The udder split into two halves and both sexes are horned. Most have wattles and they can have either pendent or semi-pendulous ears. Average heights are about 65-75 cm in the withers for females and 65-85cm in wither for males. The hair is short and stiff with a variety of colours that vary from pure white, cream, red, black or grey. They can be sprinkled or pied.

This is an extremely hardy breed, with high heat tolerance. It is also known to be a very healthy breed and its diverse gene pool means that congenital diseases are almost unknown. The semi-arid nature of its typical habitat also means that infectious diseases are also very uncommon.

Behavior / temperament:
Goats are curious, social and intelligent animals. The Sahelian Goat tends to be a little more skittish than other goats (indeed, it behaves a little more like sheep, which it resembles). However, when kept in close proximity to humans they are calm and gentle animals. Like all goats, the Sahelian Goat is very sure footed and will even climb trees. They will quite often clamber into the branches of a Baobab or an Acacia tree to brows on the succulent leaves. Like all goats they investigate their environment with their mouths, so if you approach them be ready to be chewed upon.

Housing / diet:
Sahelian Goats are never kept indoors, but they are often herded or allowed to come into pens over night for protection against predators. As they are typically grazed in semi-arid land the goats need considerably more land to graze than other goats. But when reared on the verges of rainforest ('bush' as it is called locally) large flocks only need the village verges to subsist on.
The Sahelian Goat is a non-discerning grazer and can subsist on rough grass, shrubs and trees. Sometimes their feed is supplemented with elephant grass and maize, but typically they are allowed to graze and browse as they will. Their requirement for water is lower than for just about any other breed of goat, but they still need access to clean water at least once a day (more if they are being milked).

Written by Dyfed Lloyd Evans

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