Other common names: Red Skin Goat; Red Sokoto Goat
The Sokoto Red Goat has been described as 'The most famous African goat that no-one has heard of'. This is because the Sokoto Red Goat is the source of the famous fine 'Morocco Leather' that has been known in Europe from the 1300s onwards. However, it was sold to Europeans by Moroccan merchants who transported the fine leather across the Sahara from Mali in their slave caravans. It was only in the 19th century that Europeans discovered the true source of Moroccan leather, the Sokoto Red Goat.
Though the true origins of the Sokoto Red Goat are unknown, it is an ancient breed and because goats are not indigenous to West Africa it is believed that they are an early offshoot of the Sahelian Goat selected for their skins. It is also the only West African goat breed to have been selectively improved. Red coat colour in goats is prized in West Africa and in Nigeria, in 1929 there was a concerted effort to either cull or castrate non-red males, thus stabilizing the colour characteristics of the breed.
Despite having been specifically bred for its skin to make fine leather, all West African goats have to be generalists and they are also raised for meat and milk. They are typically raised in the states of the northern 2/3 of Nigeria. The Sokoto Red goat is classed as a 'medium-sized' goat. They are most well-known in the Sokoto province of Nigeria, hence the breed name. The economic importance of the Sokoto Red goat in Northern Nigeria has put this goat at the top of the breed pile and it is a commonly held belief that all other goats are descended from it (and therefore by implication are of lesser importance). And though this may be true of the Kano goat, it is not the case for any other breed.
Appearance / health:
In appearance the Sokoto Red Goat looks quite similar to Sahelian goats. They are quite thin, with a narrow body, shallow chest, and sloping short croup. The legs are typically long and spindly. The udder is 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 60-65 cm in the withers for females and 65-70cm in wither for males. It is the coats, however, that make them distinct. All are now red-coated and the skins have coarse, thinly-spaced outer hairs (which makes them easy to remove in tanning). The sweat glands and wax glands are very small for a goat and the layer of subcutaneous fat is very thin (almost absent). Indeed, when slaughtered in the driest months the fat layer is almost entirely absent and the hide weight is reduced by 55% compared with winter weight.
This is an extremely hardy breed, with good levels of hardiness (though they need shade during the hottest part of the day). 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 very uncommon.
Behavior / temperament:
Goats are curious, social and intelligent animals and the Sokoto Red Goat is especially so, as it tends to be managed more protectively than other West African breeds. They therefore interact with humans frequently during the day. This is a gentle breed that is easy to manage. Like all goats, the Sokoto Red Goat is very sure footed and will even climb trees (though this activity is discouraged). Like all goats they investigate their environment with their mouths, so if you approach them be ready to be chewed upon.
Housing / diet:
Sokoto Red Goats are deemed valuable and they are typically penned in or near to the village. They are never kept indoors, but where they graze is managed, typically by having a village child shepherd them, to protect the coats from being punctured. Because their sweat glands are smaller than other West African goat breeds they do need shade to prevent heat stroke during the hottest part of the day.
The Sokoto Red 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
Saheliantype goat, historic goat, characteristic ruddy colour
Sokoto Red Goat, West Africa's Leather Goat
This is a very specialized and historic goat that is found in the northern regions of Nigeria and across the Sahel to Mali. It is this goat that gives the fine leather known as 'Moroccan Leather'.
North African traders used to buy the tanned hides from Timbuktu before transporting across the Sahara to finish the leather before exporting. Moroccan leather has been exported to Europe since the 1300s. The Sokoto is a Sahelian-type goat that are thin and narrow in the body with shallow chests and long, spindly legs. They're medium-sized, growing about 60 to 70cm at the croup and are very light (even males hardly get above 40kg).
This is one of the first breeds developed from the ubiquitous Sahelian goat and they were selected specifically for their skins. Originally, a whole range of colours were seen, but red was more valued and from the 1930s there has been a concerted effort to stabilize the red coat colour (this gives the characteristic ruddy colour of Moroccan leather).
The goat is extremely hardy and gains fat as a storage medium in the wet season. When the dry season comes the fat is burned off, as both a source of water and energy. Typically they're reared by nomadic or semi-nomadic tribes in the arid regions of West Africa where they are kept as a cash crop adjunct to the main flock.
Their coats are sparse and the hairs are thinly spaced, which makes them excellent for tanning. Oddly enough, for such a valuable commodity they are typically raised in the harshest of environments with the least vegetation and traditionally are herded from water hole to water hole. This minimizes the chances of the goat coming into contact with thorn bushes which would puncture and devalue the hides.
Like all goats of Sahelian descent they tend to have lop ears and are very, very tame. It's usually the task of the village children to care for them. This is a very still breed that is often difficult to get moving and sometimes they have to be physically pushed to get them moving. They are very good with people and other animals. I have even seen village children leaning on them so that they can be half-carried during a trek.
Their heat tolerance is extreme, but they do not like wet or cold weather. They are not trypanotolerant and are not suitable to the wetter rainforest areas of West Africa. This is very much a single-use breed of goat, the carcasses being too lean and small to be useful for meat. They can be milked, but to conserve water they do not typically produce more milk than their kid requires..
From DLlE Sep 27 2012 8:41AM