14 Common Goat Breeds In America

goats in a pasture

Goats are becoming more popular in America for people looking to raise fun, smaller sized livestock that will comfortably fit in a backyard.

It’s no wonder goat numbers are on the rise! What are the common breeds that aspiring goat owners can choose from?

There are 14 common goat breeds in America: Alpine, LaMancha, Nubian, Oberhasli, Saanen, Sable, Toggenburg, Nigerian Dwarf, Boer, Myotonic (2 types), Angora, Crossbred and Pygmy. 

We live in Ohio and goats are very popular here. Many homeowners who are looking to do a little homesteading in the backyard have included goats in their lives.

Goats are also selling very well at the livestock auctions, from bottle babies up to breeding animals.

What’s The Current Selling Price For Goats? will show you how to find and read a market report to know the selling prices for goats in your area.

Goats come in three main types: dairy, meat and fiber.

All of these goats can be raised on smaller sized land areas and all will provide meat and milk, it’s just a matter of the main purpose you want the goat to fulfill.

As always when looking to purchase livestock, you get what you pay for.

High quality animals will be more efficient to raise and will perform to a higher standard than a poor quality “bargain” animal.

BreedPrimarily Raised For
CrossbredVariety of uses based on specific cross
(very different genetics than the pet type)
(very different from the meat type)
Nigerian DwarfMilking, also popular as pets
PygmyPets, actually a meat goat

There are 8 Common Dairy Goat Breeds

  • Alpine
  • LaMancha
  • Nubian
  • Oberhasli
  • Saanen
  • Sable
  • Toggenburg
  • Nigerian Dwarf
An overview of what you are looking for in a dairy goat. This is a great explanation of what you are looking for in a dairy goat, specifically a milking doe, of any breed!

Alpine goats are popular with small farmers

The Alpine dairy goat is originally from the Alps, first coming to the U.S. in 1920. Alpine goats have upright ears and a dished face.

Bucks weigh 180 pounds and does weigh 135 pounds.

These goats come in many colors, generally with dark markings and a light head and neck or a black stripe down the back.

Milk production for Alpines averages 1,500-1,600 pounds per year.

Milk is always listed in pounds for dairy goats (and dairy cows). There are 8 pounds per gallon of milk and a lactation (milking) period of 305 days.

To get the milk per day average: 1,600 pounds of milk divided by 8 pounds per gallon=200 gallons divided by 305 days milking =.66 gallons of milk per day.

In reality, milk production will increase up to be the highest amount two months after birth and begin to taper off from there.

Getting Started With Dairy Goats is an easy to read article from the American Dairy Goat Association. Look around the site, of course they handle registrations, but they also have tons of informational articles, as well.

LaMancha goats are an American breed

A LaMancha dairy goat, notice the really small ears
A beautiful LaMancha doe, easily identified by her short ears.

The LaMancha is an American breed of dairy goat started in the 1930’s by Eula F. Frey of Oregon. We had a few of these gals. The first thing you notice is no ears!

LaManchas can hear just fine, they just do not have the outer ear we are used to seeing on most animals.

As the saying goes “you don’t milk the ears” so no ears, no problem. LaMancha goats are known for being very docile.

Ours were certainly friendly.

LaManchas can come in any color and are known for having a high butterfat percentage milk.

Nubian goats are the most popular breed

The Nubian goat is the most popular breed of dairy goat in the U.S.

Nubians are easy to recognize because of their long floppy ears and roman nose. These goats are normally polled and come in a huge variety of colors, I always like the ones with spots the best.

Nubians first came to the U.S. in 1909, imported to Lakeside, California.

Nubian bucks weigh 180 pounds and does weigh 135 pounds.

These goats are know for having a higher percent of butterfat in the milk than other breeds of goats, meaning the milk is richer.

Nubians average milk production is 1,300-1,500 pounds per year.

Oberhasli are a beautiful red bay with black

The Oberhasli, formerly called Swiss Alpine, are a dairy goat developed in Bern, Switzerland.

Oberhasli goats are a beautiful color-a red bay body with black face stripes, ears, back, belly, udder and black legs below the knees and hocks (the bend in the rear legs).

Saanen are the highest milk producers

The Saanen is the second most popular dairy goat breed in the U.S. They are originally from the Saan Valley in Switzerland and came to the U.S. in 1904.

Worldwide, Saanens are the most popular dairy goat, surely do to them being the highest in milk production of any goat breed.

Saanens are also easy to recognize since they are a bigger goat that is always solid white or solid cream colored and have an attractive dished face. Both the bucks and the does have a beard and are normally polled.

Bucks weigh 185 pounds or more and does weigh 135 pounds or more.

Average milk production for Saanens is 1,800-2,000 pounds per year.

Sable goats are colored Saanens

The Sable breed are the purebred colored Saanens that split off of the Saanen breed in the 1980’s.

Prior to this split, darker colored Saanens were not registerable and considered undesirable as breeding stock.

However, some breeders recognized that the color does not determine dairy suitability and formed their own association.

Sables are not cross bred goats, they are just goats that happened to be born with a recessive gene from both parents giving them a color other than white or cream.

Toggenburg are the oldest breed

Toggenburg does, these are a wonderful dairy goat breed
A pair of Toggenburg does, relaxing in their pen.

The Toggenburg is the oldest registered breed of any animal in the world.

The first Toggenburgs were listed in the herd book in Switzerland in the 1600’s! These goats have been popular in the U.S. since being imported in 1893.

Toggenburgs are always the same color patten, a mousy light to dark brown with a light colored stripe down each side of the face, down the underside of the tail and on the inside of each leg.

Toggenburg bucks weigh 150-175 pounds and does weigh 100-135 pounds. Milk production averages 1,500-1,600 pounds per year.

Nigerian Dwarf are a dairy goat

The Nigerian Dwarf is a new comer to the American goat milking scene. (This is the breed of goat shown in the video above.)

Nigerian Dwarf goats are a good choice for someone wanting a dairy animal in a very small package.

These small goats look like a short version of a full size dairy goat. (A dwarf goat that is stocky is a meat breed called a Pygmy goat, not a Nigerian Dwarf.)

A well bred Nigerian Dwarf will give about one quart of milk per day.

These goats weigh 75 pounds and are 17-20 inches tall, with bucks on the taller end and does usually on the shorter side. They also will breed year round.

I have a great article on Nigerian Dwarf goats, check it out!

A word of caution-since these are small goats many people keep them as pets. That’s super, unless you want a dairy animal!

If you want to milk your Nigerian Dwarf be sure to get her from a farm that selects for milking ability and actually milks the goats they have.

There are 3 Common Meat Goat Breeds

  • Boer
  • Myotonic or Tennessee Fainting
  • Savanna

The American Goat Association is another organization that promotes raising goats, click around the site and see what you can find. I looked under the marketing section and found some great resources.

newborn baby Boer goat with dapple coloring
This is my new baby goat! She is a dapple Boer. Her mom is a 94% Boer. Despite the nanny being registered and the baby able to be registered, neither one has normal Boer coloring.

Boer goats are the most popular meat breed

The Boer is a goat breed from South Africa. Boer goats were introduced to the U.S. in 1993. These are the most popular meat goats in the U.S.

Boers are so popular because they gain weight easily, have good conformation, high fertility and have a meaty carcass.

Boer goats have a long breeding season allowing for three kiddings in two years is managed correctly.

This is a video I took of the goats for sale at Danville in the fall of 2019. It is mainly a Boer sale, but other breeds always show up on a big sale day.

Boer goats are white bodied with a red head and have a white blaze running down the front of the face. These goats are normally horned and have a roman nose.

Boer goats are used frequently to cross with dairy breed females to get a meatier kid. These are also a larger breed of goat with males weighing 260 pounds and females weighing 215 pounds.

pen of Boer does
This is a nice pen of Boer does.

Myotonic or Tennessee Fainting have muscle

The Myotonic or Tennessee Fainting goats have recently become popular. Just look on the internet for videos.

They are called fainting goats because when they get overexcited their muscles tense up and they fall over. The fainting doesn’t hurt them.

The Tennessee Fainting goat is native to the U.S. They are a well muscled breed, and a bit smaller than other meat breeds.

The fainting aspect of these goats is actually a misnomer, they do not really faint! Their muscles tense up and they fall over.

Myotonic goats “fainting” will make them easier for you to catch and less likely to jump out of your fence, unfortunately, this also makes them an easier target for predators.

A note on myotonic goats: there are two different sized goats both called myotonic. The smaller sized myotoincs are more of a pet type goat. The larger sized myotonics are a meat goat.

In my area, any goat I have seen advertised as myotonic is the pet type goat, see the Pet Goat section for more information.

If you are looking for the meat production goat, be sure to get the larger sized animal from a producer focused on meat production.

If you are reading an ad, meat focused myotonic goat raisers will be talking muscling and growth.

Meat Goat Production And Management by Penn State Extension is a quick tour through different breeds of goats and the basics of meat goat care.

Savanna goats are a rising meat breed

three Savanna bucks
Pen of Bucks for sale at the Danville Auction Savanna and Kiko Goat Sale in August, 2020.

Savanna goats are a relatively new meat goat on the scene, at least in the U.S. New or otherwise, Savanna goats are coming on strong for people who want to raise goats that are meaty, but do not want to raise Boers.

I have seen these beauties popping up at sales lately and they are really looking good. Not only are they wonderfully marked, black skin under white hair, they are super meaty!

The only downside is that right now they are pretty pricey, even for a percentage animal.

three Savanna doelings
Beautiful group of three doelings that sold at the Danville Auction Savanna and Kiko Goat Sale in August, 2020. These are sharp looking gals!

You should know that the Savanna goat registries have an interesting way of wording their registration certificates. There is purebred and full blood.

Here’s a link to the Savanna Goat Guide for the full explanation.

Purebred is a Savanna goat that has been bred up from a non Savanna parent. This allows you to grade up your herd.

Crossing your goats to Savanna will make them eligible as grade ups at 15/16 or 5 generations for does and 31/32 or 6 generations for bucks.

Full blood is the designation for goats that are 100% South African Savanna blood. You can not grade up to full blood.

To have a full blood herd, you must have full blood bucks and full blood does and only use full blood genetics for future breeding stock purchases.

Angora is the most common fiber goat

Angora is a fiber producing goat

The Angora goat is the most common fiber goat in the U.S. They are concentrated mostly in south-central Texas (95% of the U.S. Angora goat population is here) and produce 60% of the world mohair crop.

Angora goats do best in dry climates. They can be kept with range cattle or sheep since the goats prefer to browse (eat twigs and brushy plants) while sheep and cattle like the grasses.

The fiber produced by an Angora goat is a white and curly and is called Mohair. Mohair has a long fiber that is smooth and silky, growing 1 inch per month!

Goats with a more dense fleece are more valuable fiber animals. Mohair is used for weaving and spinning, just like wool.

Both male and female Angora goats have horns and long droopy ears. Large flocks of these goats are kept in Texas, but they can be found nearly anywhere in the country.

Saanen doelings at the fair
Two Saanen doelings at the fair.

2 Common Pet Goat Breeds

  • Myotonic (smaller sized)
  • Pygmy

Myotonic or “fainting” goats are pets

The pet type myotonic goats are by far the most popular pet goats in my area, I see them all over! It’s easy to understand why people like them, lots of colors and markings and a smaller, easier to keep size.

Even though this smaller sized myotonic is also a meat goat, they are being selected and raised primarily as pets.

An easy way to tell which one you are looking at if you are reading an ad is to look for descriptions like blue eyes or good fainter, that one I have actually seen!

These are from ads listing pet type goats, for sure. If you are more interested in a meat goat, you need to read the Myotonic section above in Meat Goats.

Pygmy goats are popular pets

The Pygmy has become incredibly popular in the last 25 years. Pygmys are very small goats that are kept as pets. These goats can come in nearly any color and are originally from the French Camaroons area of Africa.

Pygmy goats can be easily identified by their short, stocky build. They can come in any color.

a pen of pygmy goats at the fair
Two Pygmy goats at the fair.

Crossbred goats are hardy

Crossbred goats are incredibly popular! While they are not actually a breed, I included them because of their potential to fit a goat to nearly any need.

The other bonus of crossbreeding is it allows you to take the genetics you have and “grade up” (see below) your goats, rather then buying all new stock.

It is amazing the options you will have when you consider cross breeding goats to select your own specific, custom made for you and your situation goat!

The beauty of a crossbred is that you are taking advantage of hybrid vigor, meaning the crosses are more hardy and faster growing than the purebreds.

goats at the fair
Goats at the fair, just messing around.

Be aware that cross breeding will always lower the ability of the top producing breed.

What do I mean? Here’s an example: no matter what breed you cross your high quality Saanen with, you will be likely to lower the potential milk production of her kids.

Saanen is the highest milk producing breed. Any breed you cross to will make production go down.

The same thing happens with a meat breed, crossing to a dairy type goat will make the kids more dairy and less meat type in build.

The reverse is true as well, if you want meatier kids from your dairy does, breed them to a meat type buck.

Crossbred goats are a wonderful option for a new goat raiser! You’ll get a hardier animal that will likely be less expensive.

Additionally, grading up is also crossbreeding. Grading up is breeding your goat of unknown parentage to a specific breed to get 50% documented parentage kids.

The next cross to the same breed will get 75% known parentage and so on. The idea being that eventually you’ll get to nearly 100% and your goats are purebred.

Most breed associations allow grading up to get your initial goat herd turned into “purebreds” over the course of about 6 generations. The percentage needed to register as purebred depends upon the association.

If you are interested in turning your happy mix breed goats into more specific genetics, up grading to a chosen breed will get you there.

Resources: Storey’s Guide to Raising Dairy Goats by Jerry Belanger, Modern Livestock and Poultry Production by James R. Gillespie, The Complete Beginner’s Guide To Raising Small Animals by Carlotta Cooper

Related Questions

Which goats are the friendliest?

Any goat we have had has been friendly. The breed most known for being friendly is the LaMancha dairy goat.

How long does a goat give milk?

A dairy goat will produce milk for 9-10 months. A meat goat will produce milk as long as her kids are nursing, normally a few months.

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