6 Heritage Goat Breeds

Heritage goat breeds were introduced in the United States centuries ago. To date, they are still the most versatile and most productive goat breeds in the country.

They are well adapted to different climatic conditions and are easy to maintain.

There are different heritage goat breeds in the US, but we will discuss only six. You are not obliged to restrict yourself to the ones on this list, but you can explore more.

We will discuss the origin, purpose, and characteristics of different heritage breeds.

Also, we will highlight the factors you should consider when choosing an appropriate heritage goat breed to keep. Let us dive in for details.

What Are Heritage Goat Breeds?

What Are Heritage Goat Breeds?

Simply put, heritage goat breeds were introduced in the US and have been around for a long time. These breeds were developed and adapted to particular conditions.

They never do well on large-scale farms where they are bred commercially. Instead, they are homestead breeds.

Heritage goats are best suited for hobby farmers or just those who want food supplements. They are good producers of meat, milk, and fiber.

People prefer them because of their nutritious value. However, they are about to become extinct due to habitat loss. They are not as popular as they were centuries ago.

The history of goats in North America dates back to the 1500s. That was when the first Spanish explorers arrived in the region.

English settlers also introduced new goat breeds to New England in the 1600s. These two goat breeds make the bulk of heritage goats found in North America.

6 Heritage Goat Breeds

6 Heritage Goat Breeds

Despite their nutritious value, heritage goats are threatened. In the early 1850s, new goat breeds were introduced in the United States.

More Goat breeds were also imported from Europe, which had better milk production than Spanish and English goats.

Today, there are a few surviving heritage goats you can consider for homesteading. They include the following:

  • Golden Guernsey Goats
  • Toggenburg Goats
  • Oberhasli Goat
  • Arapawa Goats
  • Spanish Goats
  • Tennessee Goats

If goat keeping is your new adventure, you can consider the listed goat breeds. They are ideal for hobby farms, though not common in modern agriculture. Let us get the details of each heritage goat breed.

Golden Guernsey Goats

Golden Guernsey Goats

Golden Guernsey goat breed is one of the rarest heritage goats on this list.

It was developed in the Channel Island of Bailiwick of Guernsey, United Kingdom, in 1920. They were later imported into the US in 1999.

Presently, regulations bar the importation of Golden Guernsey goats into the US. That is the reason for their rarity.

However, the Guernsey Goat Breeders of America still develops this breed by importing semen from the UK.

Golden Guernsey goat is a dairy breed that produces highly nutritious milk known for its high butterfat content. They are docile and medium in size.

A mature goat weighs about 10 pounds, while bucks can weigh 150 pounds. They are characterized by erect ears and short or long fur that gives them golden skin color.

Toggenburg Goats

Toggenburg goats are some of the oldest goat breeds we have on the planet. They originated from Switzerland in 1892 and are well adapted to the cold climate.

Their thick coats shield them against adverse winter climates.

Toggenburg goat breeds can be short or medium-size and covered by soft, fine fur. They have a range of skin color shades from light to dark brown.

You can easily distinguish them from other breeds by their white ears featuring dark spots in the middle, two white stripes running down their faces, whitetails, and white legs.

These goats also weigh 120 pounds and have an average milk production. Their milk tastes musky. So, be sure you are comfortable with that before buying the Toggenburg goat breed for rearing.

Oberhasli Goat

Oberhasli Goat

Oberhasli goats are native to Switzerland when they are called the Swiss Alpine. This breed was introduced in the US in the early 1900s as docile dairy breeds.

They were crossbred with others that led to their extinction in the country.

The pure Oberhasli goat breed was redeveloped and maintained from 1936. Their name changed from Swiss Alpine to Oberhasli in 1977.

This breed remained unrecognized by the American Dairy Goat Association until the 1960s.

The Oberhasli goats have light tan to reddish-brown coats with black markings on their entire body. They are also characterized by erect ears and straight faces.

Mature female Oberhasli goats weigh 120 pounds, while males weigh 150 pounds. Does give birth to twins or even triplets after a gestation period of about 150 days.

Arapawa Goats

Arapawa goats are nearly extinct in the US. There are just about 200 domesticated goats of this breed in the entire country, making it one of the rarest goat breeds to find.

You can give them another chance to multiply by giving them a place to live in your homestead.

These goats originated from an Island in New Zealand. The available information states that they are the descendants of the Old English goats introduced there by European explorers in the 1600s.

The population of Arapawa goats became threatened with the introduction of more productive breeds on the island.

Arapawa goats were imported into the US in the 1990s. They are small-size goats that weigh just 60 pounds when mature, while bucks can weigh  65 pounds more.

They are docile and characterized by long black, brown, or white hair. They are preferred as a pet goat.

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Spanish Goats

Spanish goats are dual-purpose breeds, meaning they can be kept for milk and meat. They originated from Spain and became dominant goat breeds in the US for many centuries.

Their population declined when other goat breeds were introduced and crossbreeding carried out.

Despite the reported pure Spanish goat population decline, there is still a good number. According to the Spanish Goat Association, about 8,000 pure Spanish goats are in the US.

The association is currently reaching out to breeders to help restore the Spanish goats’ population.

Spanish goats are excellent foragers that adapt to living in rugged landscapes. The does weigh just 50 pounds, while bucks are the heaviest of all other heritage goats, weighing up to 200 pounds.

They are horned and have a range of body appearances. You can find them in white, black, and other decorative coats.  

Tennessee Goats

The origin of Tennessee goats can be traced back to the 1880s when a laborer from Nova Scotia came to Central Tennessee with four stiff goats. They instantly became popular across the region.

These goats were less likely to escape from fenced pasture lands than other goats.

Tennessee goats became more popular for their muscular conformation and high reproduction rate. Farmers in the region liked them and named them the fainting goats.

In the 1950s, some Tennessee goats were taken to central Texas. They were further developed for meat production.

The Tennessee goats vary in size. A mature one can weigh anywhere from 60 to 175 pounds. They are characterized by large ears, concave faces, twisted horns, and short or long hairs.

Tennessee meat goats have different color combinations. You can find black and white, solid tan, all white, black, tan and white, and roan.

4 Factors To Consider When Choose Heritage Goat Breeds

4 Factors To Consider When Choose Heritage Goat Breeds

Choosing the appropriate goat breed is crucial when venturing into goat keeping. Some are adapted to rugged terrain, some wet areas, while some do well in fenced pastures.

Different goat breeds also have varied production rates. You have to consider these and the following factors:

  • Availability
  • Purpose
  • Climatic condition
  • Time and budget

Let us discuss the listed factors in detail to understand how each of them influences your decision.


Some heritage goat breeds are rarer compared to others. That will influence your choice because you don’t want to traverse the country searching for a particular goat breed.

You may be told to wait in the queue or the protected goat breeds.

In our opinion, choose a heritage goat breed that is readily available in your area. It will save you time and the cost of acquisition.

Define Purpose Or Simply Your Hobby

Why do you need to venture into goat keeping? Is it for milk, meat, or both? Some people also prefer keeping goats as a hobby.

Different breeds are suited for varying purposes. So, it is up to you to define the purpose and go for the appropriate goat breed.

For example, Tennessee goats are best for meat, and Oberhasli goats are for milk. If you need a dual-purpose goat breed, consider Spanish goats.

But if keeping goats is your hobby, Arapawa goats are the best choice.

Choose A Breed That Is Suitable For Your Climate

Heritage goat breeds are adapted to different climatic conditions. Some will do well in wet areas, and others are tough to handle drought and rugged landscape.

You risk getting low production or even death if you choose an inappropriate breed for your location.

Toggenburg goats would be the best choice for wet climatic conditions, while Spanish goats are well adapted to rough terrain. They are good foragers, making them survive even in severe droughts.

If you still don’t have a place or if you are just planning to live off-grid, here are the 14 Places Have Best Climate For Off Grid Living.

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Your Time And Budget

Goat keeping requires starting capital and your time to care for them. Some breeds are more resilient to parasites and disease, requiring less attention.

Others can also survive even when food is scarce. All these attributes will influence your choice.

Different heritage goat breeds have varying price tags. Some are pricey, requiring more capital to acquire.

Perform market research to know the goat breeds you can afford and maintain once you have them on your farm.


Are Nubian goats a heritage breed?

Yes. Anglo-Nubian or simply Nubian is a domesticated goat breed developed in Great Britain by cross breeding goats from the Middle East and North Africa.

Due to their origin, Nubian goats are more resilient to hot climates and longer breeding seasons compared to other dairy goats.

What is an indigenous breed of goat?

Indigenous goat breeds belong to the country where they are found, instead of being introduced there from another country. In other words, they are natives of the places where they are.

Are goats high maintenance?

No. Goats are pretty easy to maintain compared to other farm animals. They don’t need constant care.

Additionally, their foraging habits make them easier to keep on your property. Provided you can give them food, water, and shelter, your goats will be pretty much happy.

The Final Sentences

Heritage goats are easy to maintain and give high-quality products. You can consider different goat breeds for keeping. That, however, depends on your location and intended purpose.

You can keep goats for meat, milk, both, or just as a hobby. You only need to choose an appropriate breed.

If you are looking for other animals to raise while living off-grid, here are the 10 Best Homestead Animals For Off-Grid Living

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