The English goat (not to be confused with the more diminutive and cobby Old English goat part of our British Primitive Goats, another one of our native breed of goats whose numbers are worryingly low).
They are perfect for smallholders. They’re easy to handle, even by children. Ideal for trekking and they milk without fuss and they’re friendly.
The English Goat is a beautifully marked, deer-like goat bred to be a hardy multipurpose contributor to the smallholding.
English Goats are tractable, docile and co-operative, whilst retaining a gentle capricious nature. They produce enough milk to fulfil normal household needs on a minimum volume of concentrated feed.
They are capable of milking through two years, giving a good conversion rate of milk and meat. They are not fussy eaters and are prepared to consume a wide range of fodder. They thrive in the British climate and are not easily put off by rain or snow.
- Key Characteristics: Colours tend to be shades of brown or grey. Solid patches of white may be present as a secondary colour, but must not dominate. Black is rare, but acceptable. In all instances the English Goat must exhibit a spinal eel-stripe (which is a dark line along the back of the goat) and must have similar dark markings on their legs, necks and flanks. Black feet are preferable.
Ears must always be erect and the nose straight or slightly dished. Tassels should be absent.
They may be either horned or polled. Horns should curve backwards and then outwards.
The outer coat in the females is short and dense, but can be longer on the spine, flanks and legs. Males generally have much longer hair, especially on their backs, necks, chests and thighs. Both sexes have an undercoat of soft cashmere in winter.
- Uses: Milk production. The naturally high level of solids in English Goat milk means this milk makes lovely cheeses, and some members also make it into soap. Meat production. The conversion rate into meat means that young stock can be expected to be butcher-ready at 12 months. Goat skin rugs. The attractive and individual markings on their coats make beautifully patterned goat skin rugs. Conservation and wildflower meadow grazing. English Goats really do take on the appearance of deer in this situation. They nibble their way through long grass picking out their favourite bits whilst stepping daintily without flattening anything.
- History: There are written references to the “English Goat” dating back to Georgian times but the first known picture of the English Goat was taken in 1872 by Henry Stephen Holmes Pegler who was an avid supporter of the English Goat. By then the English Goat was also a popular contender in the show ring as evidenced by show records of the time.
Crossbreeding of the English Goat with other breeds from around the world became popular during the early part of the 20th Century, especially with the Swiss breeds which were introduced to the UK to help increase milk production. The crossbreeding programme was so successful that some people feared the English Goat would cease to exist. As an answer to these concerns the English Goat Movement was formed and became the first incarnation of the English Goat Breeders Association.
Sadly, in spite of their efforts, by 1938 the English Goat had fallen from favour and the English Goat Breeders Association folded, with the last known herd of registered English Goats being disbanded on the death of their owner in 1952.
The second incarnation of the English Goat Breeders Association was set up in 1978 with an agreed breed standard and a new Foundation Register. In 1993 this became the official Herd Book and all pedigree English Goats are recorded in here.
- Did you know: The downy winter undercoat of the English Goat is “Cashmere” and is incredibly soft and warm. Cashmere is very time consuming to separate from the goat’s wiry outer coat making it incredibly expensive to produce. It takes at least two goats worth of cashmere to make one sweater!
- Breed Societies: For more information please visit the English Goat Breeders Association. www..egba.org.uk