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Did You Know That...
Pygmy Goats are fine pets and useful
Goats are a dual-purpose (milk and meat) goat, ideally sized for
smaller farms. Pygmy Goat milk is very rich, perfect for
home cheese making. Pygmies are heavily muscled, and
perfectly sized for the family freezer.
Did You Know That…
Pygmy Goat gestation is about 5 months.
can produce as many as 3 litters in 2 years. The average
number in a litter is two, but three, four or even five kids are
not uncommon. Many does can happily produce a litter a
year from the time they are two years old until they are 10 to
12 years old. Kids are typically 2 to 4 pounds at birth.
They are weaned at 12 weeks.
Did You Know That…
Pygmy Goats can live well into their teens.
leader of the herd is most often an older experienced doe.
Pygmy Goats thrive best in a herd, they do not like to be
without the company of their own kind.
Buffy, above left, lived to her 16th birthday.
Did You Know That…
Male goats are Bucks. Female goats are
Does, baby goats are Kids, and castrated male goats are Wethers.
make outstanding pets and are often the least expensive.
Does make good pets. Bucks should be considered breeding
stock only, they often have an odor and habits people find
objectionable. Does and wethers do not have a buck’s
odor or breeding habits.
Did You Know That…
Goats are browsers rather than grazers.
prefer to eat brush, weeds, leaves, bark and tall grass no
closer than 6 to 8 inches from the ground. They do not
make good lawn mowers but can help control the brush in woodlots
and woody plants in pastures.
Did You Know That…
Pygmy Goats originated in West Africa.
A West African Dwarf Buck
Goats are called West African Dwarf Goats or Cameroon Dwarf
Goats in their native Africa. They were imported through
Sweden to the United States in 1959 as stock for petting zoos
and research labs. Through selective breeding they have
Pygmy Goat seen today.
Did You Know That…
National Pygmy Goat Association is the registry and club for
purebred pygmy goats and their enthusiasts in the United States.
It has many regional affiliated clubs.
are happy to talk to you about joining the NPGA or the local
affiliated club. Use the links above or on our homepage to
visit the NC Pygmy Goat Club's website or the NPGA website.
Did You Know That…
Pygmy Goats come in two color patterns.
NPGA recognizes three color patterns for Pygmy Goats, Caramel,
Agouti, and Black with 7 choices for registration, Caramel with
black markings, Caramel with brown markings, Gray agouti, Brown
agouti, Black agouti, Black and Solid Black.
Caramel Pygmy Goats are white to deep
brown with a darker facemask, dorsal stripe and leg stockings
with a light stripe on the front.
Agouti Pygmy Goats are
shades of grizzled gray or brown with a darker facemask, dorsal
stripe and solid leg stockings.
Black Pygmy Goats are
Black or Solid Black, a variation of the agouti pattern.
Most Pygmy Goats have frosted ears, muzzles, foreheads and tails
the Solid Black does not.
Pictured below from left to
right are Caramel, Gray Agouti, Brown Agouti, and Black Pygmy
Goats. Visit the NPGA
Color Chart page page for more details and examples.
Did You Know That…
All Pygmy Goats can grow horns and both sexes
can have beards.
registered pygmy goats are required to be genetically horned.
Horned goats are less likely to produce hermaphroditic (a form
of sterility) kids. Most kids are disbudded to prevent the
horns from growing. Of course the bucks have beards but so
do many does. We trim the beards off the does for the show
ring to make them look more feminine.
Pictured above from left to right, is a magnificent buck, a doe
with erh kids, and Hebe who had a spectacular beard.
Did You Know That…
Pygmy Goats have "four stomachs".
they have 4 stomach chambers, the reticulum, the rumen,
the omasum, and the abomasum. Goats digest their food by
fermentation in the rumen that is populated with millions of
bacteria. They also ruminate or chew their cud, bringing
partially digested food back from the rumen into their mouths
for further chewing. After the food leaves the rumen it
goes through the omasum and abomasum for further digestion.
This type of digestive system allows goats to thrive on hard to
digest plant material.
Pygmy Goats 101
Introducing the Pygmy Goat
pygmy goats in America can trace their roots back to the
Cameroon Dwarf Goat of West Africa. That is why some people call
them African Pygmy Goats. The Cameroon Dwarf goat is a short,
heavily muscled animal with a dark colored coat. But the pygmy
goat seen in America only faintly resembles their ancestors in
Africa. Along the way they were probably crossed with Swedish
Lapp goats who contributed improved milking ability and the
possibility of a light colored coat. Then, once they were
imported to the United States, breeders here bred selectively
for traits they found desirable and produced a unique little
goat called the American Pygmy Goat or just the Pygmy Goat.
goats were first imported into the United States in 1959 by the
Ruhe Brothers in California and the Catskill Game Farm in New
York. Due to federal importation regulations, pygmy goats and
other livestock could not be imported directly from Africa. So,
pygmy goat does were bought from German zoos, where they were
available for about $15 a head. From there they were taken to
Sweden to be bred to Danish owned bucks so that the offspring
could be imported to the United States. With quarantine,
breeding, maintenance and shipping charges, the final cost per
animal was about $3500 (in today's dollars that would be more
than $10,000). Both the importers felt it was worth the price as
they could sell stock to American zoos for display in children's
petting zoos. Apparently their instincts were correct as the
pygmy goat is a mainstay of petting zoos everywhere.
National Pygmy Goat Association's breed standard describes a
pygmy goat as a genetically small goat standing from 16 to about
23 inches at the shoulder, and having a deeper, wider barrel,
shorter legs, and shorter, wider face than dairy goats All
colors are acceptable as long as the goat has the required breed
markings. There are two patterns for these breed markings:
caramel and agouti. The caramel pattern ranges from snow white
to deep brown on the body, with darker "trim" on the
head, legs, dorsal stripe and belly. The agouti pattern includes
all shades of grizzled gray, and shades of grizzled brown with
darker trim on the head, legs, and dorsal stripe. When in doubt
between caramel and agouti, look at the goat's stockings.
Caramels have a light stripe running up the front of the
stockings. Agoutis have solid stockings with no stripe. In
addition, partial or complete belly bands of white and white
stars on the forehead are acceptable. All other white marks are
are three sex classes in pygmy goats, bucks, does, and wethers.
A buck is a male and a doe is a female, and are breeding
animals. A wether is a neutered male, and is primarily a pet.
All three are shown at National Pygmy Goat Association shows.
Dairy goats shows never feature their wethers, and seldom have
classes for their bucks
Caring For your Pygmy Goats
Housing And Fencing
of their small size and hardiness, pygmy goats are easy to keep.
First, they require a dry, draft-free shelter. Pygmy goats need
about 15 to 20 square feet of room per animal. That is a space
that is 4 feet by 5 feet. So a large dog house could house a
grown pygmy goat. But, pygmy goats are herd animals and do not
thrive if kept alone. They are best kept in groups. Even a buck
would rather be with another buck than be alone. So if you plan
to keep pygmy goats, plan to have more than one and provide
shelter accordingly. We use a combination of a large barn for
our does and kids, and a shedrow barn for our bucks with 8 by 6
foot stalls with separate outdoor pens for our bucks. Our grown
bucks often have a weanling buck kid for company. The young kid
is comforted and feels safer having an older goat for company
during weaning and the older buck gets a playful companion. They
don’t view each other as rivals, more like mentor and protégé.
pygmy goats should have access to pasture for exercise and
browsing. But many pygmy goats don't enjoy the luxury of large
pastures and are instead kept in pens. The larger the better of
course, but a 30 by 30 foot pen is ample for two to four goats.
Fencing should be chain link or wire mesh as pygmies are smart
and soon learn to squeeze out of horizontal wires such as that
used for horses. Even electric fences won't hold a determined
goat. Secure fences serve a more important role than just
keeping your goats out of your neighbor's prize roses--they keep
predators from getting in! Any dog, no matter how friendly, will
chase a pygmy goat to death. Often this friendly dog will
inflict terrible wounds in the process. It is not the dog's
fault entirely, it is their nature to chase small animals. And,
you can't always count on a dog being confined. So take heed to
the old saying, "Good fences make good neighbors," and
securely pen your goats.
Feeding Your Pygmy Goats Properly
pygmy goats need to be fed properly and have access to clean
water. Goats hate stale water and will sometimes go without
rather than drink it. Goats need plenty of water to make their
digestive system work properly and bucks in particular need
water to help prevent the formation of urinary stones. Goats
should also be provided with a loose mineral supplement,
preferably especially made for goats. The most important food
for goats is good hay or good pasture. Many pygmy goats do well
on a diet of hay or pasture forage only Some pygmies, such as
growing kids and yearlings, and breeding animals need to have
their diets supplemented with grain. Every pygmy goat owner has
his own opinion about what this grain ration should be.
Maggidan's Minis uses a quality 16% pelleted goat feed for both
bucks and does. Occasionally we supplement this feed with a high
protein, vitamin and mineral supplement such as Calf Manna for
animals in high production such as growth, lactation (milking
and raising kids), or heavy breeding. They have access to a
loose mineral and salt formulated for livestock. We also
feed a top quality grass hay. Our goats also have access to
large woodsy pastures for browsing.
use the goat's body condition as a guide for how much
supplemental feeding they require Generally, pet goats are fed
way too much, and frequently are fed the wrong things. Goats
should never be fed dog or cat food, rabbit pellets, or poultry
feed. This kind of diet can lead to severe, sometimes life
threatening health problems such as bloat, rumen impaction
("stomach blockage"), and urinary stones. One of the
biggest health problems with pet pygmy wethers and bucks is
urinary stones. It is our opinion that the number one cause of
urinary stones is improper feeding and watering. Because of a
male goat's physical makeup, it is very difficult for them to
pass a urinary stone. Should they develop this condition you are
facing an enormous vet bill or euthanasia. Feed and water your
goats properly and you will be rewarded with happy healthy
Your Pygmy Goat’s Health Care
have relatively few health care requirements, but these are
important. They are hoof trimming, regular deworming and lice
control, and vaccinations. Maggidan's Minis recommends that
hooves be trimmed every six to eight weeks. We deworm and
delouse four to six times a year. And, we recommend that pygmy
goat owners vaccinate against rabies and clostridial diseases
such as tetanus. There are several clostridia and tetanus
vaccines for goats. Look for one that says "C, D&
T". There is no approved rabies vaccine for goats in the
US. so we use the vaccine approved for sheep. All of these
procedures, except the rabies vaccination, can be done by the
owner with just a little training. Most vets or pygmy goat
breeders are willing to help you learn. Another good place to
learn about pygmy goat care is at goat seminars such as the
Goat-A-Rama sponsored by the North Carolina Pygmy Goat Club, or
a Small Ruminants or Goat Producer seminar sponsored by
veterinary colleges or County Extension.
last health requirement for your pet goat pertains not so much
to his physical health but to his mental health. Goats are herd
animals and are very uncomfortable with being alone. They
absolutely require a companion. The best companion is another
goat. Lacking this, cows, sheep, llamas and horses make adequate
companions. But, a buck should not be included in your pet pair
or herd. Pygmy goats are fertile as young as three months, and a
pregnancy at this age is a disaster. Pygmy goat does should not
be bred until they are about 18 months old. They need to be
close to their full size when they kid (give birth) five months
later to avoid problems with the kid(s) being too big to come
out. Pygmy goats can also breed year round unlike most dairy
goats which are fertile only for a few months in the fall. Pygmy
does become fertile again in as little as ten days after
kidding. The babies are cute, but unending motherhood is a
terrible drain on a doe. So you can see that a buck would have
to be kept separated from the does except when breeding is
desired. Bucks and does should not even share a fence line as
they can mate through the fence. This has happened to us more
than once. So now our bucks are housed well away from the does
to prevent accidental breeding. Besides, bucks don't make good
pets, due to their musk odor and their incessant "need to
Sharing the Pygmy Goat Experience
you are about ready to take the plunge into pygmy goat
ownership. The next question is "Where do you find help and
support when you need it?" Pygmy goat owners can join
several well organized and enthusiastic groups. Locally for us
there is the North Carolina Pygmy Goat Club. Many states have
their own pygmy goat clubs. The National Pygmy Goat Association
has a list of associated clubs with contact persons. Dan and I
have been members of the North Carolina Pygmy Goat Club since
1991. The help and information given to us by fellow members has
been the foundation for most of our herd health procedures. The
members of your region's pygmy goat club can help you find a
vet, locate a hay and feed source, give tips on hoof trimming
and vaccinations, and just be there when you need advice or
someone to brag to when there are new kids in the barn. All
pygmy goat club members are happy to help new and not so new
pygmy goat owners with any concerns they have, and always
welcome new members.
a national level, there is the National Pygmy Goat Association.
The National Pygmy Goat Association maintains the only registry
herd book for pygmy goats in the United States and works to
support and promote the pygmy goat breed as pets, show and
alternative livestock. The National Pygmy Goat Association has
over 2000 members world wide and over 53,000 goats in its
registry. The National Pygmy Goat Association publishes it's
magazine, Memo, six times a year and also has many other books
and resources available especially for pygmy goat enthusiasts.
The National Pygmy Goat Association sanctions about 300 pygmy
goat shows a year. Shows are a great way to meet other pygmy
goat owners even if you don't show your goats.
is just a basic guideline for keeping pygmy goats happy and
healthy. If you have any further questions we are just an e-mail
or phone call away. Or you can go to the sites listed below for
more in depth reading.