As its name suggests, the LaMancha does have ancestors from Spain, but it was developed entirely in the United States. Its story begins with the arrival of the conquistadors. The conquistadors and the missionaries who accompanied them always brought along livestock for food. Goats were usually among the herds and flocks, thanks to their versatility; they could provide both milk and meat on long journeys or at isolated missions.
One of the goat breeds that the Spaniards possessed was a peculiar little animal without ears, perhaps kept by the missionaries as much for the novelty as for its useful milk production. These earless goats were known to the Spaniards as monkeys or cuties. To the few Americans who eventually discovered and preserved the breed, they were the earliest LaMancha goats.
LaManchas were preserved through the late 1800s by Pheobe Wilhelm of California. She maintained their dwindling numbers with the introduction of a few Toggenburg bucks. The transformation of the earless novelty into a productive modern breed, however, is thanks to the efforts of Eula F. Frey, who bought a dairy goat farm in California in 1937. This farm boasted a herd of 130 goats, but it was only two of the does that came to dominate Mrs. Frey’s herd. These two were short-eared.
At first, Frey did not select strictly for tiny ears, and thus there was great variation in the ears of her goats. She selected for sturdy physique, butterfat content, and milk yield and flavor, establishing her goats as a useful dairy breed. The LaMancha received recognition as a breed in the early 1950s, and it was almost 10 years after this event that ear length (or lack thereof) became a criterion for registered bucks.
Today, the LaMancha is a common breed in America, partly due to its adaptability to both commercial and homestead dairy production. A miniature version has also been developed with influence from the Nigerian Dwarf breed.
The LaMancha is first and foremost a productive dairy animal. However, it can also serve as a highly effective brush mower or as a pack animal with proper training. The LaMancha is a common choice as a children’s pet or show goat because of its sweet personality.
The Miniature LaMancha boasts many of the same useful characteristics of its larger counterpart, but in a more compact package. This makes it a particularly good dairy goat for small acreages. (And it can still carry packs of up to 25 pounds or so.)
The LaMancha is known for its sterling disposition. This is truly a people-oriented goat, always eager to return any affection shown to it. Its sweet nature, combined with its willingness to please, make it arguably one of the most easy-to-handle goat breeds in the country.
While being one of the quieter breeds of goats, and thus less likely to disturb the neighbors with constant noise, the LaMancha is smart and curious. It is not above looking for a way out so that it can explore the countryside.
The LaMancha is a healthy, hardy breed. Its udder, in particular, is well constructed.
Most of the special health requirements of the LaMancha are related to its unusual ears. Those tiny gopher ears are almost impervious to frostbite, but they produce a great deal of wax, and they have folds that tend to collect dirt and debris. If left unattended, this can lead to an ear infection. Regular cleaning is necessary to keep the LaMancha’s ears in perfect health.
- Suitability for small acreages (miniature version).
- Exceptionally easy-to-handle temperament.
- Adaptability to even the harshest climates.
- Few health problems.
- Long lactations, lasting up to two years.
- High milk yields.
- High butterfat content.
- Mild milk flavor.
- Strange appearance; visitors will ask what happened to the ears.
- Ears too small for tagging or tattooing for identification purposes; typically tattooed on the underside of the tail.
- Ability as an escape artist.
- Special hygiene requirements.