The Oberhasli of Switzerland has long been known for three things—its distinctive color pattern, its milk production, and its antiquity. This latter trait, in fact, has largely obscured its history. By the time it was first registered in Switzerland, it was already an old breed.
But we do know how the Oberhasli came to be established in America. It was first imported in 1906 and again in 1920, but the goats from these two importations were absorbed into the general population of goats of mixed heritage prevalent across the United States. All purebred Oberhasli in America descend from one buck and four does, three of them already bred, introduced by Dr. H.O. Pence of Kansas City, Missouri, in 1936.
The descendants of these goats were for a time in danger of sharing the fate of their predecessors. For several decades, the Oberhasli, then known as the Swiss Alpine, was considered a mere subset of the French Alpine breed. Very few were kept pure, and most of these belonged to Esther Oman of California.
However, Oman and her friends and associates eventually realized that there were just enough purebred Oberhasli in the United States to form a registry. A herdbook for record-keeping purposes was accordingly founded in 1980. However, the difficult work of increasing the breed’s numbers without incurring severe inbreeding problems was just beginning. Many of the Oberhasli suffered from shortcomings in health and production at first.
Careful selection of breeding stock has paid off, however. The Oberhasli is now considerably improved in build and dairy abilities. An estimated 1,700 can be found across the country. While this certainly merits the classification of the Oberhasli as a rare breed, it is a sign that the genetic material is still there for a dedicated breeder to work with.
The Oberhasli is almost exclusively a dairy animal. However, it can be used as a land management tool and as a pack animal. The latter is a particularly good option for extra male kids when whethered.
The Oberhasli is frequently easy for its human handlers to get along with. Although active and alert, it is still completely calm and docile. It fears little, so it can afford to be friendly. It can be vocal.
Most Oberhasli does tend to be on the dominant side. When placed in a herd containing other breeds, the Oberhasli will rule the roost—especially when food is involved.
Most major health problems in the Oberhasli have been resolved. The main health requirements of this breed are proper care of hardworking dairy does and due attention to keeping inbreeding levels low.
- Steady disposition.
- Adaptability to many climates, particularly cold ones.
- Feed efficiency.
- Sweet milk flavor.
- Strength as pack animals.
- Vocal tendencies.
- Ability as an escape artist.
- Variable milk production.
- Low butterfat content of milk.