The Pygmy goat shares much of its early heritage in common with the Nigerian Dwarf breed. It originated as a landrace in Africa centuries ago, arrived in Great Britain during the days of imperial expansion, and quickly became popular in Europe as a zoo exhibit.
Miniature goats were noted to have varying types in those days. After surplus goats from zoos were dispersed to private owners, selection began to fix and enhance preferred characteristics. One version had dairy potential and proportions similar to those of standard breeds; this went on to become the Nigerian Dwarf. The other version was absurdly stocky for its size, with large bones and heavy muscling. This goat became the basis of the Pygmy breed.
At first, Pygmy goat prices were ridiculously high as the breed became something of a fad among owners of exotic pets. However, this very popularity ensured that in short order the supply would exceed the demand. Prices fell accordingly.
The Pygmy goat is still popular around the world, however, with pet owners and homesteaders alike.
Many Pygmy goats today are primarily kept as companion animals, either for people or for lonely horses. Likewise, they are a common choice as children’s show goats and as petting zoo exhibits.
With the rise in popularity of homesteading, it was quickly found that Pygmy goats were versatile working animals, as well. Their muscular physique makes them suitable for home meat production, and they also excel in the weed-eating department. While they are efficient milkers for their size and can make good homestead dairy animals, milking a Pygmy goat is a task that requires some patience due to their tiny udders.
The Pygmy goat fairly bursts at the seams with personality. It is always busy, playful, and eager to jump and climb. It will try to scale anything that its little legs are equal to. Some type of goat playground equipment is a must for this breed, or it will quickly grow bored.
But its intelligence, combined with its docility and desire to please, make the Pygmy goat easy to train. With plenty of positive reinforcement, it will readily pick up most standard dog tricks, such as stay, shake hands, walk on a leash, and jump through a hoop. Just one word of warning—if you feed your Pygmy goat treats, be prepared to have a perpetual (and vocal) shadow on your heels!
Since you will not be able to stay outdoors and provide for all of your Pygmy goat’s extensive social needs, give it a companion. This does not have to be another goat. Most Pygmies are quite content around sheep and horses.
Remember that Pygmy bucks are still bucks. They will fight with other bucks for dominance, although they rarely hurt each other. They typically do not attack people, but it is always best to be alert around Pygmy bucks, just in case, as their horns can inflict painful injuries.
The Pygmy is an exceptionally healthy, hardy breed. In its native home, it was naturally immune to the tse-tse fly. While that is not something most American homesteaders will have to worry about, we can readily appreciate the sound health behind that immunity. In our country, it translates into resistance to mange and mastitis, two common problems in dairy goats.
However, please be aware that your Pygmy goat will thrive best when provided with a simple shelter so that it can escape the rain. Make this structure even better by providing benches inside so that the goats can sleep out of the mud.
Note that Pygmy does are capable of conceiving as early as two months of age, before their bodies are ready for the strain of pregnancy and delivery. To avoid injuries and difficult births, wait until your doe is about eight months old—perhaps older depending on her size and physical condition. Always wean doe and buck kids separately to avoid accidents.
- Suitability for small acreages.
- Ease of handling and transportation.
- Adaptability to most climates.
- Minimal feed requirements.
- Willingness to eat weeds and other undesirable plants.
- Disease resistance.
- Early maturity.
- Ability to breed year-round.
- Tendency to have three to four kids at a time.
- High milk production relative to size (about half a gallon a day).
- Very high butterfat content.
- Milk exceptionally high in a variety of minerals, including calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and iron.
- Long shelf life of milk.
- Vocal tendencies.
- Tendency to grow bored without something to play with.
- Ability as an escape artist.
- Short lactations (four to six months).
- Small, hard-to-milk teats.