Spanish goats are often only thought of as brush eaters. But true Spanish goats are a heritage breed, valued for their hardiness and foraging
Photo courtesy of Penn State Extension
Radio interview source: Leslie Edmondson, Owner Spanish Goats
When the Spanish came to the Americas in the 16th century, they brought goats with them. However, even though many goats in the U.S. have Spanish lineage, there are few purebred Spanish goats, and they're on the American Livestock Breed Conservancy's Priority List.
Over time, the term "Spanish" goat came to mean nothing more than a mongrel-mutt-goat. But Leslie Edmundson has developed a website devoted to bringing buyers and sellers of the breed together. She says the Spanish goat does indeed have its own pure gene pool. Although the different strains show genetic diversity, some of the physical traits of Spanish goats are very specific.
"The most obvious thing is sort of the Mediterranean-style horns that curl and twist," she says. "Generally what you're looking at is a rangy-type body. Not super long, not super leggy. Generally they have muscling throughout, but not heavy muscling. Some breeds of goat you're going to see this big, strong forward muscling like in a Boer goat, with the Spanish you don't have that."
Spanish goats are excellent foragers, and will climb a tree for the last leaf if they have to. Edmundson says they're good mothers, giving birth in the field without any assistance. They're hardy animals, too.
"They're very parasite-resistant and resilient," she says. "They don't get worms as easily as some breeds. And if they do get worms, they don't succumb to them as easily as some breeds. Generally with a Spanish goat, you're not really looking at any health issues. They're really good that way."
Edmundson estimates there are about 60 Spanish goat breeders in the U.S. The goats usually sell for a-few-hundred-dollars-or-less. But unlike many purebreeds, there is no requirement for registration papers.
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