How to Identify Goat Breeds

By Cindy Quarters

Dozens of different breeds of goats are used throughout the world for meat, milk and fiber to make clothing. Many of these breeds live in the United States, but only nine of them are common here. Even so, it can be difficult to distinguish the different breeds if you aren’t familiar with them. To identify these various types of goats, look to characteristics such as size, color and ear type. With a bit of practice you should soon be able to identify the most common breeds.

Nubian Goats

Nubians, also called Anglo-Nubians, are dairy goats and one of the easiest breeds to identify.

  • Large, hanging ears.
  • Females weigh at least 135 pounds and males weigh 175 pounds or more.
  • They can come in many different colors, but tan, red and black are the most common.

Saanen Goats

The Saanen is a sturdy, solid-looking dairy breed.

  • A balanced appearance with upright ears.
  • They are always pure white.
  • A sable goat is a variation on the Saanen, and is the same goat but with a colored coat.

La Mancha Goats

La Mancha goats are easy to identify because they have tiny ears.

  • In many cases a La Mancha goat looks like he has no ears at all, just holes in his skull. Close inspection will reveal a tiny ear above the opening
  • These goats can be any color.
  • The average female weighs about 130 pounds and males weigh about 150.

Toggenburg Goats

The Toggenburg is on the small side when compared to most other dairy goats, weighing an average of 120 pounds.

  • Toggenburgs have erect ears and a balanced appearance.
  • Their coloration is what makes them readily identifiable.

Alpine Goats

Alpine goats can come in virtually any color or color combination, and should have medium-sized ears that they carry in an erect position.

  • They are almost as large as Nubians.

  • Males weighing about 170 pounds.

  • Females weigh about 125.* Males often have a strip of upright hair on their backs and noticeable beards.
  • Females have well-balanced, even udders.

Oberhasli Goats

An Oberhasli goat is most easily recognized by her distinctive color pattern.

  • The body must be a medium reddish-brown.
  • She will have erect ears and a black stripe down the middle of her back as well as a black udder, belly and legs from the knees down.
  • The head must have black markings as well.
  • Females occasionally may be all black, but males must conform to the black and brown color pattern.
  • These goats are medium-sized, with females weighing about 120 pounds and males slightly larger.

Nigerian Dwarf Goats

The Nigerian dwarf goat can come in almost any color, but he is easy to identify because of his size.

  • These goats should weigh about 75 pounds, significantly smaller than other dairy breeds.
  • Nigerian dwarfs have erect ears and the long, light-boned build of a dairy goat;

Pygmy Goats

The pygmy goat is similar in size to a Nigerian dwarf, but has a different build.

  • Pygmy goats have a short, barrel-shaped body.
  • They are cobby, or heavy-boned, for their size.
  • These are the little goats often seen at petting zoos.