History of the Nigerian Dwarf

The Nigerian Dwarf, originating from West Africa, is a delightful miniature “goat of many colors” with a wonderful temperament and lots of character.  These little goats have a unique history as they were originally imported to the USA as a food source for the large cats which were shipped to zoos from Africa. Thankfully some of these gorgeous little animals survived this awful fate and became zoo attractions themselves. 

Their numbers increased and some were sold to private collectors and breeders. In time, the breed developed into two types – the Pygmy is stocky and thick-set and is primarily a meat goat, but the Nigerian Dwarf is more elegant and is highly sort after because of their milk quality and supply. Nigerians are the smallest of the dairy goat breeds. Their average weight is around 35 kg (75 lb) and the maximum height is 60 cm (24 in) for bucks and 57cm (22.5 ins) for does making them about 60% smaller than a Saanen
. The gestation period is around 145-153 days and multiple births are a regular occurrence. They can be born with or without horns (polled) and their life expectancy is anything up to 15 years.

Nigerian dwarf goats are raised primarily for milk production, but also make wonderful pets. They are gregarious, affectionate, friendly and hardy and they can thrive in almost any climate. Their gentle, calm and playful nature makes them good companion pets for children and disabled and elderly people.  Their small size means they do not require as much space or feed as larger dairy goat breeds.

As a breed, Nigerian Dwarf goats are becoming extremely popular because of their small size, excellent creamy tasting milk, easy-care, and friendly personalities. In America in just ten years, they have gone from being relatively unknown to the most popular dairy goat breed!

The Nigerian Dwarf produces an average of 1.8 litres of milk with the maximum being 4 litres for some does. This is amazing production for such a little animal. Their butterfat percentage ranges from 6%-10% with the protein content being higher than that of other dairy breeds. Their milk has a very smooth and silky texture making it highly sought after for cheese, yoghurt and soap making.

The American Goat Society opened the Herd Book to Nigerian Dwarfs in 1984 and in 2002 they were accepted into the American Dairy Goat Association’s Herd Book. The breed was formerly listed on the heritage breeds watchlist of the Livestock Conservancy as "recovering", but was removed from the list in 2013.

They are relatively new to Australia with the first genetic material being imported by Michael and Ulrike Garwood (First Fleet Stud) who imported embryos and semen in early 2014 and Paul Hamilton (Semtech Animal Breeding Service) who imported semen the following year.  In May 2016 The Dairy Goat Society of Australia recognised the Nigerian Dwarf breed and provided a standard and a register in their Herd Book. 

Nigerians can be shown at Miniature Goat shows as well as Dairy Goat shows.  Interestingly, at the moment, Nigerians who are crossed with other breeds (Australian Miniatures or Saanens being the most common) and which are therefore not 100% purebred can be shown against the true pure breds.  It is possible to upgrade a breeding program to 93.75% pure.  Basically the grades are a first cross (50% pure), a second cross  (75% pure),  a purebred at 7/8th  is  87.5%, and a  Herdbook purebred at 15/16th is 93.75% pure. 

Despite being able to upgrade, the only true purebred is the Herdbook Purebred 100%.  These are a
nimals derived from overseas purebred Nigerian Dwarf Goats as embryos or those born in Australia from 100% purebred parents or from imported semen.  It is not possible to import live goats of any breed so Australia has to rely on the import of embryos and semen.

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