Nigerian Dwarf Goats are miniature
dairy goats from West African. They were originally brought to the United
States on ships as food for large cats such as lions, the survivors originally
lived in zoos. Nigerian Dwarf goats are popular as pets and family milkers due
to their easy maintenance and small stature. However, because of their high
butterfat, they are also used by some dairies to make cheese.
Nigerian Dwarf Goats are
registered by the American Dairy Goat Association, the American Goat Society,
and the Nigerian Dwarf Goat Association.
There are two different height
standards for the Nigerian Dwarf goat. The height standard maintained by the
American Goat Society and the American Dairy Goat Association requires does to
be less than 22.5 inches (57 cm) at the withers, and bucks to be less than 23.5
inches (60 cm) at the withers. The Nigerian Dwarf Goat Association states does
should ideally be 17–19 inches (43–48 cm) in height, with a maximum allowed
height of 21 inches (53 cm), and bucks should ideally be 19–21 inches (48–53
cm), with a maximum allowed height of 23 inches (58 cm).
Nigerian Dwarf Goats come in many
colors: white, black, red, cream and patterns such as buckskin (brown with a
black cape over the head and neck along with other black markings) and
chamoisee (similar to an Oberhasli goat), with or without white spots. Some
have white "frosting" on the ears. Although most are naturally
horned, generally breeders disbud them at a young age (usually less than 2
weeks of age) for safety to the goat, its herd mates, and humans. Some Nigerian
Dwarf goats have blue eyes, which is a dominant trait in goats.
Nigerian Dwarfs give a surprising
quantity of milk for their size. Their production ranges from one to 8 pounds
of milk per day, with an average of 2.5. Since Nigerians breed year-round, it
is easy to stagger freshenings (births) in a herd so the entire herd is never
dry. Thus, they are ideal milk goats for most families. Their milk has a higher
butterfat content than milk from full-sized dairy goats, averaging 6.5%
according to the American Dairy Goat Association. Later in lactation, butterfat
can go up to 10% or even higher. This makes Nigerian Dwarf goat milk excellent
for cheese and soap making.
Nigerian dwarf goats' small size
also makes them excellent "visitor" animals for nursing homes and
hospitals. Some goat supply houses even sell small harnesses and tiny wagons
that fit Nigerian dwarf goats. As with all goats, does or neutered males
(wethers) make the best pets, as bucks can have an objectionable odor. Nigerian
Dwarfs, especially does and wethers, do well with children. Nigerian dwarfs
also are easy birthers with very few birthing problems.
Nigerian Dwarf goats are gentle
and easily trainable. This, along with their small size and colorful
appearance, makes them popular as pets. Some breeders bottle-feed kids, which
makes them more bonded with humans. Others prefer to let their mothers raise
them naturally, finding bottle-fed kids to be overly clingy. With either method,
they can be very friendly and can easily be trained to walk on a leash and some
enjoy coming into the house with their owners. Adult goats should not live in
the house, however, because as ruminants, they need to spend a large part of
the day eating hay, pasture, or browse, and not eating the couch!