Is that a Pygmy Goat or a Nigerian Dwarf Goat?
Often the first question we hear when taking a baby Nigerian out in public is “Is that a pygmy goat”? Nigerian Dwarf Goats and Pygmy’s are two distinct breeds with a similar origin. The two are frequently confused.
Origin of Pygmy Goats and Nigerian Dwarf Goats
The origin of the Pygmy goat is believed to be the Cameroon Valley in Africa. The Nigerian Dwarf Goats originated specifically in Nigeria. While originating on the same continent, the two breeds are very different in purpose and structure. Over the years with careful selection, serious breeders refined the best of both, strengthening the meat characteristics of the Pygmy and enhancing the dairy characteristics of the Nigerian.
They are similar in attitude, temperament, playfulness and maximum height. However, the similarity pretty much ends here.
How can you tell the difference? Body differences of Pygmy Goats and Nigerian Dwarf Goats
Pygmy goats have a round, heavy bone structure. They are thick muscled and stout. The body circumference is wide and full barreled. The necks are thick and short and the overall body length from head to tail is short. The head is square with the forehead being wide. Colors vary with white “frosting” on black and brown goats being very common. While Pygmy goats can be milked, the udder’s primary purpose is for the nourishment of the young. Pygmy’s are considered a small or dwarf MEAT breed.
Nigerian Dwarf Goats have a refined overall body appearance. The bones are flat and the ideal body build is more delicate, with the refined angularity of a dairy animal. Overall body length is long. The front legs are set under the shoulders, back from the chest. The structure of the hind quarters is very important to allow for good udder development, milk production and longevity of the mammary system. In the show ring, the udder accounts for 40% of the total score.
Pygmy’s were not bred to be milk animals. Their purpose was meat. A pygmy goat can be milked after having kids, however comparatively speaking, the amount obtained will be very small compared to a well-bred Nigerian Dwarf.
This is not to say that EVERY Nigerian Dwarf Goat will produce copious amounts of milk. There are poor udders out there! An excellent udder is a result of genetics, years of breeding select animals with proper structure and maintaining production records. However, even with the best of these efforts, diet and nutrition are critical and if not up to par, poor milk production will endure. This is the reality of raising any animal for milk, whether it be goats, cattle, sheep or even reindeer! Lastly, a dairy goat does not produce milk unless it is bred and delivers kids. So Nigerian dwarfs do make wonderful pets even if never used for milk.
Temperament of Pygmy Goats and Nigerian Dwarf Goats
Either breed can make entertaining, fun loving companions and pets. Which you choose may depend upon your personal taste and your preference for one body style over the other. We’ve heard many people who owned one or the other share stories of mean, aggressive, and hard-headed animals and so they chose the “other” dwarf” thinking it was a “breed” problem.
However, at Honey Sweetie Acres, we do not subscribe to this belief. Why? A fair evaluation of any animal must take into account the conditions in which that animal has lived. The way an animal is treated and handled from birth has a huge effect on the resultant personality and behavior traits. Research has shown that animals left to their own devices for survival and food with minimal interaction with people or companion animals, have altered brain chemistry. Guess what follows……BEHAVIOR! Our bucks are some of the sweetest gentlemen around, but we spend time with them daily, not just during breeding season.
Goat ownership is rewarding, fun and entertaining!! So, do your own research, visit farms, don’t be afraid to ask questions (worming schedule, CAE testing, diet to start) and observe the conditions the goats live in, before purchasing either breed. Check out the goat registries to learn more. For Pygmy’s contact the National Pygmy Association at www.npga-pygmy.com. For Nigerian Dwarfs contact either the American Dairy Goat Association at www.adga.com or the Nigerian Dwarf Goat Association at www.ndga.org to learn more!