A complete, detailed history of the Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goat has not been compiled. They are believed to be descendants of the West African Dwarf Goats. Throughout all of West Africa, there are similarly small dwarf goats used for both food and milk. The primary concern of these agricultural-based populations was a hardy animal that supported the household in as many ways as possible. It is widely documented that imported dairy goats were not as hardy and struggled with the West African environment, especially with the onslaught of the tsetse fly. However, the dwarf goats seemed to develop a resistance and continued to thrive and survive.
Several theories exist on how these little goats came to America. One belief is that they were brought on ships as early as 1918 to serve as food for the large cats headed to American zoos. Those that survived the voyage became part of the zoo family. As their populations began to grow, these goats were indiscriminately referred to as Pygmies. Over time, breeders came to recognize two distinct types. The Pygmy breed was promoted as a short, heavier-bodied animal with round bones. The Nigerian Dwarf was considered to be a more refined dairy type with angular body proportions and flat bones. As breeders began to communicate and compare notes, they began to intentionally refine the differences through selective breeding.
All breeds began their development in a specific part of the world. Breeders have carefully molded this goat breed into a superior milk-producing dairy animal, which is also small and perfect for the backyard, hobby farm or 4-H project.
As compared to other dairy goat breeds, Nigerian Dwarfs require less space and feed than the “normal” full-size dairy goat. They also produce milk with substantially higher butterfat content than other breeds, making their milk the ideal choice for soap and cheese-making. Nigerians can average between 6% to 10% butterfat in their milk. Nubians are also known to produce a higher butterfat milk, which averages nearly 3% to 5%.
Click here to learn more about the colors and coat patterns of Nigerian Dwarf Goats.