One of the most common questions that we get asked when we are hiking with our goats, is what breed they are. When selecting pack goats, most people use goats that are of one of the dairy breeds. These tend to be more athletic than the meat breeds, and are large enough to carry significant weight, unlike the dwarf or pygmy breeds. There are also a surplus of male goats in the dairy industry. Most people use castrated male goats for pack goats, called wethers. This is because the wethers tend to be larger than the does, but don't have the stinky, aggressive nature of an uncastrated male or buck. The following are some popular breeds used for packing.
Alpine- Alpines are probably the most common breed used for packing. They are large, beautiful goats that tend to be athletic and capable in the backcountry. Alpines have a reputation for being quite dominant and aggressive with other goats, but sweet with their human guardians. As their name suggests, they originated in the European Alps.
LaMancha- LaManchas are famous for being the goats without ears! Of course, they have ears, they are more just much smaller than the big goat ears that we are use to. LaManchas are known for having very sweet, affectionate dispositions. They are easy going and cooperative, and come in a variety of colors. Another thing that makes LaManchas unique is that they are the only breed of goat on this list developed right here in America. They were first breed in California in the 1950's, and are now popular throughout the US.
Saanen / Sable- Saanens are a breed that originated in the Swiss Alps. They are one of the largest dairy goat breeds, and are usually all white in color. Like the LaMancha, they are known for their sweet and gentle disposition. The down side is that some lines of Sannen are less heat tolerant than other goat breeds, and their white skin tends to burn easily in the sun. A Sable goat is just a Saanen that has additional colors besides white.
Toggenburg- Toggenburgs are another large Swiss dairy breed, with very distinct markings. They are a light fawn to dark chocolate body color, with white ears, legs, facial strips, and rump patches (pictured at the top of this page). Toggenburgs are the oldest breed of dairy goat still in existence, and also the first breed used as a pack goat by John Mioncynski in his book, The Pack Goat. Toggenburgs can get quite large, and are hard working and alert on the trail.
Oberhasli- Also known as Swiss Alpines, this breed is very closely related to the Alpine breed of goat. They have been selectively breed to have primarily one color pattern, a striking reddish brown with black trim and face stripes. Rare Obers that are all black or all copper are occasionally born. Oberhasli's tend to be smaller than Alpines and much more docile. What they lack in size they make up for in athleticism, and are often thought of as the "energizer bunnies" of the pack goat world. They have a reputation for being less fearful of water than other goats, and are exceptionally good at navigating rocky, difficult terrain. For people looking for a packgoat that is sweet and friendly, an excellent hiker, but not necessarily needing a giant goat, the Ober just might be the perfect fit.
Pack Goat Cross- Most of our GOATreks goats are cross breeds breed specifically for packing. Across the country there are many pack goat breeders crossing different dairy and meat breeds to try and create the perfect pack goat. We hope that their efforts will someday culminate in a designated breed known as a 'Pack Goat'. Many of these crosses get the best from the goat breeds in their history, as well as having the genetic diversity necessary to get the hybrid vigor that gives a cross superior health. When shopping for a pack goat cross, buying from a breeder that is breeding specifically for pack goats will help ensure that you get a goat with the correct confirmation and disposition for packing. All of our goats have come from Dwite Sharp of Paradise Ranch in Kansas, and we couldn't be happier.