We know that goats can provide us with milk and meat, but did you know goats can provide strong, soft fiber too? For thousands of years, people have been keeping goats just for their long silky hair. This hair is then spun into mohair and cashmere.
We’ve found eleven gorgeous long haired goat breeds that will have you dying to whip out your knitting needles. There’s even a tiny long haired goat that you can milk too!
Keep reading to learn more!
People have been raising goats for meat, milk, and fiber for a long time. And one of the oldest, most well known breeds of fiber goats is the Angora goat. And when we say a long time, we’re talking Biblical times here — there is a reference to Moses using a mohair covering for the Arc of the Covenant.
Now you might be saying, “Mohair? I thought we were talking about Angora goats.” I understand — this is where things get a little confusing. Angora goats produce a fine referred to as mohair. However, you may have heard of angora wool and think this comes from Angora goats. But it doesn’t. Angora wool comes from angora rabbits, which while cute, are very different than goats.
Angora goats are smaller than other breeds of goats and easily distinguishable by their long hair. They can have either ringlets or locks. Ringlet produces finer wool while the lock type hair is a bit bulkier (1).
Whichever type of hair they have, angora goats can be a great addition to your herd. Not only are they attractive, with valuable hair, but they also are one of the best goats for clearing brush.
In contrast to Angora goats, Pygora goats are a relatively new breed of fiber goats. This breed was first bred in Oregon from a cross between a Pygmy goat and an Angora (2). The goats have the small size you expect from a pygmy goat combined with the long silky hair from the Angora side of the family.
Despite their diminutive size, these goats can produce between six ounces and two pounds of hair per shearing! Like Angoras, their hair is also classified into different types depending on fineness and quality.
Pygora does are a minimum of 18 inches, and bucks are slightly larger at 23 inches minimum, though the breed can be larger. These tiny, adorable goats are a great addition to your herd for fiber or even just as pets.
We talked earlier about the Pygora, the Pygmie Angora cross. Let us now introduce you to the Nigora, the Nigerian Dwarf Angora cross. Like the Pygora, the Nigora is small, with long hair that makes great wool. But the Nigora takes it one step further towards the ideal small farm goat. These goats are also dairy goats!
So if you are like me and enjoy stacking functions on your farm, the Nigora might be an excellent choice for you. These tiny goats can provide your homestead with both milk and hair that you can use on the farm or even sell for profit.
Talk about a lot packed into a tiny goat!
Anatolian Black Goats
Anatolian Black Goats are a breed raised in Turkey, so you are unlikely to be able to add them to your herd. These goats are kept for meat and dairy as well as fiber from their long hair. While they are referred to as black goats, their hair can also come in brown, gray, or pied (3).
While uncommon in other areas outside of Turkey, these goats are highly productive and robust. This makes them extremely popular in their native region.
Despite the name, you are actually unlike to find Maltese goats on the island of Malta. Instead, these goats are most common in Italy, though they are also found in Greece, Turkey, and other parts of Asia Minor.
Maltese is a distinguished looking breed of long haired goats. You can recognize them by their distinctive coloring, a white face with black sides, a black crown, and black ears. They are a decent size, with females reaching 27 inches tall and males just under three feet on average.
While Maltese is considered a long haired breed, these goats are not commonly kept for fiber. Instead, they are kept for meat and dairy. Many traditional Italian cheeses, like ricotta and caprino, are made from Maltese milk.
Several Northern European countries have breeds of long haired landrace breeds of goats. You may be unfamiliar with the term landrace, so before we start talking about these goats, let’s explain what it means according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (4).
“Definition of landrace: a local variety of a species of plant or animal that has distinctive characteristics arising from development and adaptation over time to conditions of a localized geographic region and that typically displays greater genetic diversity than types subjected to formal breeding practices”
Essentially, that means each landrace breed is unique to its individual region. These are the indigenous goat breeds. You will find that the Dutch, Danish, Finnish, and Swedish Landrace Goats are all long haired.
Many of these breeds have been in existence since Medival times. However, over the years, populations declined. In the last 50 to 100 years, breeders have worked to restore these traditional landrace breeds with great success.
Bagots are Britain’s oldest know breed of goat. The existence of these goats was first recorded back in 1389. The herd has always been feral or semi-feral, allowing them to survive over the centuries.
Bagots are attractive goats with long hair that is black and white in color. Because they have spent most of their existence as wild goats, there are many variations in their distinctive coloring.
Nowadays, these goats exist primarily in paddock enclosures rather than roaming wild in the British countryside. There is still a semi-feral herd that can be found at Levens Hall in Cumbria.
Bilberry Goats are a feral breed of Irish goats that have been roaming the countryside near Waterford since the 1700s. Nowadays, the herd still roams free, protected by the local inhabitants who help feed and care for the goats during the colder months of the year.
This herd is a unique type of goat not found anywhere else in the world. Bilberries are larger than their domesticated cousins with a distinctive shaggy goat.
While volunteer efforts have increased the population of these goats from seven in 2000 to over forty, it is important we support the efforts to conserve these wild goat breeds.
Australian Cashmere Goat
The story of the Australian Cashmere goat is fascinating. Early settlers imported goats to Australia for their farms. However, in the 1920s, there was a collapse in the industry, and many farm goats were turned out in the wild.
Over time these goats bred with other bush goats. For many years they were feral goats roaming the Australian bush, slowly adapting to their environment. But that all changed in the 1970s when researchers discovered cashmere quality hair on bush goats!
Soon, a breeding program was in place, and the Australian Cashmere Goat breed was born.
Now, these goats are commercially farmed all over Australia for the high quality long hair that they produce.
You may know the ChangThangi goat breed by its other name — Pashmina. These goats are native to arid regions in India and are prized for their long fine fur. While they are primarily kept for their wool, these goats are also used to provide meat. But they are not heavy milk producers, so they are rarely kept as dairy goats.
They are medium sized animals with white or light colored hair. This hair is considered amongst the finest goat hair out there, and Changthangi is one of the breeds that are referred to collectively as “Cashmere goats.”
Chigu goats are another Indian breed that falls under the classification of cashmere goats. Chigu goats are common in the same areas where the Changthangi are common, cold, arid regions in India. They are medium sized goats, and their coat is white mixed with grayish red.
In this video, you can see how this breed of goats looks like:
- Breeds of Livestock — Angora Goats. Retrieved from: http://afs.okstate.edu/breeds/goats/angora/index.html/
- Breeds of Goats — Pygora. Retrieved from: https://goats.extension.org/goat-breeds-pygora/
- Breeds of Livestock — Anatolian Black Goats. Retrieved from: http://afs.okstate.edu/breeds/goats/anatolianblack
- Landrace. Retrieved from: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/landrace
Rachael and her husband arrived on Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua in 2011. There they founded El Jardin de la Vida, a tropical micro food forest, focusing on Sustainable Living Education. She teaches others to build with natural materials, live off-grid, and appreciate slow food.