Nigerian Dwarf goats are gaining popularity as pets and on the farm. And you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. Well, question no further. We are here to tell you everything you want to know about these pin-sized dairy goats.
Our Nigerian Dwarf Complete Breed Guide covers everything you need to know to decide if these are the right goats for your herds.
We’ll even reveal the rather sinister origins of these adorable goats. Keep reading to learn more!
Before we dive deep into the breed specifics, we thought we’d provide a quick overview of what you can expect from a Nigerian Dwarf Goat.
|Average Height||Does: 17”-19” |
|Average Weight||75 lbs|
|Average Daily Milk Production||3-4 lbs per day|
|Percentage of Butterfat||6-10% butterfat|
|Appearance||Many color combinations of brown, black or gold mixed with white. Naturally horned|
Still not certain if this is the kind of goat you want in your herd? Keep reading to learn more about these miniature dairy goats.
Nigerian Dwarf Breed History
As their name suggests, Nigerian Dwarf Goats originated in Nigeria in Western Africa. A small breed of goats from the western African region back in the 1930s. According to the Nigerian Dairy Goat Association, these goats first arrived in the US for an unusual purpose (1).
“These little goats were primarily used as food and were brought over on ships many years ago as a meat source for the large cats that were being delivered to zoos.”
The goats lucky enough to survive the journey were left at zoos. From there, with the help of breeders, these small African goats diverged into two breeds, Pygmies and Nigerian Dwarfs. While they started from the same stock, these are now two recognized distinct breeds. We’ll discuss the differences more later. Let’s focus on the Nigerian Dwarfs for now.
Despite the fact these small goats first arrived back in the 1930s, it was a long time before they became a recognized breed. The American Goat society first recognized the Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goat in 1981. But it was almost 20 years later before the American Dairy Goat Association finally recognized the breed in 2005 (2).
What Do Nigerian Dwarfs Look Like?
Nigerian Goats are simply adorable. Measuring less than two feet tall, these miniature goats are finer boned and more delicate than meat goats. In fact, they look just like other dairy goat breeds, just tiny.
According to the Nigerian Dairy Goat Association, the ideal height for does is between 17-19 inches tall and for bucks is 19 – 21 inches tall. Though if they are an inch or two taller, they are still within the breed standards. You can expect them to weigh in around 75 lbs.
They come in a variety of different colors, including black, brown, and gold, often with white. Spots and patches of color are common. Every Nigerian Dwarf will be different, and that is one more appealing trait of these pint-sized goats.
All color variations are accepted for show goats, but other characteristics can disqualify your goat. If your goat has a Roman nose, pendulous ears, a curly coat, or is simply larger than the breed standard, it won’t be able to compete.
Pros and Cons of Nigerian Dwarf Goats
Whether you are considering adding Nigerian Dwarf goats to your already existing herd or just getting started with goats, it’s nice to be able to see at a glance what the positive and negative sides of this breed are.
Luckily for you, we’ve outlined the pros and cons of Nigerian Dwarfs in this handy dandy little chart for you.
- Small Size
- Decent milk production
- High Butter Fat Content
- Easy Going
- Breed Year Round
- Not good for meat
- Long lived, so be prepared for a long commitment
- You may need more dwarf goats to get the same amount of milk as one larger goat
As you can see, we think Nigerian Dwarfs have a lot going for them. Their small size and easy-going temperament make them the perfect introductory goats. Plus, you get the advantage of rich, delicious milk should you choose to breed them.
However, you will want to take the time to consider some of the cons of having Nigerian Dwarfs as well. First, consider their lifespan. They can live for up to 15 years, so make sure you are prepared to make a commitment to this animal.
And while they produce a lot of milk for their small stature, they still don’t compare to high production larger breeds like Saanens. To keep your goats in milk, you do need to breed them regularly. This means the continued addition of new kids to your herd. Nigerian Dwarfs aren’t really considered meat animals, so what do you plan to do with your babies? All of these factors could be considered downsides to keeping Nigerian Dwarf Goats.
That being said, let’s examine some of these tiny goats’ qualities in more detail.
A Tiny Goat With A Big Personality
When it comes to personality, it doesn’t get much better than Nigerian Dwarf Goats. These adorable goats are both friendly and playful. Everyone agrees that these goats are so even tempered that even children and the elderly can handle them. Heck, even breeding bucks are calm compared to other goat breeds. Their good nature makes Nigerian Dwarfs good pets and companions. They also are an excellent choice for 4-H projects.
Not only do these goats get along well with people, but they also get along well with other animals. You’ll find they will integrate well with goats of all breeds, even if the other goats are larger.
Nigerian Dwarf goats also can be pastured with other animals, such as llamas, cattle, and horses. The goats will help clear the brush and brambles the other animals can’t eat. While you may think their small size would hamper them, it doesn’t. They are able to reach smaller, tighter areas that larger animals can’t get to.
Despite their small size, Nigerian Dwarfs can be considered prodigious milkers. They can produce up to 3-4 pounds of milk a day! (3) Now, you may be thinking — pounds of milk? How much milk is a pound of milk anyway? It may seem like an odd measurement to us, but when farmers talk about how much milk they get from their dairy animals, they measure it in pounds.
A gallon of milk weighs 8.6 pounds.
If we know that a gallon of milk weighs 8.6 pounds, we can figure that 3-4 pounds of milk is a little under a half gallon of milk (4). And a half gallon is a lot of milk from a little goat.
Beyond producing a lot of milk, Nigerian Dwarf’s milk has a higher butter fat content than many larger breeds have. Nigerian Dwarf’s milk may contain as much as 6-10% butter fat. Milk with higher butter fat content is better for making richer cheeses and, of course, butter, as well as being an excellent choice in soap making.
Caring for Nigerian Dwarf Goats
Nigerian Dwarfs do not require any specific accommodations beyond what you would normally provide your goats. Like all breeds, you want to make sure they have access to forage or the best hay for goats, as well as clean water.
They will also need some kind of shelter to keep them out of the weather, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be fancy. There are many ways to build a cheap, easy goat shelter if you don’t already have one.
Don’t be fooled into thinking just because these goats are miniature, you can have a shorter fence. You’ll be amazed at how high these little goats can jump. Even though they are under two feet tall, Nigerian Dwarf goats have jumped over fences that are four feet tall! Now, they are more likely to jump your fence if there is a rock or something high to start from. But to be safe, you should still make sure your fence is high enough.
Breeding Your Nigerian Dwarf Goats
Nigerian Dwarf goats can be bred year-round, unlike some breeds which have a specific mating season. Breeding at different times is advantageous if you hope to have year round access to milk. If you have more than one doe, you can breed them at different times, ensuring that when one is dry, the others are in milk.
To ensure your does stay healthy, you shouldn’t breed more often than twice in a three year period. Don’t worry! Even with this schedule, you will have plenty of goats to keep you busy.
Nigerian Dwarfs commonly birth triplets and quadruplets, and birthing as many as five kids isn’t unheard of!
You should wait until your female goats are at least 7-10 months or 70% of their expected weight before you breed them. Waiting will help prevent birthing complications that are common among younger animals.
Bucks, on the other hand, are ready to go around three months of age. While they are vigorous breeders, Nigerian Dwards’ even temperament makes even breeding bucks easy to handle.
Differences Between Nigerian Dwarf and Pygmy Goats
Not all small goats are the same breed. Pygmy goats are another small goat breed that is often confused with Nigerian Dwarfs. Now, if you remember, earlier, we told you that the origins of these two goat breeds start in the same place. However, selective breeding was used over time, and two distinct breeds emerged.
So let’s talk about how these two tiny goat breeds are similar and different.
Nigerian Dwarfs are thin boned and resemble their larger dairy goat cousins. Pygmy goats, on the other hand, are stocky for their size and don’t appear quite so dainty. Pygmy goats also tend to be black, grizzled black, gray, or brown, possibly with white patches.
While you can milk Pygmy goats, they yield less, lower butterfat milk than Nigerian Dwarfs. Oddly enough, tiny Pygmy goats are often kept for meat. While they are small, they are prolific breeders. However, most Pygmy goats are kept as pets.
Like the Nigerian Dwarf, Pygmy goats have easy going temperaments. They love to play and are safe enough to be around children.
Nigerian Dwarf goats may be small, but they have a lot going for them. Their miniature stature and frolicsome nature make them a joy to have around the homestead, whether you keep them for milk or simply as pets. Nigerian Dwarfs are gentle enough that the whole family can experience the pleasure these animals will bring.
As if watching tiny goats jump around isn’t reason enough to keep them, these animals can provide you with a surprising amount of delicious, healthy milk each day. You can drink that milk and use your excess to make cheese, butter, and even soap!
If you already have goats, you will find these miniature goats integrate exceptionally well with your existing herd. Nigerian Dwarfs are just so friendly– they get along with everyone, even other livestock animals. And they don’t need any special requirements. Just good food, clean water, and a place to get out of the weather.
Keep in mind that goats can live up to fifteen years. So taking on a herd, or even a couple of goats is a long-term commitment. But if you are ready, Nigerian Dwarfs are great goats to add to your family!
- Origins. Retrieved from: http://www.ndga.org/origins.html
- Farm Animal: Nigerian Dwarf Goat. Retrieved from: https://culturecheesemag.com/farm-animal/nigerian-dwarf-goat/
- Breeds of Livestock — Nigerian Dwarf Goat. Retrieved from: http://afs.okstate.edu/breeds/goats/nigeriandwarf/index.html/
- How much does milk weigh? Retrieved from: https://dairy-cattle.extension.org/how-much-does-milk-weigh/
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.