Breed Profile: Kalahari Red Goats
More Than Simply Red Boer Goats
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Breed: Kalahari Red goats are a distinct breed, despite the belief that they are simply solid red Boer goats or Savanna goats.
Origin: This commercial breed was developed from native South African and Namibian landraces and improved red Boer goats.
History: Goats reached South Africa about 2000 years ago, and many localized landraces have arisen. These tough little goats have excellent survival skills, disease resistance, and make the most of sparse vegetation. Their coats have varied patterns of brown and white markings, often speckled or pied.
Developed from Landraces and Red Boer Goats
From the 1970s to the 1990s, several farmers in different parts of South Africa started to collect red-brown and dappled goats from different herds as far as Namibia. Some acquired goats from native landraces, while others selected solid red Boer goat kids. Each developed an improved herd by selecting for uniform red coloring, fecundity, and mothering skills. Otherwise, the goats were subjected to natural selection, so that only hardy does went on to reproduce.
A couple of these breeders were influenced by American advice. Tollie Jordaans’ family were founding breeders of the Boer goat. While purchasing Boer goats for export to the United States in 1994, exotic animal importer Jurgen Schultz advised him to start breeding brown goats. Similarly, Louis van Rensberg started selecting solid red kids from his Boer flock after a visit to America.
Confirming a New Breed
A 1996 article on one of the herds resulted in these breeders combining forces. They showed their goats as “Brown Savannas” in a 1998 Bloemfontein event together with Savanna breeders. To gain breed recognition, they submitted samples for DNA testing, which confirmed that the goats were sufficiently different from Boer and Savanna to form their own breed. Breeders formed a club in 1999. They chose the name Kalahari Red for the well-known location and the rich red color of the local sand in the savanna where the goats browsed. In this same year, genetics were exported to Australia. From then on, interest in the breed flourished in South Africa and Namibia and, by 2014, there were 55 registered breeders, including commercial businesses, and 7000 registered goats.
Conservation Status: As a commercial breed, it is not threatened. However, the indigenous goats that went into developing the Boer, Savanna, and Kalahari Red are endangered, mainly due to crossbreeding with commercial breeds. These landraces are recognized as important genetic resources needing protection due to their thriftiness, hardiness, and adaptation to the various African climates.
Biodiversity: As yet, genetically tested herds in South Africa show reasonable levels of diversity. However, results from Boer herds, which have been selectively bred for longer, indicate that line breeding could threaten breed diversity.
Characteristics of the Kalahari Red Goat
Description: The long, deep body has a medium-to-large frame and strong legs. The short, glossy hair bears little undercoat during winter. The pigmented skin is loose and supple. Dark round horns curve backwards behind broad pendulous ears, soft brown eyes, and a slightly roman nose. Multiple, divided, or extra non-functional teats may occur.
Coloring: The solid body color shades from light to dark red-brown. As their ancestors were patterned white and brown, white patches sometimes recur in offspring.
Weight: Mature doe 165 lb. (75 kg); mature buck 250 lb. (115 kg); kids at six months average 66 lb. (30 kg).
Popular Use: Meat and skins.
Productivity: Kids are fast-growing and yield tender, flavorsome, low-fat meat. Does are fertile and prolific, normally bearing twins of equal weight. Although peak fertility occurs in fall, they can breed several times a year, raising three litters over two years. Doelings can breed from six months of age if their diet is high in nutrition, but early breeding can disrupt growth and future performance.
Expert Mothers and Survivors in the Veld
Temperament: Kalahari Reds are known to be calm, gentle, and make excellent mothers, both in their care of young and their protective instincts of flocking well and hiding their kids.
Adaptability: They are well adapted to free ranging in the arid to semi-arid savanna in South Africa and the Kalahari Desert. Their strong legs allow them to roam far to seek out varied vegetation. They kid and raise their young out on the veld without human intervention. Their coloring acts as great camouflage against the red soil of their native land. South African farmers have found their natural ability to conceal themselves a useful deterrent to theft as well as predation. Pigmented skin gives them resistance to strong sunshine. They endure heat and continue to forage during hot weather.
These qualities help them thrive in extensive free-range systems in South Africa and Namibia. In other countries, like any imported breed, they may not be so perfectly adapted or prolific under new environmental conditions or management systems.
Snyman, M.A., 2014. South African goat breeds: Kalahari Red. Info-pack ref. 2014/009. Grootfontein Agricultural Development Institute
André Pienaar, 2012. The origin and history of the Kalahari Red. Boer Goat Breeders’ Association
Originally published in the July/August 2020 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.