Breed Profile: LaMancha Goat
LaMancha Goat Facts: Size, Colors, Ears, and Milk Production
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BREED: Usually known as LaMancha or Lamancha goat, but having been developed in the United States, purebreds and grade animals are registered in the American Lamancha section. It is questionable whether any of the original goats were from La Mancha, and there is no breed of this name in Spain.
ORIGIN: Before the import of dairy breeds in the early twentieth century, local herds in California were descended from goats brought by Spanish colonists. During 1769–1833, Spanish Empire settlers set up missions in California, bringing with them goats from Mexico. Among these herds there must have been, or arisen, goats with reduced outer ears (pinnae).
In the 1920s, Phoebe Wilhelm maintained a herd of 125 local “earless” goats in California, but due to lack of suitable native bucks, used purebred Saanens to propagate them. During the late 1930s, LaMancha lines were developed with imported dairy breeds, principally in Oregon.
An American Original
HISTORY: Eula Fay Frey is noted for developing the breed and contributing many goats to the foundation herd registered in 1958. In 1937, she bought a dairy farm in California which contained two short-eared goats. The doe was small but produced a surprisingly large quantity of milk. Her son was bred to a French Alpine-Nubian doe who produced a beautiful daughter, Peggy, who became a foundation for Frey’s development of the new breed. Peggy and her line were bred selectively with various dairy breeds: Nubian, French Alpine, Toggenburg, Oberhasli, and an imported Spanish breed, the Murcian. The “Royal Murciana” buck was advertised in the United States in the 1920s, and was considered a most handsome animal. Murcian goats in Spain have since been developed into a productive dairy breed, Murciano-Granadina.
Frey also bought in good-quality small-eared goats of similar breeding to perfect her LaMancha type and moved her farm to Oregon. After 1957, she discontinued crossing with foreign breeds, breeding solely LaMancha to LaMancha. She was one of the main contributors to the foundation herd for the first registry, established in 1958 with around 200 animals. Since then, the breed has spread across the country, being kept in 41 of 50 states, including Alaska, also being registered in Canada and Panama.
CONSERVATION STATUS: The total population was estimated at around 50,000 in 2013, which included 11,518 new registrations. In Canada, the FAO recorded 224 in 2020, a drop from 3650 in 1990.
LaMancha Goat Features
BIODIVERSITY: Goats with reduced or missing pinnae are known in other parts of the world (notably in Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and in the Nambi goat of Brazil). This trait may not necessarily spring from a common origin. It also occurs in sheep. In LaManchas, the pinna-reducing gene is dominant: goats with two such genes have very little visible ear (gopher-type), while those with just one such gene have slightly longer residual pinnae (elf-type). The dominant gene ensures that the trait is passed on to most offspring. LaMancha genetic samples show most similarity with those of European breeds, especially those around the Alps and the Mediterranean. This suggests that imported dairy goats dominate LaManchas’ genetic makeup, which is consistent with their history. Sampling over separate herds revealed a healthy level of genetic diversity within the breed.
DESCRIPTION: Smaller than the average dairy goat, but sturdy with good dairy conformation and strong legs. Fur is short, fine, and glossy. Beards are uncommon in the female. Wattles may be present. The head has a straight profile, horned or polled, and outer ears are distinctively short. The “gopher” ear has a very reduced pinna, up to one inch (2.5 cm) long, if any at all, and bears little, if any, cartilage. It can give the goat an earless appearance. Only bucks of this ear type can register, as they are sure to produce short-eared offspring. The “elf” ear is longer, up to two inches (5 cm) and bears some cartilage shaping. Ear tips fold up or down. Identification is generally a tattoo on the tail web.
LaMancha Goat Size and Characteristics
HEIGHT TO WITHERS: Does at least 28 in. (71 cm); bucks 30 in. (76 cm).
WEIGHT: Does at least 130 lb. (59 kg); bucks 160 lb. (73 kg).
COLORING: There are many and varied LaMancha goat colors, including white, cream, various shades of brown, gray, or black, often patterned with badger stripes, dairy markings, or pied. All colors and patterns are accepted in registers.
POPULAR USE: Dairy.
PRODUCTIVITY: Does produce a steady supply of rich milk, averaging over 2200 lb. (1000 kg) over 275–306 days. Butterfat averages 3.9%, but records are as high as 8%. LaMancha goat milk production was originally developed for long lactation with up to four years between freshenings. long lactation with up to four years between freshenings. Although they are not managed as such at present, there may still be potential for long lactation, which could be of interest for low-input and lower-impact farming. Kiddings average two offspring.
TEMPERAMENT: Calm, quiet, people-friendly, and easy to handle and milk.
ADAPTABILITY: LaManchas adapt well to different environments and climates, making them ideal for 4-H and dairy projects around the country.
- Sponenberg, D.P., 2019. Local Goat Breeds in the United States. In Goats (Capra) – From Ancient to Modern. IntechOpen.
- American LaMancha Breeders Association
- Frey, E. F., 1960. How American LaManchas Came In To Being. Dairy Goat Journal.
- Carvalho, G.M.C., Paiva, S.R., Araújo, A.M., Mariante, A., and Blackburn, H.D., 2015. Genetic structure of goat breeds from Brazil and the United States: Implications for conservation and breeding programs. Journal of Animal Science, 93(10).
- Colli, L., Milanesi, M., Talenti, A., Bertolini, F., Chen, M., Crisà, A., Daly, K.G., Del Corvo, M., Guldbrandtsen, B., Lenstra, J.A., and Rosen, B.D., 2018. Genome-wide SNP profiling of worldwide goat populations reveals strong partitioning of diversity and highlights post-domestication migration routes. Genetics Selection Evolution, 50(1).
*Creative Commons photographs licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Originally published in the May/June 2022 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.