Breed Profile: Nubian Goats
Anglo-Nubian Goat Becomes America's Favorite Dairy Breed
Reading Time: 5 minutes
Breed: Nubian goats are called Anglo-Nubian in Britain, where the breed originated. The term “Nubian” was first coined in France, where goats had been imported from the eastern Mediterranean. Nubia was defined as the area along the Nile from Egypt to Sudan.
Origin: In the nineteenth century, native British goats were crossed with imported goats from trading ports in India and the eastern Mediterranean, leading to the development of the breed. There may be slight Swiss dairy goat influence.
The History of Nubian Goats
History: Trading ships took on goats at ports in India, North Africa, and the Middle East to provide milk and meat during the journey back to British ports. On arrival in England, goat keepers purchased the bucks and bred them with the local milch goat. By 1893, these crossbreeds were referred to as Anglo-Nubian goats. They already showed the distinctive lop ears, roman nose, tall frame, and short coat inherited from the imported bucks.
As the exotic look became popular, Sam Woodiwiss set up a breeding program to produce a registered herd. He imported a Jamnapari buck from India in 1896. Then in 1903/4, he imported a Zairabi buck (a tall Egyptian milk goat), a stocky buck from the Chitral region of Pakistan, and a hornless buck of Nubian type from Paris Zoo. These bucks were crossed with the native British milch goat. The first three sired the original lines that were registered in the official herdbook in 1910. Later, registrations from other bucks were included, including the prizewinning male from Paris. These bucks had a large impact on the breed. The herds were developed as good milkers with fast-growing kids for meat.
A 1906 import to the United States failed to register for breed. However, in 1909, J. R. Gregg imported a buck and two does, and then a further buck and doe in 1913. He started a registered breeding program, with the breed name changing to Nubian. He bred them selectively without crossbreeding. Further imports from England totaled about 30 by 1950.
In 1917, D. C. Mowat imported goats from England to Canada and started a registered breeding program. Further imports from Canada and England to the U.S. greatly influenced the development of the breed.
From the 1940s, exports to Latin America, Africa, and Asia from England and America provided stock for crossbreeding to improve milk and meat yields.
Conservation Status: Widespread worldwide and not threatened, although very small groups exist in Asian, African, and Central/South American countries. Small isolated groups are at risk, due to the low number of good, unrelated breeding partners.
Biodiversity: A composite breed combining genes from different origins.
Characteristics of the Nubian Goat
Description: The Nubian’s distinctive appearance is characterized by long, wide drooping ears, large almond-shaped eyes, a wide forehead, a convex “roman” nose, a tall flat-sided body, long legs, and a short glossy coat.
Coloring: Nubians are available in a wide variety of colors and patterns. Black, tan, and chestnut are predominant. White or pale patches or mottles are common. White facial stripes may be an indication of crossbreeding with goats of Swiss origin.
Height to Withers: Bucks average 36 in. (90 cm), does 32 in. (80 cm).
Weight: Minimum—174 lb. (79 kg); Maximum—bucks 309 lb. (140 kg); does 243 lb. (110 kg).
Popular Use: Dual purpose—milk and meat. Also popular in African, Asian, and Latin-American countries for crossbreeding with local stock to improve milk or meat production.
America’s Best Goats for Cheese
Productivity: Average 6.6 lb. (3.9 kg) milk per day/1920 lb. (871 kg) over 305 days with 4.8% butterfat and 3.5% protein. Most Nubians possess genes for high production of alpha s1-casein, an important protein in cheesemaking, and a huge goat milk benefit. Nubian production of this protein is high compared to European dairy breeds. Although yield is lower than for most dairy breeds, the high levels of milk solids impart a rich flavor and improve coagulation, making it an ideal constituent for making goats’ cheese. These qualities have helped the Nubian to become the most popular dairy goat breed in the U.S.
Temperament: Bright, friendly, and tractable. They call with loud voices when requiring attention. On the other hand, they are quiet when content.
Adaptability: Their large ears and flat sides enable Nubians to acclimatize easily to hot climates. However, they do not cope well with humidity. They can breed all year round and enjoy high fertility.
Quote: “Unfortunately for people who like peace and quiet, that nose acts like the bell of a horn. Nubians are noted for loud voices, a tendency to stubbornness, and an unqualified dislike of rain, but the babies are so darned cute it’s easy to overlook the personality flaws.” Jerry Belanger and Sara Thomson Bredesen, Storey’s Guide to Raising Dairy Goats.
- Anglo-Nubian Breed Society
- Maga, E. A., Daftari, P., Kültz, D., and Penedo, M.C.T. 2009. Prevalence of αs1-casein genotypes in American dairy goats. Journal of Animal Science, 87(11), 3464–3469.
- Porter, V., Alderson, L., Hall, S.J., and Sponenberg, D.P. 2016. Mason’s World Encyclopedia of Livestock Breeds and Breeding. CABI.
- Reinhardt, R.M., Hall, A. 1978. Nubian History: America and Great Britain. Second Edition Revised, Hall Press, via Nubian Talk.
- Stemmer, A., Siegmund-Schultze, M., Gall, C., and Valle Zárate, A. 2009. Development and worldwide distribution of the Anglo Nubian Goat. Tropical and Subtropical Agroecosystems, 11(1), 185-188.
Originally published in the May/June 2020 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.