San Clemente Island Bucks: Boys Will Be Boys

Understanding San Clemente Island Goats is Key to Preserving the Breed

San Clemente Island Bucks: Boys Will Be Boys

Reading Time: 5 minutes

By Sherri Talbot 

How are San Clemente Island bucks different from males of any other goat breed? Let’s dispel a few myths.

Each spring, as young goats are born, goat lovers everywhere become overwhelmed with the burning question: to buck, or not to buck? Most small herds need only a single male to keep their ladies happy and breeding, but Mother Nature often blesses us with far more boys than necessary. In the case of the San Clemente Island goat, bucklings are often more available for purchase, and their majestic appearance is often one of the features that attract potential breeders to this hard-to-find breed. The practicality of owning a buck, however, can raise questions. 

Sometimes this is an easy question to answer. Do you plan to breed your goats? If the answer is no, then a buck is unnecessary. However, San Clemente Island goats are a critically endangered breed, so in most cases, they are purchased with the intent to breed. If other breeders are hours away, having an available buck is a practical necessity.    

What goes into having a buck? New owners have a vision of their bucks becoming violent, smelly, and crazed during the rutting season and a useless nuisance that hangs out in a corner throughout the rest of the year. Dispelling some of these myths can be an important part of raising goats. 

Myth: My San Clemente Island Buck won’t be good for anything but breeding. 

SCIG boys are just as much fun to have around as the girls. They are excellent ground clearers, very social, and — if well socialized — will often beg for attention or treats like your favorite dog.  

Mack Brin Phoenix as a young buck, photo courtesy of Mack Brin Farm

Myth (sort of): He will smell terrible. 

Nothing is quite as pungent or as memorable as the smell of a goat in full rut. In many breeds, even when not rutting, the boys have a smell that has been known to taint a doe’s milk if he is upwind of her. The smell will cling to buildings, trees, and the goat owner for days.  

However, San Clemente Island males have little smell at all except during breeding season, and even then, the smell is negligible unless you are standing in their pen. On a personal note, this was one of the main factors that led to me choosing the SCIG for my homestead. Your bucks will still insist on urinating on their heads to impress the ladies, and that never smells good, but it is a far cry from the odor that can follow the patriarch of other goat breeds.  

Mack Brin Phoenix loves his treats – especially fruit!

Myth: During the breeding season, my buck will become an unapproachable, violent sex maniac.  

It is also a myth that your SCIG buck will become violent or unapproachable during the rutting season. You may wish they were a little more distant when they want to rub their urine-soaked faces on you! Males may roughhouse if females are present, and trying to break them up is a terrible idea. However, in herds with multiple boys, males are often quite content to spend time together and bond when separated from the females. There is likely to only be one male in small herds, and he will need either a wether for company, or you can house him with the ladies if you aren’t fussy about when your kids are born. Either way, while he will be eager to go courting, a familiar food-bringer should not be the receptor of any aggressive behavior when performing everyday tasks around the yard. 

Myth: Males are hard to care for. 

Males have different dietary needs from does due to their longer urinary tracts. However, the main requirement is less grain. In fact, while they find it delicious, male goats should have little to no grain in their diets. In a perfect world, they would eat only hay and grass. If housing your fella with the girls, you will need to find a way to separate them during feeding — no gentlemanly manners there! — but otherwise, there should be little effort in differentiating feedings. 

It is important to socialize males due to their size. While SCIGs are slow growers, eventually, they can get up to around 120 pounds. Handling during health checks and hoof trimming will be significantly easier if the goat is used to being touched regularly. This includes picking up their feet to get them used to it. This is a good idea with all goats, not just the males. 

Young goats should also not be allowed to jump up or head-butt because these habits can continue into adulthood. It may be adorable to have a 15-pound baby hop upon you, but do you want 120 pounds landing on you when you aren’t looking? Also, the male’s horns will continue growing throughout his life, and if he is not taught good manners, it only takes one playful toss of the head for tragedy.  

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Mack Brin Phoenix at the very end of shedding season.

Myth: What’s the point of having one anyway? 

One might as well ask, what is the point of having goats at all? Usually, the answers to that involve milk, meat, land clearance, fiber, and pets: 

  • Males are great land clearers — even more so than the smaller females.  
  • Breeding is necessary to produce milk. Due to the San Clemente Island goat’s previously mentioned rarity, having a male even for a small herd can be more convenient than trying to find a breeder within easy transporting distance.  
  • If you are looking for meat goats, males are bigger and, well … meatier.  
  • For those raising goats for fiber, the dense, shaggy goat of a male SCIG sheds out each spring with a surprising amount of hair!   
  • And, while I am certainly biased, for those looking for pets, there is nothing that beats the regality of a San Clemente Island male in all his glory — or brings as much joy as watching that same glorious creature act like a fool over a piece of fresh mango. 
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Mack Brin Phoenix: Protector of his domain, photo courtesy of Bella Vita Canyon

Additionally, males protect their smaller mates and kids. The female SCIG weighs about 50-70 pounds and can be a target for larger predators, especially if she has young. The males can be an imposing 100-120 pounds and are a far greater deterrent to hungry predators. Also, male and female San Clemente are equally good parents, and watching a buck play-wrestle with his sons can be enjoyable for food-bringer and baby alike.  

Originally published in the January/February 2021 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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