The Largest Goat Breeds
And How Much Room Do Goats Need?
Reading Time: 5 minutes
How big do goats get and what is the largest goat breed? Ogden Nash once wrote, “The trouble with a kitten is that eventually, it becomes a cat.” The same holds true for goats. Baby goats, those adorable bundles of fuzzy playfulness, can steal your heart. But what happens when that cute bouncy kid grows up?
It depends. Goat sizes vary quite a bit. The smallest adult goat I found is Ivy, a Pygora in Rice Lake, Minnesota. At 14 months she stood 14.5 inches at the withers and weighed just 16 pounds. The 2018 All Pakistan Heavy-Weight Champion, an Amritsari named Mastana, weighed over 520 pounds and qualifies as the largest goat breed. Your goat will fall somewhere between these two extremes. Let’s take a look at some breeds that can top 200 pounds or 36” (three feet) tall.
This big boy of the meat goats is recognizable by its distinctive white body and red head, although they can sometimes be fully white or red or paint. Because of their size, docility, fast growth rate, and high fertility, these goats quickly gained popularity after their introduction to the U.S. in 1993. According to Kim Holt of Holt Meat Goats, kids average eight pounds at birth, then grow very quickly, given good nutrition, a good mom, and a little creep feed to get them started. How big do Boer goats get? Mature does can weigh between 190-230 pounds, and for mature bucks, Boer goat weight can weigh between 200–340 pounds and are considered the largest goat breed raised in the U.S.
The Kalahari Red, sometimes just called Kalahari, is another meat goat of South African origin. The name comes from the Kalahari Desert, which spans the borders of Botswana, South Africa, and Namibia. The most distinct visual characteristic of this goat breed is its red color. How big do Kalahari Red goats get? Does range from 145-165 pounds, and bucks 230-254 pounds.
Some people think of Savannas as “white Boer goats.” This is not true. Although they come from the same continent, they have different genetic backgrounds. The North American Savanna Association states a fully pigmented white goat is the ideal. How big do Savanna goats get? Does range from 125-195 pounds, and bucks 200-250 pounds.
The largest goat breed of the Swiss dairy goats, Saanens originated in the Saanen Valley of Switzerland. They first came to the US in the early 1900s. Saanen goats are white or cream in color with medium-sized erect ears and a straight or dished face. Around the world, they are considered the heaviest milk producers, producing one to three gallons per day during a lactation period of about 305 days. How big do Saanen goats get? The American Goat Society sets a minimum size for this breed at 135 pounds and 30” for does and 160 pounds and 32” for bucks. That’s a minimum. Dwite Sharp of Paradise Ranch Packgoats regularly breeds Saanens that reach 290 pounds and 40”.
The Alpine goat, or French Alpine, was developed in the Swiss Alps. They were imported to the US via France in 1922. Displaying erect ears and medium to short hair, Alpines come in all colors and combinations. They are known for their good milking capacity and are one of the more popular pack goat breeds. How big do Alpine goats get? Mature does usually weigh 135-155 pounds and stand 30’’-35’’ at the withers. Bucks usually weigh 176-220 pounds and stand 32’’-40” at the withers.
This meat goat, named for the Maori word for flesh or meat, was developed in New Zealand in the 1980s. Kiko goats are bred for hardiness, weight, conformation, and productivity, and have compact, muscular bodies. How big do Kiko goats get? Does weigh 100-180 pounds and stand 28” at the withers. Bucks weigh 250-300 pounds and stand 30.5” at the withers.
Mixes and Mediums
Dwite Sharp, of Paradise Ranch Packgoats, says his biggest goats are Sabors, which are a mix of Saanen and Boer. “We’ve had some of those in that actually get up over 300 pounds and the tallest one we’ve had stood 41 inches at the withers.” Other large hybrids include Boki (Boer-Kiko), Sako (Savanna-Kiko), Sabo (Savanna-Boer), and Tex-Master (Myotonic and Boer).
Although the official weight ranges of medium-sized breeds like the Anglo-Nubian, LaMancha, and Toggenburg goats are under 200 pounds, some goats obviously don’t read the guidelines.
Dwite has bred some fairly good-sized Toggenburgs and Nubians, getting them over 200 pounds. Despite the size, he isn’t a fan of Nubians as pack goats. “They’re not very athletic,” he said. “You have a hard time getting them to jump over things or jump up on something. That’s something we haven’t been able to fix.”
Goat Journal editor, Marissa Ames, owns several breeds of goats. Although she has never weighed them, she says her Toggenburg doe “is definitely my biggest and her babies are huge.” She added that she had some LaMancha bucks for a while “And those guys were monsters.”
Now that we’ve answered how big goats get and the largest goat breeds, the next question is how much space do goats need? The answer is, again, it depends. The general rule is two to 10 goats per acre of pastureland. That’s quite a spread. Bigger goats, dry pasture, less leafy or brushy growth, and higher nutritional needs, such as lactating nannies, all bring you closer to the smaller number. If you plan to add goats to cattle, you can add one to two goats per head of cattle.
For people with goats, who don’t have access to pastureland, it is okay to keep them in pens and provide them with hay, grain, and water. These goats need a bare minimum of 250 square feet of dry lot per goat. Goats that get exercised regularly, like pack goats and brush goats, need less space than those that stay in the pens or pasture full time.
Whether you use pasture or pen, if you live in a climate with cold winters, you also need indoor space for does and kids. The rule of thumb here is 20 square feet per doe.
Think of not only how big goats get but how quickly herds can grow. Goats reach sexual maturity quickly and have relatively short gestations. Your herd could double in as little as a year. Just don’t start too small. Remember that goats are social animals, so you need at least two.