More than 100 different types of distinct goat breeds exist today, and they are categorised according to their uses as meat, dairy and fibre producing goats. Specific types of goat breeds are also kept solely for pet and companionship purposes. Billy goat refers to a male goat and nanny goat refers to a female goat, regardless of the breed.
Meat Goat Breeds
Four types of goat breeds have been bred specifically to maximise their use as meat producing goats: the Spanish meat goat, the Tennessee meat goat, the South African Boer and the New Zealand kiko. Some of these breeds have also been developed to serve as dual purpose goats such as meat and fibre producing goats or meat and dairy producing goats. For example, the Spanish meat goat can develop a cashmere undercoat in cool climates and the New Zealand kiko is also prized for its high amount of milk production.
Dairy Goat Breeds
Dairy goat breeds make up more than half of all goat breeds, but the most popular dairy goat breeds include: the Nubian, the toggenburg, the saanen, the La Mancha and the Alpine. Nubians are prized goat breeds because, while they do not produce as much milk as other types of dairy goat breeds, their milk contains higher levels of fat and protein. Alpine goats produce some of the highest milk yields out of all the dairy goats, plus they often have a docile nature which makes them easier to milk. Saanens are the largest of all the goat breeds, and they produce a large amount of milk as well.
Fibre Producing Goat Breeds
Most goats produce some type of cashmere undercoat, but certain types of goat breeds are prized for the quality of the cashmere fibres which can be produced from their coats. The angora goat breed on the other hand is prized for its long, curly and shaggy coat which is used to produce fine mohair fabric. The most popular types of goat breeds which are raised for producing cashmere cloth include: the Alashanzuoqi, the Inner Mongolia, the Liaoning and the Zhongwei.
Popular Pet Goat Breeds
Miniature or dwarf goat breeds are increasing in popularity as companion pets. The most popular types of pet goat breeds include: the pygmy, the Australian miniature and the Nigerian dwarf. The pygmy is one of the most popular types of pet goat breeds, reaching a maximum wither height of just under 2 feet. The Australian miniature goat is a newer type of miniature goat breed, and according to the Australian Miniature Goat Association this breed can live for more than twenty years. The Nigerian dwarf goat breed is a miniature dairy goat prized for its small size, sweet tasting milk and congenial nature.