Small goats are increasingly popular among people who do not have enough space for a herd of large goats, particularly urban farmers. Other goat enthusiasts simply enjoy owning goats with unique body characteristics. Pygmy, dwarf and miniature goats are all goats that are smaller than traditionally-sized goats. Each term is used to characterise a different breed of small goat. Small goats, like all goats, are ruminants, which means they chew regurgitated food before they can fully digest it.
Pygmy goats are a fully domesticated goats that originated in Africa. They were first sold as livestock in the U.S. in the 1950s. Unlike other small breeds of goats, pygmies produce vast quantities of milk. They are prolific breeders and become sexually mature in the first few months of life, though they are not typically bred until they are 12 to 18 months old. These goats come in a variety of colours ranging from white to black, and many pygmies are spotted. They are typically 15 to 22 inches tall and 22.7 to 40.8 Kilogram, with males being slightly larger than females. They are known for their docile, highly social dispositions.
The term dwarf goat refers to the Nigerian dwarf goat, which is closely related to the pygmy goat. Their bodies are slightly more elongated than pygmies', but like pygmies they produce large quantities of milk. Nigerian dwarf goats are highly trainable and are frequently used as therapeutic visitors in nursing homes. They are slightly smaller than pygmy goats. The Nigerian Dwarf Goat Association prescribes an ideal height of 17 to 19 inches for does and 19 to 21 inches for bucks. Their fur is shorter and less coarse than other small goats.
Miniature dairy goats are the result of crossbreeding between a standard-sized dairy goat doe and a Nigerian miniature dwarf buck. The offspring produce more miniature goats. Miniature goats are typically less trainable than other goat breeds and often have long, coarse fur. There are several sub-breeds of miniature goat, including mini-alpine, mini-nubian and mini-lamancha.
Goats, like people, can suffer from genetic dwarfism. When small stature is the result of a genetic defect or mutation, dwarfs should not be bred. Pituitary problems may cause a goat with normal proportions who simply fails to grow to normal adult size, while achondroplasia refers to a goat with abnormally short legs and head. These goats are typically not referred to as dwarfs, though some unscrupulous breeders may try to convince novices that they are actually members of a small goat breed.