Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) has added the Old English Goat, to its watchlist for the first time.
The trust, along with the Old English Goat Society, is making efforts to save the “desperately rare” goat breed.
RBST is placing it straight into its critical category for the very rarest goats.
There is an estimated population of just 74 living adult females in 2019/2020. The only other native breed of goat in the UK in the critical category is the separate English Goat breed.
People often call the Old English Goat the “original smallholder’s goat”. This is because it was popular with smallholders in the 19th century.
The hardy goats provided ample and regular milk for the household for very little cost. Therefore, they are happy to graze what they find naturally and to live outdoors all-year-round.
The RBST watchlist is the conservation charity’s annual report on the UK’s rarest native breeds of livestock and equines. The report shows which breeds are the most endangered and whether their numbers are increasing or falling.
Also, the RBST only includes breeds which demonstrate certain criteria on its watchlist. This is to ensure that animals bred today are genuinely a historic breed that is native to the UK.
‘Urgent action needed’
Rare Breeds Survival Trust chief executive, Christopher Price, said: “I am very pleased that the Old English Goat can be added to our watchlist. These animals have played an important role in our rural heritage but now they are desperately rare and urgent action is needed.”
“A small number of breeders have kept the breed going. I’m looking forward to working with the Old English Goat Society to secure the breed’s future.”
‘The original smallholder’s goat’
Old English Goat Society breed registrar, Adam Short said:
“These are the original smallholder’s goat. For centuries, they were kept by households across the UK to provide for the family thanks to their fantastic ability to convert native flora to milk for next to no cost.”
“Very hardy and low input, they should be an attractive option for smallholders with an interest in self-sufficiency, traditional farming or regenerative agriculture.”
“Joining the RBST Watchlist is a major milestone in the work to save the breed. I welcome enquiries from anyone who could support the Old English Goat’s survival and work with us as a new breeder.”
With such low numbers of Old English Goats still kept, to maintain crucial genetic diversity, breeders use feral goats with the breed’s characteristics but which live in the wild, using a careful inspection regime and separate registration system to maintain the breed’s bloodlines and pedigree.
Furthermore, the addition of the breed to the watchlist means it will now benefit from a further level of support from RBST.
This includes support in developing bespoke breed conservation plans alongside the Old English Goat Breeders Society, the latest breeders’ software designed to prevent in-breeding, and RBST’s support in encouraging more people to become Old English Goat breeders.