The Nigerian Dwarf breed is a breed that has been cultivated over the last 20+ years. The original progenitors of the breed - believed to be related to the West African Dwarf - came to the U.S. from Western Africa. It is theorized that they arrived in the U.S. when they were shipped as a food source for lions and other large cats. However, there are some records of these goats being imported to the U.S. and Canada as early as the 1918. Either way, these "pygmy" goats eventually ended up in zoos and research centers.
Over time, it became apparent that these goats, while coming from a common ancestral stock, were developing distinctive traits. Some of the goats were noted for their stockier appearance - which was typical, given that the West African Dwarf is used as a dual purpose breed for both meat and milk - while others were developing a more dairy-like appearance. These latter animals were separated off and, through the dedication of a handful of breeders, were used to develop the early Nigerian Dwarf Breed. The American Goat Society was instrumental in helping to build the foundation of the breed. They opened their books in 1984 and, by the end of 1992, there were over 2000 animals recorded in their herd books.
Over the last few decades, there has been a surge in the popularity of the breed, with it gaining recognition as a dairy goat breed by the American Dairy Goat Association in 2002. Today, there are breeders in nearly every state in the U.S.
A large part of the breed's success owes to their temperaments, personalities, and versatility. The Nigerians are known for their friendly, out-going personalities. They are easy to work with and mix well with other animals including horses, cattle, llamas, and donkeys. Their calm temperaments make them great animals or pets for kids or families just starting out with livestock. As a dairy breed, they have been noted for their excellent milk production - as compared to their size - and high butterfat content in their milk.
Both ADGA and AGS have standards goats are required to meet in order to be registered as a Nigerian Dwarf. Does are required to be less than 22.5" at the withers, bucks less than 23.5" at the withers. This has been done to maintain the integrity of the breed - after all, part of their appeal is being smaller in stature than the other dairy goat breeds.
Nigerian Dwarf goats can come in nearly every single color. We've had black goats, white/cream goats, brown goats, white goats with spots - the list could go on forever! The only color that is not accepted is the Pygmy coat color, which is a mottled gray coat with a darker head and legs, as this suggests the presence of a non-Nigerian Dwarf ancestor in the recent past. The buckskin coat pattern - with a black head, neck, and shoulders with a lighter colored body - seems to be typical in certain lines. Nigerians can have blue or gold eyes, with the blue being dominant.