Savanna goats have only existed since 1957.
Savanna Goat Scientific Classification
- Scientific Name
- Capra hircus
Savanna Goat Facts
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“Able to eat plants that other flock and herd animals cannot digest.”
The savanna goat is a very new species developed by man in the 1950s. It was originally bred from Boer goats of South Africa for their meat quality. These goats feature short white coats and dark grey or black skin perfect for sunny savanna conditions.
The goats are called perfect for impoverished regions because they produce tasty meat at a very early age. They are able to eat vegetation that other species of domesticated animals cannot digest. Also because does often birth twins, these animals quickly produce food and income for herders and breeders.
Brought into the United States in the 1990s, savanna goats have quickly become a favorite of American ranchers. There are currently more than 3000 registered animals in the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand, with an unknown number in various countries of Africa.
5 Incredible Savanna Goat Facts!
- Savanna goats were first developed by a South African goat rancher in 1956
- The goats originally come from white-coated Boer goats
- They were bred for their white coat, black skin and ability to withstand harsh savanna conditions like direct sunlight, changing temperatures and drought
- They eat plants that other flock and herd animals will not
- Does frequently produce twin kids, helping flocks expand in numbers quickly
Savanna Goat Scientific Name
Savanna goats are named after their savanna environmental hardiness. The word “goat” is from Modern English. It is from the Old English word “gat” and Germanic “gaitaz” from before the 5th century BC. These terms developed because the goat is the first animal domesticated by man.
Male goats, today called bucks, were called “bucca” in Old English. In the 12th century, the males became “hegote” and “hegoote” before eventually becoming bucks. Males are also called billy goats after the 19th century. In the 18th century, females became “nanny” as many are called today. Females are also called does. Young of both sexes are called kids. Adult goats typically weigh more than 130 pounds. Males weigh more than females because of their muscle density.
Savanna Goat Appearance & Behavior
The first savanna goat was bred in the 1950s in South Africa from hardy goats kept by several native South African tribes. Parents were two white-haired, dark-skinned Boer goats. Both Boer goats and the savanna goat provide quick meat production in difficult climate conditions of wide-ranging temperatures, direct sunlight, sparse vegetation, and periodic drought. The white hair and dark skin of these animals make them ideal for long hours under intense sunlight because they are able to stay cooler and avoid sunburn better when compared to other dark-haired, light-skinned domesticated goats.
Savanna goats are medium to large in scale with other domestic goats with an average weight of 130 pounds. They have large lob ears that hang as long as their chin. The animal’s hair is short and white all over its body, covering dark grey or black skin. Sometimes there are slight black markings on the ends of their ears. But goats with any other color beyond these black ear marks are not considered authentic savanna.
The savanna’s dark skin is considered one of its best features. It is flexible and the dark color helps the goats stay under direct sunlight without sunburn.
Savanna horns grow from the crown of their heads back toward their shoulders. These horns are dark black like their skin. They grow in an oval shape but stop before the back of the neck. A doe has horns but buck horns are stronger and heavier.
Does are medium-sized compared to other members of their domesticated goat family with a typical weight of 132 pounds at maturity. They have less drastic muscle tone than their male counterparts. Bucks have sturdy, heavily-muscled bodies.
Savannas are flock animals. This means they live well as members of a flock like sheep. Like other domestic goats, they will chew on just about anything within their grasp. They like running, jumping, and even roof-climbing. They tend to jump fences or other boundaries put in place to keep them contained. As silly troublemakers, this can make tending a flock frustrating for farmers and ranchers with limited space. Otherwise, they have funny personalities most people consider cute and comical.
Savanna Goat Habitat
Savanna goats were developed as meat producers in the extreme climate changes of South African plains, called savanna. These lands are a mix of grasslands and woodlands but trees are low in number with distance between them. Drought, intense rains, and drastic temperature changes are all common.
The environmental conditions make farming and herding tough for local tribes. But through domesticated goats, they can provide meat for their communities quickly. This is particularly true because savanna goats eat higher vegetation from trees and shrubs. They enjoy plants other flock and herd animals will not eat, leaving them with a more constant supply of food that others leave behind.
Because of their ability to withstand the extreme conditions of the savanna, the goats do well in similar climates of South America, North America, New Zealand, and Australia. For this reason, American breeders imported and continue breeding savannas for the animals’ meat and economic benefits. Now there are several populations under the care of breeders and herders in states like Texas and the Carolinas.
Savanna Goat Predators & Threats
Savanna goats are browsers, not grazers. This means they prefer to eat leaves and other vegetation of woody plants that grow higher than the ground. They mostly eat leaves, shoots, fruits, and other parts of shrubs and trees. As a result of this diet, the goats are frequently used to control shrub growth on ranchlands. But like other goats, savannas will nibble and chew on just about anything they think might taste good. They are known to chew on clothing, hair, baskets, and other non-food items.
Penned savanna goats can thrive on grains provided by the farmer or rancher. Their ideal domesticated diet consists of grass, alfalfa, or clover hay. They can also eat corn but only in an amount up to 50 percent of their daily diet.
Like other domesticated goats, savannas cannot eat some plants. Azaleas, sumac, China berries, bracken fern, and dog fennel all prove poisonous to the animals. Virginia creeper, curly dock, crotalaria, nightshade, honeysuckle, pigweed, red-root pigweed, eastern Baccharis, and black cherry are also poisonous. Problems caused by these plants range from digestion problems like diarrhea to death.
Goats like the savanna have many predators. These include large carnivores like bears, mountain lions, African lions, hyenas, bobcats, wolves, and coyotes. Their young kids also fall victim to smaller predators like eagles and dogs. Because they are bred and kept by humans as meat-producers, people are their biggest threat.
Humans must properly manage meat-producing flocks and breeding to keep populations stable or growing. But since does often have twin kids with each pregnancy, flock numbers can easily grow. Kids also come into sexual maturity early in life, typically at four to six months. This means flocks can even grow out of control if not managed.
Predators typically stalk the goat flocks or vulnerable individuals before overtaking one. The weakest, oldest and smallest members of the flock are the ones usually overcome by meat-eaters like the big cats, brown bears, or canines. Eagles target the youngest and smallest members of the group.
One of the benefits of a savanna goat is its hardy immune system. The goats are resistant to many diseases for which cows, sheep, and other domesticated animals prove vulnerable.
The conservation status for the savanna goat is not listed by the IUCN. This is because the goats were only just developed by man in the last century. They only arrived in the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand in the last several decades. Additionally, the goats are heavily sought by responsible breeders who seek to increase their numbers.
The U.S. registered population is over 3000 but numbers in South Africa and other African nations are not known. Many African tribes keep savanna goat flocks for their many benefits. This is likely also increasing flock sizes and numbers.
Savanna Goat Reproduction, Babies and Lifespan
Savanna goat reproduction is a relatively quick cycle from birth to fertility. Kids are sexually mature and can reproduce as young as four to six months.
Does are polyestrous. This means they can breed any time of the year. One buck can breed all of the does within a flock. But to maintain genetic variability, it is important to control each buck’s mating activity. It is harmful to the flock’s genetics and quality to allow a buck to mate with his own offspring, mother, or sisters.
Does are pregnant for five months. They each have one to three kids with twins being very common. But first-time mothers typically only have one kid. Nursing continues for three months. Only one to three months after weaning, kids are sexually mature. Once a doe weans her young, she is immediately bred again. Most farmers and ranchers try to mate their flocks for three crops of kids every two years.
Kids start eating the same diet as mature goats during the weaning phase. They mostly eat grains provided by humans and browse the lands where they live. This browsing diet consists of weeds, shrub leaves, shoots and fruits in the wild.
Savannas live about the same length of time as other domesticated goats. This is typically 12 to 15 years. Three diseases that commonly kill goats before this age include:
- Caprine arthritis encephalitis (CAE)
- Caseous Lymphadenitis (CL)
- Paratuberculosis (Johne’s disease)
Savanna Goat Population
There are more than 3000 documented savanna goats in the United States. Other growing populations include those of South America, Australia, New Zealand, and the goat’s origins of Africa. Because the goats have not been counted or registered in African countries, the unregistered population is currently unknown. However, many flocks are kept by farmers in these regions. The IUCN also does not have current data about the population, although the numbers are increasing through breeding programs and general flock management.
Savanna Goats vs. Boer Goats
Savanna goats were originally developed by breeding two white-hair dominant Boer goats in South Africa in 1956. A ranch owned by Cilliers and Sons is credited with this development. They chose the white-haired Boers because their black skin and white hair were perfectly suited for living on the African savanna in intense sun and heat.
Besides these external attributes attractive in the Boer line, the breeders also wanted to capitalize on the goats’ high price for quick meat production. Kids at the age of five months produce the best meat quality, although the goats can be tasty and tender through one year of age.
The goats also eat what other flock and herd animals will not, thanks to their upward extended necks, browsing skills, and tough stomachs. Other benefits include quick progression to sexual maturity at only four to six months of age and the ability to have up to three kids per pregnancy. All of these benefits combine to bring in the attractive price of $750 to $2000 per goat on the American economy. In South Africa and other African countries of their origin, these goats also produce a steady, reliable income for tribes, farmers, herders, and ranchers.View all 149 animals that start with S
Savanna Goat FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Are savanna goats carnivores, herbivores, or omnivores?
Savanna goats are herbivores. In the wild or on rangelands they are browsers that eat primarily shrubs, leaves, fruit, and soft shoots. The goats also eat grains fed to them by their farmers. These typically consist of grass, alfalfa, clover, oats, other grains, and some corn.
What is a Savanna goat?
A savanna goat is a solid white, short-haired domestic goat with dark grey or black skin. They are descendants of Boer goats bred specifically for their white coats, dark skin, and hardiness in the harsh savanna climate. Other attractive features for which they are bred include rapid sexual maturity at only four to six months, the ability to have two or more kids with each pregnancy, and an attractive price as meat producers.
What are Savanna goats used for?
Savanna goats are domesticated flock animals raised to produce meat and control shrub growth on ranchlands. As meat producers, these goats bring in a good price. They are also in demand because they live well in conditions not suitable for domesticated herd animals like cows.
How much do Savanna goats cost?
The average cost for purebred savanna goats is between $750 and $2000. But people interested in the positive attributes of these goats can choose to buy savanna goat-Boer goat mixes for about half this cost. The Boer goat is the original breeding parent of the savanna line.
Are Savanna goats good for milk?
Pure-bred savanna goats produce thick, creamy milk for their young. But they are not typically reared by farmers for their milk. Instead, these goats are mostly raised for their meat, being slaughtered between three and five months of age for the best quality, least fatty meat. Flock managers often breed a savanna with another species of domesticated goat to improve milk quality.
How long is a savanna goat's gestation?
A savanna goat’s gestation is typically 150 days. They wean at about three months and become sexually mature at four to six months. Once does wean their young, they can immediately breed again to produce up to three litters every two years.
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