The Nigerian Dwarf goat is a miniature dairy goat breed of West African ancestry. Originally brought to the United States on ships as food for large cats such as lions, the survivors originally lived in zoos. Nigerian Dwarf goats are popular as hobby goats due to their easy maintenance and small stature.
There are two different height standards for the Nigerian Dwarf goat. The height standard maintained by the American Goat Society and the American Dairy Goat Association requires does to be less than 22.5 inches at the withers, and bucks to be less than 23.5 inches at the withers. The Nigerian Dwarf Goat Association states that does should ideally be 17 - 19 inches in height with a maximum allowed height of 21 inches, and bucks should ideally be 19 - 21 inches with a maximum allowed height of 21 inches.
They come in many colors: white, black, red, cream and patterns such as buckskin (brown with a black cape over the head and neck along with other black markings) and chamoisee (similar to an Oberhasli goat) with or without white spots. Some have white "frosting" on the ears. Both the Nigerian Dwarf Goat Association and the American Goat Society websites feature pages that include color descriptions, disqualifying features and conformation. Although most are naturally horned, most breeders dehorn them at a young age (usually less than 2 weeks of age) for safety to the goat, his/her herd-mates, and human care-givers. Some Nigerian Dwarves have blue eyes, which is a dominant trait in goats.
Nigerian Dwarfs give a surprising quantity of milk for their size. Their production ranges from one to 8 pounds of milk per day, with an average of 2.5. Since Nigerians breed year-round, it is easy to stagger freshenings (births) in a herd so that the entire herd is never dry. Thus, they are ideal milk goats for most families. Their milk has a higher butterfat content than milk from full-sized dairy goats, usually about 5% but going as high as 10% at the end of a lactation. This makes Nigerian Dwarf goat milk excellent for cheese and soap making.
Nigerian Dwarf goats are gentle and easily trainable. This, along with their small size and colorful appearance, makes them popular as pets. Many breeders sell bottle-fed babies (kids) that are bonded with humans and easy to manage. Nigerian dwarf goats can easily be trained to walk on a leash and some enjoy coming into the house with their owners. Some owners have even successfully housebroken them.
Nigerian dwarf goats' small size also makes them excellent "visitor" animals for nursing homes and hospitals. Some goat supply houses even sell small harnesses and tiny wagons that fit Nigerian dwarf goats. As with all goats, does or neutered males (wethers) make the best pets, as bucks can have an objectionable odor. Nigerian Dwarves, especially does and wethers, are friendly and do well with children.