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The History of
Golden Guernsey Goats

By Christine Ball

Gnosall, Stafford, England

Golden goats were mentioned as long ago as 1826 in a Chan-nel Island Guidebook. The most likely ancestors were the orange skinned Maltese goats, which reached the islands on board trading ships and then bred with local island goats. Ancestors of the Maltese goats include Chamoisee and Syrian. The latter contributed the golden color, long hair and gorgeous ears said to curl at the tips "in salute to Apollo." I believe the same Syrian influence is widespread throughout the Mediterranean. The common Greek goat for example, is often long-haired and golden as seen in the photo of mother and son on the small Greek island of Paxos. Another ancestor of the CI goats may be the brown/black and white long-haired French Poitevine, thought to be behind the pale gold, long-haired types, descended from Lisette Des Croix Jehans. Having had both pale and rich gold GG’s I have to say they differ in type and temperament as well as color. These features are genetically linked so I subscribe to the Poitevine theory. From 1922 the golden goats of the CI’s were registered in the Guernsey Herd Book. They were categorized as KR (Kid Register), SR (Sire or Stud Register) and FB (Foundation Book).

During the German Occupation from 1940 many goats were lost, but after the war a determined effort led by Miss Miriam Milbourne was made to save the remaining typical golden island goats. She acquired her first goats in 1937 from Miss Pennell of Sark. The pale gold "White Lady" and her daughter "Jenny of Sark" went on to shape the foundation stock of the Golden Guernsey breed.

In the late 1930s a golden colored Anglo-Nubian type male "Friskey Lad" was exported from the mainland to Guernsey. He was used to fix the color but unfortunately he also contributed teat defects and inappropriate conformation, which took many generations to breed out. In 1949 another export from the mainland was used. This was the British Alpine type male "Malpas Manager" from the Egerton’s famous herd. He was a grandson of World Record Milker RM60 Malpas Melba *3 and his milk potential proved very influential within the breed. His black and white color did strengthen the gold, though throwbacks regularly appeared. Although in goats, red and its dilute version-cream-do seem to be dominant to black. We still occasionally get black and gold/tan kids born which are not usually registered or bred.

By 1965 the golden goats were considered to be breeding true and Miss Milbourne persuaded the Guernsey Goat Society to open a separate registration section. So the Golden Guernsey Herd Book (GGHB) was started and from that point a closed herd book was created with no breeding up being allowed. The gene pool was very small, and even today the Golden Guernsey is classed as a rare breed due to its few distinct bloodlines. More effort is required to create additional families of related goats and widen the genetic base for the future safety of the breed.

A potentially important genetic safety-net was created in 1996 with the export of frozen GG embryos to the United States of America (via Canada). The "Swind" herd in New York State is currently the only herd of pure-bred Golden Guernsey’s in the U.S. Only goats that are purebred with registered UK breed status are entitled to be called Golden Guernsey.

Crossbreds and breeding up stock are referred to as GG type and may breed up to British Guernsey in the UK. There is no such thing as a percent GG. A group of enthusiastic breeders in the U.S. hope to follow a similar route using GG males for several generations, initially on suitable foundation dams of U.S. breeding, to eventually create an American Guernsey.

Copper, S’Wind Herd, U.S.

If the health protocols ever change we hope to export more embryos to boost the number of Golden Guernsey’s in the U.S. and elsewhere. My own "Peaclond" GG’s are all descended from my foundation goat R126 Tambo Harriet *2, who I bought in 1982. Virginia Crane did so much to promote the breed during the 70s and 80s and her "Tambo" GG’s were bred to milk Harriet’s dam was R155 Novington Dorcas Q*1 the Tambo foundation goat and the first GG to gain a Q* award. Her grand-dam was the imported R25 Rockmount Romany*, the first to gain a star and one of the first GG’s to be milk recorded. Harriet proved to be a prepotent and prolific breeder producing four qualifying daughters and three BCC winning sons. Her best daughter R136 Peaclond Progress *3 provided some of the embryos for the U.S. and was the dam of RM137 Scawton Duchess *4 (4 BCC’s) and $136/109+ Scawton Pilgrim.

Duchess came to me as a kid from my friend Ruth McIntyre and produced litter sisters RM146 Peaclond Principle Q*5 and RM133 Peaclond Princess *5 Br.Ch (10 BCC’s). A repeat mating produced Peaclond Paxos who is being milk recorded in ’02 and the males $137/141 Peaclond Paros and $137/141 Peaclond Poros (exported to Guernsey).

I currently have young stock from all three of Duchess’ daughters and Ruth has two more Duchess daughters in her Scawton herd at Rievaulx in North Yorkshire, so the Harriet family continues.

One day I hope to turn all my "Boat-Goat" stories of Harriet and her adventures aboard narrowboat "Gerald" with us during the 80s into a book as a permanent tribute to not only a great goat but also a wonderful friend and companion.

Update

The first Golden Guernseys were exported to the UK mainland in 1965 to Keith Frost in Co Durham with the "Harratons" herd. Sadly, due to loss of land, his herd was dispersed and lost track of.

In 1966 Mrs. Tutt from Kent imported 10 Golden Guernseys, but most died from a clostridial disease peculiar to the Romney Marsh area. The few survivors were dispersed to various breeders including well known goat-keeper and author Lois Hetherington who took Sarnia Of L’Ancresse.

Further Golden Guersneys were imported in 1967 including Chieftain of L’Ancresse who went to Peggy Brown in Yorkshire and went on to have a great influence on the breed in the UK.

Other early imports who became very influential included Duvaux Sarnia and R25 Rockmount Romany* (the first GG star milker), both of which became foundation goats in the Novington herd of Ros Karney.

Many more Golden Guernseys arrived from 1968 onwards and the following year saw the formation of the English Golden Guernsey Goat Club with six members (Flint, Bourne, Carter, Brown, Marsden and Roberts). The club’s inaugural Annual General Meeting was held during a visit to Guernsey to attend the Autumn Show of the Guernsey Goat Society.

Due to great efforts by Lois Hetherington and Pam Carter (both BGS committee members) the British Goat Society Golden Guernsey Register was opened in 1971 with the first registrations appearing in Herd Book 97.

It took many years of hard work and dedicated breeding, however, before full Herd Book status was achieved and both the purebred Golden Guernsey and upgraded British Guernsey Goats became eligible for BCC (Breed Champion Certificate) show awards in 1996.





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