The La Mancha breed of dairy goat has, perhaps, the most obscure history of any of the popular breeds. References were made to short-eared goats as far back as ancient Persia, but their exact background remains unknown.
As Spanish missionaries colonized California, they brought with them a short-eared breed of goat suitable for either milk or meat production. If not true La Manchas these animals were very close to them and were referred to as “cuties,” “monas,” and “monkeys” by the missionaries. As each new mission was established, seed stock from the former herd was transplanted to the new location, spreading the population through the West. This strain is usually thought to be the forerunner of the present earless La Mancha.
In more recent history, a crate of the short-eared goats was sent to the Paris World’s Fair for exhibition (1904). The inscription was unclear, but the words, “La Mancha, Cordoba, Spain,” were easily read. The name “La Mancha” stuck and became the accepted term for the American version as well.
Phoebe Wilhelm was reported to be the first American breeder to establish a herd comprised of La Manchas. She owned approximately 125 in the 1920’s. As few true-type bucks were available, those of the other breeds were used to propagate the breed. Even after years of hybridization, however, the true La Mancha characteristics continue to dominate.
The present American La Mancha was accepted as a breed for registry on January 27, 1958 with the first true La Mancha being Fay’s Ernie, L-1. Approximately 200 animals were accepted as original stock. Since then, the tiny-eared dairy goats have spread throughout the country, valued for their dairy character, adaptability, and, of course, their most well-known feature, or should we say lack of it—no ears. ?
According to information in the 2006 Annual Report of the American Dairy Goat Association, in that year there were 4,671 La Manchas registered, and a total of 439 shown at the ADGA National Show in Indiana, second by one goat only to the Alpine breed.