The Oberhasli goat originates from Switzerland, where it began life as a Chamois coloured goat from the Oberhasli region of the Bernese Oberland in Central Switzerland. Their ancestors were the Swiss Alpine Landrace goats, a lineage which they share with all Alpine goats.
Goats of this Oberhasli type were first imported to the United States in the early 1900s (in 1906 and again in 1920) but as these goats were not purebred, the bloodlines were lost.
In 1936, Dr. H.O. Pence of Kansas City, Missouri imported a further five purebred Swiss Chamois Coloured Goats from Switzerland to America – all American Oberhasli goats are related to these five Swiss Alpine goats.
In the United States, in the early days of the breed, chamois Alpine goats were used to enrich what was otherwise a limited gene pool of the original five imported purebred goats. This addition has rewarded the Oberhasli goat with greater strength and health.
The name Oberhasli celebrates these Swiss goats’ heritage.
- 1 Making it in America – and becoming accepted by the American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA)
- 2 How can I recognise an Oberhasli goat?
- 3 So, they look good, but are they useful?!
- 4 Milk production
- 5 What? Are pack goats actually a thing?
- 6 They could be a pet, then?
- 7 Feeding my Oberhasli goat
- 8 Caring for my Oberhasli goat
- 9 Are there any negative sides to the Oberhasli goat?
- 10 Where can I buy an Oberhasli goat?
Making it in America – and becoming accepted by the American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA)
From the time these animals were first imported from Switzerland in the early 1900s, until the 1970s, all Oberhasli goats were registered as Swiss Alpine, while crossbreeds with French Alpines or American Alpine stock were considered as American Alpines. However, in 1977 an association of breeders, know as the Oberhasli Breeders of America, was established, leading to the acceptance of the Oberhasli breed by the American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) and the granting of their own studbook (rather than including them in the American Alpine studbook).
From that moment on, the foundations of the new Oberhasli breed was derived from the records of Esther Oman, who maintained a purebred herd in California – and were called by their new name – Oberhasli goat – rather than being called Swiss Alpine goat.
And in Europe…
Switzerland opened their Oberhasli herdbook in 1930, whereas in Italy, the Oberhasli goat breed was registered in their own herdbook from 1973 onwards.
A modern-day success story?
Since 1979, the numbers of Oberhasli goats has been steadily increasing and, according to the Livestock Conservancy, the Oberhasli is noted as ‘recovering’ on their Conservation Priority List due to the worldwide improvement in the numbers of the breed.
There is even a miniature Oberhasli goat breed!
How can I recognise an Oberhasli goat?
The characteristic standards for the Oberhasli breed are maintained by the ADGA, as well as the American Goat Society.
The Oberhasli goat colouring is known as ‘chamoisée’ or ‘chamoisee’ due to its relative similarity to the colouring of the wild Alpine chamois. The colouring of the chamois is known as bay which, whilst essentially being a brown colour, can range from light tan to a deep reddish brown. The darker reddish bay colour is considered the most desirable. These animals also display various black markings.
These consist of: two black stripes leading from the eyes down to a black muzzle, a black forehead, a black belly with black legs beneath the knees and a black stripe, called a dorsal stripe, running from the back of the neck, along the spine to the tail. This black dorsal stripe is one of their most striking features. They have two black ears, which are brown on the inside.
Generally it is found that the bucks have more black on their heads than the does.
Both Oberhasli goat bucks and does may have a scattering of white hairs in their coat. Again, the bucks usually have a greater proportion in their coat than the does.
The does have black or grey udders, as well as a black belly.
In some cases, due to a recessive gene, an Oberhasli goat’s coat can occasionally be pure black. This colouring is only accepted in Oberhasli does, not in bucks.
These animals have upright ears, which are straight and point forwards, with a dished or straight face.
The majority of Oberhasli in the U.S. have horns, which are long and gently curved back. For reasons of ease, animals that are destined for milk production or breeding are often debudded as kids to make handling them easier. Due to their calm temperament, males are often left horned, unless they are going to be shown, in which case debudding these animals is obligatory.
Oberhasli goats are of a medium size. Does measure between approximately 70 centimetres and 80 centimetres (28 to 32 inches) in height, whilst bucks can range from around 75 cm to 85 cm (30 to 34 inches) in height.
The does weigh up to 54 kilograms (119 pounds), whilst the bucks can weigh up to 68 kilograms (150 pounds).
So, they look good, but are they useful?!
The Oberhasli goat is renowned for its kind and docile temperament, which makes it an extremely popular breed. They are also one of the quietest of the goat breeds, which might come as a relief to some prospective goat owners! They have many great qualities, among them, their use as dairy goats.
The Oberhasli goat does are famous for their production of milk, which enables them to produce up to 2000 litres of milk every lactation period. The milk itself is renowned for its sweetness and lack of ‘goaty’ flavour. The milk is extremely well-suited for fresh chèvre cheeses, and due to its high butterfat content, a rich and creamy cheese is ensured.
According to many, Oberhasli goat milk is the closest in taste to cow’s milk, of all the breeds.
Whilst the Oberhasli goat does are renowned for their milk production, the wethers have their own special talent – being pack animals!
What? Are pack goats actually a thing?
The answer is a definitive ‘yes’! The Oberhasli goat wethers are specifically suited to being pack animals, due to their pleasant natures and strength, as well as their medium size. Due to their excellent agility, they can navigate most terrains easily and are unafraid to enter water, unlike some other goat breeds. Their stocky body and powerful rear legs give them excellent stamina too. These reasons have established the Oberhasli goat breed as the perfect animal to take with you on your next adventure!
They could be a pet, then?
As with pack goats, a debudded Oberhasli wether buck could well be the best option here. The Oberhasli goat breed is also easy to maintain and they are considered to be suitable animals for novice level goat owners.
Feeding my Oberhasli goat
Oberhasli goats are very happy to browse on vegetation such as shrubs, tree bark, leaves, grass, herbs and weeds. They should have access to pasture land which allows them to browse freely, as this also gives them the opportunity to exercise.
Alfalfa hay can be used to supplement their diet, especially kidding or lactating Oberhasli does.
Caring for my Oberhasli goat
Like all goat breeds, Oberhasli goats need to be dewormed regularly, as well as having their hooves trimmed.
You should give them free access to a mineral supplement – and treat your goat to kitchen scraps, such as vegetables and fruit.
Fencing is important and, as Oberhasli goats are excellent jumpers, your fencing should be at least four feet high.
Are there any negative sides to the Oberhasli goat?
The Oberhasli goat has a friendly disposition and with their striking black stripes and black markings they are an extremely good-looking breed. However, they are prone to some illnesses, especially those brought on by damp weather.
These consist of some respiratory diseases and also parasitical infections related to humid climates, so it is necessary to pay special attention to this breed during the wet season.
The Oberhasli goat is also a bit of an escape artist, so be careful with your fencing and give them plenty of space to roam. At 150 pounds, the bucks can cause damage to posts by rubbing – so make sure they are well secured.
Where can I buy an Oberhasli goat?
There are only a few breeders in the USA that specialise in this breed, so the best suggestion is to check with a goat association before you buy from a dealer.
In Canada, try the Canadian Goat Society to get up to date dealer information.
If you’re based in Europe, you could search for your specific country’s Oberhasli Goat Society.