The Nigerian Dwarf is a breed of miniature dairy goat of West African origin. It was given its breed name in the US in the early 1980s where it has been further developed since then. The breed was first imported to Australia as frozen embryos and semen from the US by Michael and Ulrike Garwood (First Fleet) in 2013. As of 2018, imported embryos from five Nigerian Dwarf does have produced breeding offspring in Australia and frozen semen from eleven Nigerian Dwarf bucks has also been imported.
The Nigerian Dwarf is somewhat similar in appearance to the larger Swiss breeds of dairy goat.
Apart from its appeal as a small, colourful, good natured, relatively easy to manage dairy goat, the breed is especially valued for the properties of its milk, with high butterfat and excellent qualities for cheese making.
AABMGS Nigerian Dwarf breed standard
Well-proportioned dairy type showing vigour, harmonious blending and correlation of parts. Proud carriage and graceful walk. Femininity in does and masculinity in bucks. No tendency to coarseness. The coat is short to medium length, fine and straight. Any pattern, colour or combination of colours is acceptable. Blue and brown eyes are accepted. Ears are of medium length, erect and alert. The face profile is either straight or slightly dished.
Head: Medium in length, face profile straight or slightly dished, broad muzzle with open nostrils, lean strong jaw. Alertly carried ears of medium size. Forehead broad between full bright eyes – brown or blue.
Neck: Blending smoothly into shoulders and brisket. Long and lean in does. Strong and masculine in bucks.
Shoulder blades: Set smoothly against chest wall and withers.
Withers: Well defined and wedge shaped with the dorsal process of the vertebrae rising slightly above the shoulder blades.
Ribs: Wide ‒ giving good body capacity (good spring of rib). Rib bone wide, flat and long. Backward sloping.
Back: Strong and straight with well-defined vertebrae.
Loin: Broad, strong and almost level.
Rump: Long and wide with gentle fall from hip to tail. Level across thurls.
Hips: Wide, level with back.
Thurls: Wide apart.
Pin bones: Wide apart, lower than hips.
Tail head: Slightly above and set neatly between pins.
Legs: Set wide and square, clean cut and strong:
Skin: Tan to black
Relatively large for the size of the animal providing ample digestive capacity.
Barrel: Deep ‒ ribs wide apart and well sprung, depth and width increasing towards the rear of the barrel.
Heart girth: Large – well sprung fore-ribs, wide chest floor between front legs, fullness at the point of the elbow.
Udder: Broadly and tightly attached, evenly balanced and symmetrical, high and wide at rear, well forward at front blending smoothly into the body (fore udder at least as far forward as the front of the hip bones). Strong medial ligament giving a slight cleft between the halves of the udder. No pocket, not pendulous nor unduly divided. Soft, pliable and elastic and showing good capacity and collapsing well after milking. Skin tan to black.
Teats: Uniform, of convenient length, size and placement for ease of milking. Cylindrical in shape, free from obstructions, well apart, squarely placed at the lowest point of each half of the udder.
Testicles: Two testicles in an even, well attached scrotum.
Rudimentary teats: Two teats set slightly to the fore and side of the scrotum, of good size but not overdeveloped unless buck is milking.
Roman nose. Low set ears. Roach back. Sway back. Dip behind the wither. Shallow body. Narrow chest. Steep rump. Flat rump. Cow hocks. Dropped, weak or long pasterns. Splayed feet. Fleshy, pendulous or unduly divided udder. Pocket in udder. Undefined medial ligament/flat sole. Pink skin. Teats: different sized teats, bulbous, extremely small/thick, sideways pointing. Bucks: unduly pendulous, divided testicles.
Parrot mouth. Wry face. Double or supernumerary teats. Double orifices. Blind teats. Spurs/sprigs on teats. Bottle teats. Pendulous ears. La Mancha ears. Undescended testicles or one testicle only. Obviously undershot or overshot jaw (side profile). Intersex.
Show height limits
The accepted height limits for showing the Purebred Nigerian Dwarf are:
Graded (%) Nigerian Dwarf Show height limits are as follows.
Show height limits will be adjusted as the breed develops.
AABMGS Nigerian Dwarf (ND) grading system
(based on % ND contribution to pedigree)
Ungraded – below 50% – percentage recorded only
Grade E – 50% or more, but below 75% (equivalent to minimum of 1 cross to a 100% ND)
Grade D – 75% or more, but below 87.5% (equivalent to minimum of 2 crosses to 100% NDs)
Grade C – 87.5% or more, but below 93.75% (equivalent to minimum of 3 crosses to 100% NDs)
Grade B – 93.75% or more, but below 96.875% (equivalent to minimum of 4 crosses to 100% NDs)
Grade A – 96.875% or more, but below 98.4375% (equivalent to minimum of 5 crosses to 100% NDs)
Purebred ND – 98.4375% or more (equivalent to minimum of 6 crosses to 100% NDs).
Full-Blood ND - 100% imported US Nigerian Dwarf genetics (animals descended exclusively from imported lines).
It will take a minimum of 6 generations of upgrading from a Foundation animal with no ND genetics to reach Purebred ND status.
Breeders can choose to use NDs with less than 100% ND genetics to upgrade but it may take longer to reach the qualifying percentage for the various grades.
Over height animals are ineligible for showing but their grade (including Purebred) is not affected.
The AABMGS does not require DNA testing to confirm parentage of upgraded animals, but if breeders/owners choose to have parentage DNA verified, this will be recorded on the registration certificate.
In order to protect the genetic integrity of the Full-Blood Nigerian Dwarf gene pool (100% imported ND lines) DNA testing will be required to verify the parentage of animals that owners wish to register as Full Bloods. Where DNA testing is not done these animals will be registered as (upgraded) Purebreds as upgraded Purebreds are not required to be DNA tested.
It is proposed that when sufficient numbers of animals have been upgraded to Purebred status, the AABMGS Nigerian Dwarf Herd Book will be closed. That is, the only animals eligible for registration as Purebred Nigerian Dwarfs will be those that have both parents recognised as Purebreds in the AABMGS Nigerian Dwarf Herd Book. This is to prevent the gradual dilution of ND genetics by endless upgrading. In the US the Herd Book was closed around 10 years after the breed was first recognised. A similar period of time may be appropriate in Australia, but the decision as to timing will be up to the AABMGS Committee at some time in the future, to judge when a critical mass of Purebred NDs has been reached.
Requirement for a high percentage of ND genetics
The Nigerian Dwarf as it has been developed in the US is a unique dairy breed, not just a height. It differs from other dairy breeds not just by size but also by genetic attributes that give its milk particular qualities – qualities that make its milk sought after for cheese making in particular. For further information on this see, for example, the article on Alpha s1 Casein genetics on the First Fleet website
It is for these sorts of reasons that using the Nigerian Dwarf to reduce the height of standard sized dairy goats does not by itself produce animals equivalent to Nigerian Dwarfs. Rather it may just give you, for example, a Swiss-cross dairy goat in miniature form. To ensure the graded-up animals that we are going to call “Purebred Nigerian Dwarfs” do, in fact, represent Nigerian Dwarf genetics, we need to insist on a very high percentage input of Nigerian Dwarf genetics.
‘Over height’ rules
As far as height and over height rules go, the high percentage of Nigerian Dwarf genetics required by this grading-up system should give us a similar population gene pool to the full-blood ND genetics imported to Australia. As such, similar height rules that have stood the test of time in the US should work effectively in Australia. In the US, over-height animals do not lose their registration status, they are just ineligible for shows. In fact, significant numbers of ND bucks in the US do go over height, and some of these have made important contributions to the breed. The fact that the height limit for ND bucks is only around 5% higher than for ND does means that over-height bucks are more likely to occur than over-height does, and that marginally over-height bucks are not very likely to produce over-height female offspring. The average height difference between males and females in other dairy goat breeds is around 10%, that is, a buck is likely, on average to produce female offspring that stand around 90% of his own height. So, an ND doe close to but under the height limit is more likely to produce an over-height buck offspring, than a marginally over-height ND buck is to produce an over-height doe offspring. The fact that Nigerian Dwarfs are a dairy breed means that the focus is on the does, and the occurrence of over-height bucks has not been of major concern in the US.
Australian All Breeds of Miniature Goat Society Inc. and Miniature Sheep Branch Inc.