The Cheviot Landrace Goat
In 2017 we welcomed an interesting new herd of goats down to the farm – a small breeding group of Cheviot Landrace Goats, one of our truly old English breeds of livestock. The original herd of nine was comprised of one intact adult male, three adult females with five kids at foot between them (three females, one entire male and one castrated male). You can tell the difference between the intact male, Edward, and the others easily by his impressive stature, not to mention those immense horns!
If you were to go back in time and wander the country back in medieval times, you might see goats like this – they’re the kind you would find roaming the countryside. A lot of modern domestic breeds have been selectively bred and developed for things like meat, kidding or milk production. This breed has been left relatively untouched, which has led to a decline in their population – they’ve been left to roam countryside and have historically even been regarded as a pest and culled. As such, there’s not very many of these animals around.
Thorndon Country Park in Essex took on many of the Cheviot Landrace Goats that were threatened with culling, and now has one of the largest populations in the UK – that’s where our group have come from. They’ve been living semi feral and used for conservation grazing, but they’re fast acclimatising to people, especially when they’ve got food!
The history of the breed
The Old English goat is one of several primitive breeds of goat in Britain, dating back to at least the Iron Age. Over time, invading forces like the Romans and Vikings would have bought their own livestock in, which would push the native primitive breeds down even more – whether through cross breeding or simply just being more useful!
Populations of feral goats have no legal protection, so over time they would come into conflict with wildlife conservationists and land owners, often resulting in being culled. A population established itself in the Cheviot Hills of Northumberland, hence the name Cheviot Landrace Goats. With the threat of further culls looming, Thorndon Country Park in Essex took on a herd from Northumberland and they’ve established a conservation grazing group in the park land. This is the group that our goats have come from!
It’s only relatively recently that the Old English Goats have proven out to be a breed. By looking at the DNA of the Cheviot Landrace goats it’s possible to identify that they’re significantly different from other primitive goats to be recognised as their own breed.