Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter


from the October 7, 2012 Newsletter issued from the valley of the Dry Frio River in northern Uvalde County, southwestern Texas, on the southern border of the Edwards Plateau, USA

A neighbor keeps milking goats across the road from the cabin I live in. At dawn each morning and at dusk a lady from down the road comes and milks them. That's one above, one of them in the background nibbling on a Mesquite tree.

I'm told that they're Nubian Goats, but Nubians, though similar, have much longer ears that droop down the sides of their heads, and their snouts are thick and rounded -- "Roman-nosed," people like to say. The ears of my neighbor's goats are short and stick up, and their snouts are slender. They're Alpine Goats, famed as "heavy milkers," and considered to be hardy and adaptable enough to thrive in a wide variety of climates.

I enjoy knowing the names of domesticated breeds for the same reason I like knowing the names of other things: Once you have a name, you can look it up, and find out all sorts of interesting information.

For example, Alpine Goats originated in the French Alps. All my neighbor's goats display the same black and white patterning -- white front quarters, black ears and snout, black hindquarters, but white hind legs and a bit of white on the belly. However, there's a variety of Alpine Goat types, and they bear French names. My neighbor's are Cou Blanc, which means "white neck" in French. Another form is the Cou Noir with black front quarters and white hindquarters. Chamoisee goats are mostly brown or bay colored, with blackish extremities.

Alpine goats are said to be especially curious and friendly, to train easily, to bond with their keepers and -- since relative to other goat breeds they are especially large, healthy and strong -- they're often used as pack animals. They're said to have a "guard dog like" instinct on the trail. An experienced Alpine pack goat remembers trails he's been on and can lead a pack through snow and fog.