GOLDEN GOATS ON PAXOS
Golden goats The most likely ancestors of Golden Guernseys were the orange skinned Maltese goats, which reached the islands on board trading ships and then bred with local island goats. Ancestors of the Maltese goats include Chamoisée and Syrian. The latter contributed the golden colour, long hair and gorgeous ears said to curl at the tips "in salute to Apollo". I believe the same Syrian influence is widespread throughout the Mediterranean. The common Greek goat for example is often longhaired and golden as seen in the photo of mother and son on the small Greek island of Paxos. Another ancestor of the CI goats may be the brown/black and white longhaired French Poitevine, thought to be behind the pale gold, longhaired types, descended from Lisette Des Croix Jehans. Having had both pale and rich gold GG's I have to say they differ in type and temperament as well as colour. These features are genetically linked so I subscribe to the Poitevine theory. From 1922 the golden goats of the CI's were registered in the Guernsey Herd Book. They were categorised as KR (Kid Register), SR (Sire or Stud Register) and FB (Foundation Book).
During the German Occupation from 1940 many goats were lost, but after the war a determined effort led by Miss Miriam Milbourne was made to save the remaining typical golden island goats. She acquired her first goats in 1937 from Miss Pennell of Sark. The pale gold "White Lady" and her daughter "Jenny of Sark" went on to shape the foundation stock of the Golden Guernsey breed.
In the late 1930's a golden coloured Anglo-Nubian type male "Friskey Lad" was exported from the mainland to Guernsey. He was used to fix the colour but unfortunately he also contributed teat defects and inappropriate conformation, which took many generations to breed out. In 1949 another export from the mainland was used. This was the British Alpine type male "Malpas Manager" from the Egerton's famous herd. He was a grandson of World Record milker RM60 Malpas Melba *3 and his milk potential proved very influential within the breed. His black and white colour did strengthen the gold, though throwbacks regularly appeared. Although in goats red and its dilute version cream do seem to be dominant to black, we still occasionally get black and gold/tan kids born which are not usually registered or bred from.
By 1965 the golden goats were considered to be breeding true and Miss Milbourne persuaded the Guernsey Goat Society to open a separate registration section. So the Golden Guernsey Herd Book (GGHB) was started and from that point a closed herd book was created with no breeding up being allowed. The gene pool was very small, and even today the Golden Guernsey is classed as a rare breed due to its lack of enough distinct bloodlines. More effort is required to create additional families of related goats and widen the genetic base for the future safety of the breed.
A potentially important genetic safety-net was created in 1996 with the export of frozen GG embryos to the United States of America (via Canada). The "Swind" herd in New York State is currently the only herd of pure-bred Golden Guernsey's in the US. Only goats that are pure-bred with registered UK breed status are entitled to be called Golden Guernsey.
Cross-breds and breeding up stock are referred to as "Guernsey type or grades". An expanding group of Guernsey enthusiasts in the USA who cannot obtain pure-bred GG females are now joining the British Goat Society (BGS). This enables them to register foundation goats of suitable dairy breeds (Alpines/Oberhaslis/Sables/Toggs) together with their GG-sired progeny. By using GG bucks from the "Swind herd" and imported GG semen from the UK they are able to breed up to British Guernsey which allows them one foundation outcross and gives them full BG Herd Book status. Hopefully in time the BG's will achieve recognition from the American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA)