The Golden Guernsey is an attractive animal that has grown in popularity recently as a useful household goat with it's pleasant temperament & a steady milk yield containing good nutritional qualities. Their reliability in food conversion & placid temperament make it an economical proposition as a family animal.
The Golden Guernsey goat is distinguished by it's golden skin & hair which often takes a lighter look. It can be fairly long down the back and hind legs. In the breed standard, variation is allowed in the golden colour, along with small white markings on the head, but no Swiss markings are accepted. They are a fine boned animal with a straight or slightly dished facial line; the ears have a slight upturn at the tip & the neck is slender.
They are a fairly small goat, adult males weighing 190-200lbs and adult females from 120-130lbs and their conformation is neat & aesthetically pleasing. Golden goats were mentioned as long ago as 1826 in a Channel Island Guidebook. The most likely ancestors 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 Chamoisee and Syrian.
An important part of the history of the Golden Guernsey Goat is described by Angus Watson from a 2007 article for the Financial Times about rare breeds.
"Miriam Milbourne of Guernsey is a largely forgotten heroine of the second world war. She didn’t blow up bridges or resist invasion. She did, however, risk her life to save a small herd of Golden Guernsey goats.The goats, unique to the Channel Islands, were under threat from the occupying Nazis, who were always short of food as a result of Royal Navy blockades. Milbourne was determined that they wouldn’t get her goats, so she hid them. Had the goats been found, she would have been executed. But they weren’t, and it is down to Milbourne that Golden Guernseys, with their glowing golden coats and a gracious character, survive today."
In 1965 a separate Golden Guernsey register was opened in the Guernsey Goat Society's Herd Book. The first successful imports to England were in 1967 and the inaugural meeting of the mainland club was in 1969. The B.G.S. Golden Guernsey register was opened in 1971.
Current Situation by the President, Peter Girard
The current situation on the Island regarding Golden Guernsey goats depends on your nature! Optimist or pessimist!
Compared to the 1970’s the Golden Guernsey numbers have declined and the export of some top male goats did not help the local ones. Fewer numbers of goats and particularly males, means the gene pool is very small and is in danger of no longer being viable.
Since a low point in the late 1990’s the numbers seem to be slowly increasing. More people are expressing an interest in keeping goats. Three males were imported from England in the 2000’s.
The breed itself has improved, particularly the udders. Several people have qualified to do AI (Artificial Insemination), this is an exciting avenue which may be pursued.
Generally the present and future looks good, but we cannot rest for a moment, or the Island of Guernsey will no longer have any of her goats left.