Scientific Name: Capra hircus hircus saanen
Goats are very adaptable – in fact, a saanen goat can thrive in any ecosystem except deserts, tundras, and underwater!
Saanen goats have been domesticated and have lived alongside humans for centuries. They still retain some of their wild behavior such as herding (they prefer to live in groups of two or more, and in the wild can be found in groups of up to a hundred individuals) and competing for status through head-butting contests.
STATUS: Domesticated; not endangered or threatened. However, saanen goats and other dairy goats of the capra hircus species are often cross-bred with one another, and pure-breds of the saanen breed are now relatively rare.
HABITAT: Saanen goats are originally from Switzerland, from the Saanen Valley, and this is how they got their name. Their high quality milk production led to their spread in popularity throughout Europe as a dairy goat, and they are now found in many other areas of the world.
DIET: Saanen goats love to browse (eat leaves or other plant growth) but will eat grass much like a sheep if necessary. They eat hay, millet or other grain, and clover in particular. They drink one or two gallons of water a day.
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Saanen goats are white or cream-colored and can have small light-colored spots, and have small horns and ears that point forward. Males are usually around 40 inches tall from the ground to their shoulders (known as the withers), and females are around 30 inches tall. They weigh around 150 pounds. Because of their light coloring they are susceptible to sunburn. One individual lived to be 22 years old, but most commonly their lifespan is closer to 15 years. Goats also do not have an upper row of teeth, but instead use enamel plates that grind across their bottom teeth.
Contrary to popular belief, goats do not eat clothes or any other kind of fabric. They are actually very selective eaters, much more so than dogs, cows, or sheep. Besides being choosy about what kind of food they eat, goats will also reject food that is dirty, smelly, wilted, or has been on the ground. They also do not like to get wet – in captivity, they like to enter their barn or similar shelters during rainy periods.