This page is under construction. I will be adding additional pictures as I can.
One of the many traits that make Nigerians so incredibly popular is the rainbow of colors and patterns the breed can display. Sometimes these colors can be a little confusing, so I wanted to show examples here to help you understand the coat patterns and colors of the Nigerian Dwarf and Mini (standard breed x Nigerian) dairy goats. To see even more examples, this website has a plethora of pictures.
Many times people will say that there is no way to ever predict the colors that your goats will produce. While we can never be positive before the kids are born, we can make educated guesses on the possibilities based on what we know about the phenotype (physical appearance) and genotype (genetic makeup) of our goats. For example, we can be reasonably certain that two solid black goats bred together will only produce solid black or chocolate kids. For that reason I will touch lightly the genetics at play behind these colors and patterns as well. More information on genetics can be found on this website.
One of the reasons for the beautiful array of colors and patterns found in Nigerians — many of which are unheard of in several other standard breeds of dairy goats — is due to the early influence of several different breeds during the early developmental years of Nigerians in North America. As the breed was developed into the miniature dairy goat it is today, genes from other goat breeds — especially dairy breeds — were introduced. More on the history of Nigerian Dwarf goats can be viewed at this website.
One last note — always remember that flashy colors and blue eyes are fun to have, they don’t put milk in the bucket, win ribbons in a show ring, or cause an animal to lead a long and productive life. There are many non-aesthetic traits like production, conformation, mothering ability, parasite resistance, etc that are much more important factors when choosing your breeding animals.
Nigerians come in several basic colors, all of which can also vary in shade within the color. All of these colors can be modified by various patterns and coat modifiers as well.
This kid is an example of a solid black goat with a white poll and frosting on the ears. Black is a recessive gene, meaning that both parents must carry and pass on the gene in order for the kid to be black. A goat must have two copies of the gene — one from each parent — in order it to be black. A goat of another color can carry a black gene and pass it on to offspring. A great way to know if one of your goats is hiding a certain pattern is to breed it to a solid black goat. If you get a solid black kid, you know that the parent has a recessive black gene and not a hidden pattern.
Brownie is an example of solid chocolate. Chocolate is a modification on black caused by the B (brown) locus. This modifier causes all of the areas of a goat that would normally be black to instead be brown. Chocolate brown is not to be confused with shades of tan or reddish brown, which are a different gene. Black and chocolate colors are created by eumelanin. Chocolate goats genetically carry the recessive black gene.
Bazinga is an example of a reddish-brown color, being modified by the chamoise pattern. Tan or brown colors are caused by phaeomelanin. These can range in shade from light tan to dark reddish brown. These shades of brown are often found in other patterns such as buckskin and chamoise. These colors should not be confused with chocolate or red.
Ariel is an example of light gold. Gold can come in several shades from very light cream to a dark red gold. The gold color, which is also produced by phaeomelanin, is a dominant gene, meaning that only one copy of the gene is needed for the goat to appear gold. If the gold gene is present in the goat’s genotype (genetic makeup) it will also be present in the phenotype (appearance); the exception would be in a goat with extreme spotting which causes the color to be hidden (see below). A single gold parent can produce gold offspring, whereas two parents who are not gold cannot have gold offspring. An interesting note on gold is that it is dominant over all other colors and patterns. If a goat possesses the gold gene, it will appear gold even if another dominant pattern gene (buckskin, chamoise, etc) is present genetically. The gold “overwrites” the other colors.
Dixie is an example of solid red. sometimes refereed to as “red gold.” Red is most often genetically a shade of gold, as is the case in Dixie. However, there is a rare recessive form of red that can suddenly pop up from the black gene. It’s not fully understood and very uncommon, but it is thought that recessive red is caused by a modifier that makes black areas yellow or red (similarly to the B gene in chocolate brown goats).
There are two ways in which a goat can be white. One is when a goat is genetically white, which is actually an extremely light cream color. The second is when a goat has such extensive white spotting (see below) that the actual color of the coat is masked by the white markings.
Patterns and modifiers are dominant gene traits, meaning that a goat only needs one copy of the gene to express it physically. This means that if a goat is not displaying one of these patterns, it also cannot pass it on to offspring. This also means that one parent with the trait can pass it on to offspring and it be visibly expressed regardless of the genetics traits of the other parent. This is the opposite of recessive genes, which require each parent to pass on a copy of the gene in order for it be physically visible in the offspring.
For example, two solid black (recessive) goats bred together will only produce solid black or chocolate (with the exception of a rare recessive red). However, a solid black goat bred to a buckskin (dominant) and white goat may have buckskin and white kids. If a solid black goat and a buckskin goat have a black kid, that means that the buckskin goat also carries a single copy of the black gene.
These patterns can all come in different shades and variations. For example, any pattern that is normally black can also be chocolate.
The buckskin pattern is characterized by a black, chocolate, or red cape over the head, neck, and shoulders as well as the same color on the top of the tail and on stripes down the cannon bones on the legs. This pattern also has facial stripes. The body color of the goat varies from light buckskin (cream or almost white) to standard buckskin (tan — most often just referred to as buckskin) to dark (a dark bay or mahogany color). In some adult animals, such as the buck in the last picture, the cape may extend from the shoulders all the way down the body. Genetically the goat is a buckskin, but it may look like a black and tan goat due to the extension of the cape. These kids are born obviously buckskin and the cape extends with age.
All of the goats above are varying shades of the buckskin pattern. Just in my personal experience, buckskin seems to be one of the most variable patterns — and also one of the most common. Buckskin is also very common in wild type goats, such as the San Clement Island goat.
Chamoise/Chamoisee (pronounced “shammy” or “sham-wha-zay” depending on who you ask) goats have a tan body with a black or chocolate dorsal stripe, underbelly, facial stripe, and legs. The body color can range from a very light tan or brown to a dark reddish shade like the last goat pictured. Chamoise is used for male goats, chamoisee is used for female goats.
The dark reddish brown chamoise pattern is the traditional color of Oberhaslis.
Cou Clair/Cou Blanc
Cou clair and cou blanc are the same pattern with different base colors — clair refers to a base color of tan or brown, whereas blanc refers to a base color of white or very light cream.
The literal meaning of the term Cou Clair is “clear neck” and Cou Blanc is “white neck.” The cou patterns consist of black hindquarters with white or tan forequarters and black or gray facial stripes. It is almost a reversal of the buckskin pattern. Like other patterns, the black portion of the pattern can also be chocolate and the shades of the forequarters can vary from white (blanc) to cream, light brown, or tan (clair).
Cou Noir is less common and means “black neck.” A cou noir goat has a black or chocolate forequarters with a white hindquarters. I have not been able to find an example of a true cou noir in Nigerians, though there are Nigerians with a black and white spotted pattern that closely resembles cou noir. It’s unknown if cou noir actually exists at all in Nigerians as a true pattern.
The cou pattern is very common in Alpines.
Swiss marked goats have a black, or sometimes chocolate, body color with white, cream, or tan legs and facial stripes that extend from white, cream, or tan ears down to include a white, cream, or tan muzzle. On the back legs, the white, cream, or tan will extend up the back of the body to the tail where it will form two triangular patches on the goat’s rump, pointing in from either side of the tail. The muzzle will be white, cream, or tan as well. The underbelly of the swiss marked pattern is not light — it is the same color as the body.
The chocolate swiss pattern is the traditional color of Toggenburgs.
Sundgau appears similar to swiss markings, with a few key differences. A sundgau goat has a black or chocolate body with a lighter tan or cream underbelly and legs. The underbelly color may extend up to the neck as well. The face will have tan or cream stripes and the legs will have black or chocolate stripes.
The sundgau pattern does not have lighter triangular patches, ears, or muzzle like the swiss. The swiss pattern does not have the lighter underbelly of the sundgau.
Goats can also display combination patterns, where the goat has two separate patterns (such as buckskin and chamoisee) at the same time. These are less common but not impossible. They may be more common than we realize as well, because it can sometimes be difficult to determine when a goat has two patterns.
The doe in the picture above is an example of the chamoisee and buckskin patterns mixing. The areas that would normally be black due to the buckskin pattern are instead overwritten by the chamoisee pattern and vice versa. Where the cape from buckskin would normally be, the chamoise has replaced it with brown. On the underbelly, facial stripes, and legs where chamoise would normally cause solid black coloring, the buckskin has modified the pattern and cause a light underbelly, light facial stripes, and light strips on the legs.
Spotting is a gene that causes white markings superimposed on the body of the goat. This can range from a single small white spot to such a vast expanse of white that the actual color and pattern of the goat is obscured. White spotting is not an actual color but rather an absence of color – this gene causes areas of the goat that would otherwise be colored by phaeomelanin or eumelanin to not deposit color. This causes those areas to be white. Spotting acts as a modifier to the exiting color genes, not a replacement — it is similar to throwing white paint on the goat. A goat may appear completely white, but a goat who is genetically a color or pattern is still that color or pattern even if it has been “painted over.” The white simply masks the color that is there but does not remove it.
On registration papers you may refer to random spotting with terms such as “minimal white,” “random white,” “pinto,” “[color] and white,” or “abundant/extensive white” depending on how much white is present. It can also be described using the terms below if it follows a particular pattern such as a “white belt/belted” or “schwartzal.” You can as specific as you want to be (“black with white belt, random white, white poll, and frosted ears”) or you can keep it simple (“black with white belt”). I personally tend to keep it simple and not include details such as a white poll or frosting. I usually say “color and white” for most goats, “minimal white” if there is very little, “white belt” if all the white is focused on the belted area, and “abundant white” only if there is so much white as to obscure the underlying base color/pattern.
Spotting is quite random, but can follow a few common patterns. Certain types of white spotting are thought to be recessive genes while others are thought to be dominant. Here are a few of the most common types of spotting:
Belted refers to a goat that has a white belt around the midsection of the body. This may be a full belt extending all the way around or a partial belt. Thought to be dominant. In the picture above, the doeling on the right had a full belt that connected on the other side of her body; the doeling on the left had a partial belt.
Schwartzal is a pattern of spotting that causes a colored head and extremities with a mostly white body. It is thought to possibly be dominant and it may be an extreme variation of the belting gene.
Random Spotting can be anything from a single white spot to a broad expanse of white spotting.
Flowery causes small white spots throughout colored areas (not to be confused with roan, see below). Also thought to be dominant.
Ticking is the opposite of flowery and causes small spots of color to be freckled throughout white areas. Thought to be dominant.
Dalmatian causes the goat to have a mostly colored head, extremities, and dorsal stripe with a white body with ticking spots of color. Thought to be recessive, but may be dominant in some variations.
Roaning refers to white hairs being intermingled with colored hairs. Roaning, unlike flowery spotting, consists of individual whites hairs mixing with individual colored hairs, not clumps of white hairs causing spots.
Roan can result in the appearance of black areas being various shades of gray, or brown or red areas appearing to be strawberry blond. It may cover just a portion of the coat or the whole goat. Roaning is thought to be dominant.
Moonspots are spots — usually, but not always, rounded — that are interposed on top of another color. A moonspot is not a spot of color interposed on top of white nor is it a white spot interposed on a color. A moonspot is always a colored spot occurring on top of another color on the body.
Moonspots can range from a tiny speck not even visible to a huge spot or plethora of spots. Moonspots are caused by a dominant gene, therefore at least one parent must be moonspotted in order for the offspring to be moonspotted. However, because a moonspot can be minuscule, it may appear that a non-moonspotted goat has thrown a moonspotted kid.
Frosting and White Poll
Frosting refers to white ticking around the ears, tail, muzzle, or eyes. It may occur in all of those locations at once, one or two locations, or in none of them. Frosting may consist of just a few flecks of white or it may be so heavy as to make the goat’s entire muzzle, ears, tail, or area around the eyes appear solid white.
A white poll is simply a white star on the top of the head. It can range from a single small spot to a large circular area. It can be accompanied by frosting (and often is) or it can be present alone.
These can be present in goats with otherwise completely solid coats as well as in goats with white spotting. A solid colored goat with frosting or a white poll is still considered to be a solid color, not spotted. Frosting and white polls are both dominant genes.
Nigerian Dwarfs (and miniature dairy breeds) can have two different eye colors, blue or brown. This makes them unique among dairy goats, because blue eyes are not found in any other purebred standard dairy breed. This makes the trait very popular among pet owners. True blue eyes in Nigerians are a vibrant sky blue. Some brown eyed kids may be born with a duller shade of milky blue, but this will fade with age. Though rare, it is possible for some goats to have one brown eye and one blue eye — usually they will have a matching set.
Blue eyes are caused a dominant gene, therefore no two brown eyed goats bred together can produce blue eyed offspring. Like all dominant genes, at least one parent must have blue eyes in order for the kids to have blue eyes.