Wanting a smaller dairy animal, we turned our attention to goats and settled on the Alpine breed.
Our resident herd is comprised of Alpine doe Cedar (a Broken Chamoisée), Alpine buck Pepe (a Sundgau), their Broken Chamoisée daughter Amethyst, and Brie a Nubian/Boer-cross doe.
The elegant Alpine has its roots in the French Alps; yes, that famous European mountain range. Still the most popular breed in France and widespread there, these goats are also known as French Alpines. Selection through the years focused on size and production instead of a common color or pattern thus this breed has an array of beautiful colors and patterns, with descriptive French names no less!
Early voyagers brought these goats along with them for milk and meat, releasing some of the animals on islands along their routes. Alpines first appeared in North America in the early 1900’s when the first documented herd, consisting of 18 does and 3 bucks, was imported from France.
Alpines are a medium to large-sized goat breed. They have the ability to adapt to any climate due to their hardy nature (imagine life in the Alps!), are sturdily built making terrific packgoats, and are less vocal than some breeds. Described as friendly and highly curious, they are a docile goat that makes for great pets, show animals, and brush-eaters; trained wethers are a top choice as sturdy packgoats. Some folks note that Alpines are more independent than other breeds, generally at the top of herd hierarchy, and occasionally willful. This combination of traits makes Alpine goats especially enjoyable!
Adult Does should stand no less than 30 inches at the withers and weigh no less than 135 pounds; adult Bucks, no less than 34 inches and 170 pounds. The breed has short to medium-length hair, upright ears and a straight facial profile that gives it a graceful, alert expression. Bucks often have long hair along the spine and a pronounced masculine beard, Does can also have a small beard. Alpines reach sexual maturity early. Twins are most common, on up to quintuplets, although they can have singles.
Traditional Alpine colors are described using the following French terms:
- Cou Blanc (coo blanc) – which means “white neck” – white front quarters and black hindquarters with black or gray markings on the head.
- Cou Clair (coo clair) – literally “clear neck” – front quarters are tan, saffron, off-white, or shading to gray with black hindquarters.
- Cou Noir (coo nwah) – meaning “black neck” – Black front quarters and white hindquarters.
- Sundgau (sundgo) – Black with white markings such as underbody, facial stripes, etc.
- Pied – spotted or mottled.
- Chamoisée (shamwahzay) – brown or bay – characteristic markings are black face, dorsal stripe, feet and legs and sometimes a martingale running over the withers and down to the chest. Spelling for male is Chamoise (shamwahz).
- Two-tone Chamoisée – light front quarters with brown or grey hindquarters. This is not a Cou Blanc or Cou Clair as these terms are reserved for animals with black hindquarters.
- Broken Chamoisée – a solid Chamoisée broken with another color by being banded or splashed, etc.
- Any variation in the above patterns broken with white should be described as a broken pattern such as a Broken Cou Blanc.
Alpines excel as dairy animals in both commercial operations and the homestead, producing a high volume of milk over a long lactation period, with the ability to be milked through without rebreeding. Their milk has a good protein and butterfat content, lending itself well to cheese production as well as ice cream, other dairy products, and soap making. Alpine milk has relatively low fat content, with average butterfat of 3.4%. It is higher in sugars than cows’ milk but balances itself in the amount of protein. Alpine goats’ milk has 2.3g of protein per 250ml while cow’s milk has 3.4g. A higher protein count is not always good, since it means more calories with an increased fat content. Compared to Saanen goat milk, Alpine is higher in all nutritional aspects, except the fat content.
Given their lovely array of colors, long production of high quality milk, and friendly dispositions, it’s no wonder the Alpine goat is the second most popular breed in the U.S.!
Alpine Goat Traits-at-a-Glance
Adaptable to any climate
Intelligent, friendly, docile, independent
Prolific- twins most common, up to quintuplets
High milk volume excellent for cheese production
Wide range of colors
For more information on Alpine goats, visit