The Damascus Goat – Milk, Meat and Hide
The Damascus, or Shami, goat is a breed that has been a popular choice for livestock for centuries. Valued for not only its milk, but also its meat and leather-producing hide, the Shami is also popular because, if given the care required, a doe can kid three to four goats in a single pregnancy.
The milk the doe produces is noted because it is extremely easy to digest for anyone who may have issues digesting more normal dairy choices. Additionally, Shami milk has found an increased popularity in recent years in the gourmet cheese market.
The Shami is also noted for its strikingly noble appearance many find beautiful as well as its ability to easily adapt to typically more human lifestyles. Thus, it has always held a special place in stories and in homes as exotic pets.
History of the Damascus Goat
A native of the Middle East, the Shami goat has been raised in big herds throughout the region. At some time in the 19th century, Shami goats were exported by the British. They were taken to Cyprus where they were then bred and raised in large numbers. It was during this time that the breed picked up the name Damascus.
Many classics of Arabic literature make mention of the Shami Goat. In fact, they appear in the religions and folklore of the region as well. In all its representations, the Shami is described as being noble, and having striking characteristics.
Additionally, because it has been used as a crossbreed so many times in the past, the Shami has been used in the creation of other popular breeds like Indian and the Anglo-Nubian.
Characteristics of the Damascus Goat
One of the main uses today of the Damascus Goat is to cross breed with other goats in order to help improve that breed’s size, milk & meat production, as well as body shape. This is because not only does the Shami have desirable characteristics for goats, they also pass along these traits easily when crossbreeding.
Adult Shami Goats have a long neck and long legs, ears that hang low and long, and a small head – features that have traditionally given the breed its trademark noble look. As for coloring, due to the extensive crossbreeding the breed has undergone through the centuries, they now come in almost all shades of grey with beige, white, and the occasional darker color mixed in as well.
The gorgeous long haired coat of the Damascus goat offers ideal protection from harsh elements – including UV rays from the vicious desert sun. They also have the ability to survive on very little – making them ideal for breeding in desert climes like many of those typical in the Middle East. Adult Shami does are around 75cm at shoulder height with most weighing around 70kg. The bucks on average are quite a big heavier and larger than the does.
The most striking feature of the breed must be the unique shaped head. Its convex bridge, overly expressive eyes, and characteristic long and graceful ears make it perhaps the most majestic of any breed in appearance.