Pygmy or Dwarf Goat?

Although both Nigerian Dwarfs and African Pygmies are both of West African origin, they are two separate and distinct breeds. It can be easy to confuse the Nigerian with the Pygmy because of the similarities of size and origin, but the similarities stop there.

African Pygmies (such as Pee Wee shown here), are bred to be “cobby” and heavy boned. They are almost as wide as they are tall. Colors accepted by the NPGA are usually solid or with a white band around the belly. They usually have a darker stripe running down their backs from the head to the base of the tail. All colors can be seen here. The variety of Pygmy goats common in the U.S., are most likely descendants of “Cameroon Dwarfs”

The Nigerian Dwarf is a miniature goat of West African origin also. They are small in size and have very colorful markings. Their small stature means they do not require as much space as their larger dairy counterparts. They are gentle, have very friendly personalities which makes them good companion pets and easy to handle. Even small children are safe around these little goats. Nigerian Dwarf goats are a true dairy goat. They have been approved as such by the US Department of Agriculture making them eligible for youth 4-H and FFA projects.

Nigerian Dwarfs are bred to have the length of body and structure in proportion to their larger dairy goat counterparts. This makes breeding and birthing easy. Nigerians Dwarfs are somewhat rare in the US, compared with the numbers of Pygmies residing here.

Color is one of the big factors that make breeding the Nigerian Dwarf dairy goat so popular and interesting. You can never be sure what color the babies will be until they pop out! Often times their color changes as they mature. The main color families are black, white, chocolate, red and gold; with any number varying shades and pattern combinations. All colors and patterns are acceptable in breed standards.

These “knee-high” miniatures do not require the space their larger counterpart dairy goats need, making the care for them practical for the small farm owner.

There are 2 maximum height standards on the Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goat reflected by the 2 registries available in the United States. The ideal for both registries on does is 17″ – 19″ at the top of the withers with AG’s maximum height being 22.5″ and NDGA’s maximum height at 21″. For bucks, both registries have an ideal height of 18″ – 20″ with AGS’s maximum height at 23.5″ and NDGA’s at 23″. The average adult weight of a Nigerian Dwarf dairy goat is about 75 pounds.

51 Responses to Pygmy or Dwarf Goat?

  1. Candice says:

    Hi, I have pygmy’s and have had them for about 2 years now, but i have a few questions that still puzzel me, 1. my goats have lots of room of different types of grasses and weeds and we also feed grain and alfalpha (about three times a week) during the summer but twice a day during winter and they have a roll of regular hay always out since there is lack of grass. but all of my goats still look kinda thin. i want them big and healthy looking but cant afford to feed them alot of grain everyday since i have about 10 just for pets and i feed expensive purina noble goat chow. so what am i doing wrong? 2. i have had a nanny to have triples about 2 months ago and all 3 boys did great up untill about 3 weeks ago i noticed my little runt now about twice smaller than his brothers and acts very weak doesnt run like the other 2 he eats and drinks water and grass doesnt act interested in grain or hay anymore. i took him to the vet and he got antibotics, iron, fluids and wormer. they tested him positive for coccideosis but they treated him for it. but he still just doesnt act right to me, i dont want to lose him he is so friendly but now since his other brothers are weined and being normal baby goats hes just not there. we still let him get some milk but i dont know what else to do for him any suggestion?

    • Christine says:

      Hi Candace! Are your goats on a regular worming program? They may be dealing with internal parasites. If they’re not wormed, you should start now. They shouldn’t look thin with all they’re eating. Don’t feel bad about not giving them enough grain.. they seem to be getting plenty. As a matter of fact, if they’re getting a good quality hay &/or roughage, they really don’t need grain at all. Are they getting loose minerals or a salt block? They need that year round but especially during this very hot summer we’re having. You may want to switch from grain (I’m guessing this is a grain mix for goats), to a medicated goat pellets. This is a complete diet & includes Monensin which is a coccidiosis wormer & is perfect for kids. As for your littlest one, does he have diarrhea or normal little pellets? Take his rectal temp to see if he’s fighting an infection – it should be 103. If his temp is low, you’ll have to warm him up. Seeing that the vet has examined him (we’ll have to trust that the vet knows about goats), the best you can do now is watch him, give him plenty of TLC & prayer helps too. I wish I could be more helpful! Good luck & please keep me posted.

  2. Rosanna says:

    Thanks so much, I will, I’m getting ready to go check on her now, my daughter and I are so excitttttted….lol I so hope all goes well. You have a great day and thanks for all your knowledge! God Bless you!

  3. Rosanna says:

    I am keeping a close check on her, she is fed grain daily, she was wormed before she was breed, and then I believe my daughter re wormed her a month ago, this wormer is suppose to be safe for mothers to be. I just checked on her and now she has white slimmy looking stuff kinda hanging from her rear end, I almost would say she is still carring a kid, she has milk now if you try to touch her teets (she will not hold still for this and never would) milk eaisly comes out, I do not pull or squeeze just me trying to check to see how her sack feels and her moving around casues the milk to come out. I dont know….I will keep my fingers crossed, what do you think? Thanks so much.

    • Christine says:

      Rosanna, sounds likes she’s starting to go in labor. When does are ready to “pop” the position of the kid will sort of be under her belly so her sides don’t look as huge as they were. Keep an eye on her, make sure she’s getting plenty of water. If you can keep her in a smaller pen, that would make it easier for you to watch on her. Keep me posted!

  4. Rosanna says:

    I have a pygmy doe, she had never been bread before last year, we didnt know she was expecting actually, and I found a small baby mostly formed, I guess she aborted/ misscarried? I waited a while and breed her, I know she is due any time now, she was huge, and now she looks thin, her milk is coming in but I dont know is she has already lost her baby, I have not found one, but the pen she is in is on a hillside and the weeds are high, we’ve looked but didn’t find any thing. If she did loose another baby do you have any idea why? Thanks

    • Christine says:

      Rosanna, that is so sad… does she have any mucus discharge from her vagina? If she gave birth, she’ll have brownish/reddish discharge for the next few days. Hard to tell why she miscarries… is she eating protein food? Goats like weeds & grasses but sometimes they are very poor nutrition – we need to supplement with a quality hay and a little 16% protein grain. How about parasites? Is she regularly wormed? Please keep an eye on her….

  5. Tisha says:

    i’ve given him hay but he seems uninterested but he loves grass its hard though for him to get enough because when i tried to let him out in his pen today alls he wanted was back into the barn. he is neauterd i’m going to get him a budy when i move out though

    • Christine says:

      Tisha, pick up a cheap dog collar at the dollar store & put a leash on him. Hold crackers or cookies in one hand and have him follow you. He’ll get the idea very quickly. Don’t loose patience and don’t quit. If he acts timid & you leave him alone, he’ll understand this behavior very quickly & you’ll never be able to tame him. Don’t give up – he’ll make a great pet!

  6. Tisha says:

    hi! i’m glad i found this site i have a question i got a young pygmy goat a couple days ago (his estamated birthday is april 7th) and have been keeping him in my barn since he’s not yet used to me he still shakes when i come to see him but will take food from my hand and dosnt run from me in his corral but my real question here is his poop seems to be runny is it because of the stress of being seperated from his herd? my mom wont let me get a second one but i do have horses for companions but he’s so small now i think he was a runt but i’m just concerned he dosnt seem to be eating the corn out of his dish or the fresh picked clover i give him every day and i dont think he’s drinking his water ( i change it every day) or maybe he is and i’m just not noticing? thanks in advance for your help

    • Christine says:

      Tisha, you’ll have to start feeding him something else… corn is like candy to goats and should only be given as a treat. He needs either medicated goat feed (contains Monensin for prevention of Coccidia) or a 16% protein textured grain. Clover is good but he also needs regular roughage – if you’re keeping him inside until he’s used to you, give him some hay instead of clover. As a matter of fact, you can feed him hay only if you can’t get grain. Hay (roughage) is the number one feed. I

      ‘m guessing the runny poop is because he’s not eating what he was eating when he was with mom. His digestive system has to get used to something else. With this heat & his runny poop, he really needs to drink or he will quickly dehydrate. If you can get a syringe, force water in his mouth (remove needle first).

      He’ll also need to be wormed if he hasn’t already. You will also want to neuter him soon before he starts acting “buckish”.. trust me, he will and then he won’t be a fun pet anymore. It’s too bad that you can’t get him a buddy -goats are herd animals and they need same type companions. Hope this helps!

  7. Regan Hall says:

    I am a 11 year old girl and I love animals so much. I have two grown pygmy goats that is about 5 and 4 years old and a pony in a barn with 3 stalls. We are about to get 2 baby pygmy and I was wondering if you can give me some tips on to raize them. They are 3 mouths old and one is a male and the other is a female, I have no idea if the male is neutered but if he is not how old is he sopose to be? Would the other pygmy goats pick on the little ones? Should I keep the baby ones in the stall? I got the whole summer to play with the goats and care for them. How ofen should we deworm them? Thank you for your time!

  8. Denise says:

    I purchased a small herd of pgymy goats two of the does already had kids that were fine , i have had them about two months now and every doe since has aborted her kid? I do not know what is going on. Could it just be the stess o the move? Do you have any suggestion as to hat to do?

    • Christine says:

      Denise, I found an excellent article on this subject. Goats don’t usually stress enough to cause miscarriages or abortions. This happened to me on a smaller scale but we were able to determine the cause… 2 of my girls had developed Pinkeye – a bacterial infection which is a major cause of abortion in goats. If a doe gets is exposed to Chlamydia (bacteria responsible for Pinkeye), even if she never show actual signs of Chlamydia, the doe may abort the next time she gets pregnant if she is not treated. However, the most common reason for miscarriages is moldy hay.. check your source. Good luck!

  9. Dia L. Montville says:

    First let me thank you again for all the help with Katy and the prolapse issue. Once she kidded, everything went back into place and seems to have resolved. Today our boar, Annie had her little billy.
    My question for you today is that my friend in CT is lossing her goats to an unexplained illness. She has had them tested for CAE, CLA and other illnesses. They start with eye clouding and then crusting of their nose and eyes. Then they develope respitory issues and horrible coughing. She had them treated by two different vets, dewormed & antibotices, then steriods but they are dying quickly. Both vets could not figure out what was wrong. She had another one die yesterday and is sending it to the state lab for an animal autopsy. I have suspected tuburculosis. Do you have any idea what might be killing these goats? She has four left and is hoping to save them before she loses them.

    • Christine says:

      Dia, I’m so glad everything has been resolved with Katy! Congrats on the kids!

      I researched through all my sources concerning your friend’s issue. I’m glad she decided to have one of the goats necropsied. They’ll know exactly what was going all. The only thing that remotely looked like her symptoms was “Hoof & Mouth” disease.. this was close but not exactly as you mentioned. As for TB, it appears that diagnosed TB in goats is extremely rare. Please let me know what the results were. Christine

  10. Bret Jamer says:

    this is very interesting. thanks for this

  11. amanda says:

    hello i have a weird question. ok my pygme is pregnant we had no clue when she got preg or when the baby would be born. we went out into the barn this morning and she had a baby but it was dead. it had been a few hours and she is still having alot of discharge, could there be another one in there or is that normal?

    • Christine says:

      Aw.. that’s so sad! Twins come just a few minutes apart – less than an hour. She will have discharge for a week or so. However, if you see her in distress, pushing and looking like she’s in pain, there may be another kid lodged in her birthing canal. If you can’t position it to come out, you’ll need a vet. Good luck!

  12. Dia L. Montville says:


    We bought Katy as a small kid because she was very thin and no one would bid on her at th auction. We rescue animals that otherwise would be put down. Up until now, I have never had one that ended up with problems like this. Most of them we love back to good health. Katy is not fat and is a very good natured goat. She does not seem to be in any type of pain. I was very saddened to see the article in the link saying that she could possibly prolapse her entire intestinal track and go into shock.

    I have read this information to my partner. He does not want to put any money into this goat and wants to get rid of her once she kids. I want a vet to come and look at her since we have one right down the road. I will have to pay for this myself if I have him come. I do not want to get rid of her, but we have no way to keep her separate from the rest of the herd.

    I will call the vet tomorrow and see what he says but it seems all I may be able to do is wait and see what happens when she kids. I thank you so much for this information and will keep you posted. God Bless!

    • Christine says:

      Dia, I’ve done that also (rescue the unwanted)… I’ve never been very lucky with this. It may be that her previous owner knew she had problem pregnancies… the important thing if she comes out of this okay would be to be sure never to breed her again. You’ll need to keep a close eye on her when she’s births so that you can put back in whatever comes out. The important thing is to be prepared & watch for signs. Please, do keep me posted!

  13. Dia L. Montville says:

    Although most of our goats are pygmies, we have one that looks like a boar/brier (?) mix. She was breed with our male pygmy and is due any time. Her bag looks like it will burst but has been that way for several days. The problem is that she has been showing a prolapsed vaginal wall for about 2 weeks. I read in the goat book that as long as that goes back in when she stands up, it is not a problem. However, in the last week the vaginal wall stopped coming out but the rectum is coming out! Have you ever heard of this problem and have any advise on what to do? How will I know when she is ready to kid other than the full bag and will the uterus come out when she does birth? The rectum has been going back in but it sticks out a good 4 inches when it is out.

    • Christine says:


      I’ve never experienced a prolapsed rectum or prolapsed vagina with any of my goats. However, here’s an excerpt of an article I published a while back…

      Prolapses exist if either the vagina or the rectum is outside the doe’s body. Prolapses in pregnant does usually happen during the final 30 days of pregnancy — if they are going to occur at all. Rectal prolapses appear in does that have been improperly fed and allowed to become too fat. Proper nutritional management makes rectal prolapses unlikely to occur. Vaginal prolapses are mostly hereditary and can be bred out by mating the doe with an unrelated buck whose previous female offspring have not prolapsed. Does that prolapse more than once should be culled from the herd.

      Returning a prolapse to the inside of the goat’s body must be done very carefully. To prevent infection, clean the prolapse with a solution of Nolvasan teat dip or equivalent product by gently pouring the mixture over it. This is very delicate and easily torn tissue. Take great care. Put on disposable gloves and apply K-Y Jelly or similar water-soluable lubricant to the gloved hand being used to re-position the prolapse. Using the flat palm of the gloved hand, gently and with even pressure press the prolapse back inside the goat. This is a two-person job; one person has to hold the goat in a standing position while lifting its rear legs off the ground so that it can’t push against the hand of the second person, who is attempting to return the prolapsed organ back inside the goat. Sometimes it is necessary to place the goat on its side in order to get the proper angle that allows reinsertion of the prolapse.

      If the prolapse has been outside the body for several hours or overnight, causing it to dry out and therefore become more difficult to put back inside the goat, then granulated sugar can be sprinkled over the cleansed prolapse. Sugar helps shrink the prolapse, easing its return inside the goat’s body. If none of these procedures is successful, it is time to call a veterinarian. Once the vet gets the prolapse back in place, he can install a series of purse string stitches to hold the prolapsed organ inside. If it is a vaginal prolapse, the precise kidding date must either be known or the producer must frequently check the doe for signs of labor. When the doe’s water breaks, the stitches must be cut immediately so that her kids can be born. Otherwise they will drown. Dead kids inside a doe equals toxemia and her likely death. Place the doe in a close-by pen and check her every couple of hours, including throughout the night, as kidding time nears.

      I’ve also found this excellent article from the University of Maryland.

      It’s been my experience that as long as your goats are eating, are not lethargic and do not appear to be in any pain or discomfort, their pregnancy is going how it should. Depending on your location/situation, you may feel more comfortable having a vet examine her at your farm. Traveling this close to birthing would be too stressful for her. In any case, wait it out for a few more days. Be sure to read the article in the link! Good luck & keep me posted!

      • Christine says:


        I had the opportunity to talk about this with my vet & the news is good. The “fix” is very simple… you may need a vet but if your “heart” is strong enough, you can take care of this yourself. Your vet shouldn’t charge you much to fix this.

        For the rectum, it needs to be pushed in (you can use k-y jelly and then a stitch needs to be put in to keep the sphincter (ring around anus) Here you don’t need to worry too much about dirt.. it is the anus after all! This fix is permanent & you shouldn’t have to worry about it again. As long as there’s room for the pellets to pass, she’ll be fine.

        The “fix” is the same for the uterus (protrusion must be rinsed with an antibacterial before pushing back in), opening however you need to keep an eye on her when she gets ready to birth. Her water will break & then you’ll need to cut the stitch. She’ll most likely need it again right after birthing. This goat should never be bred again.. that’s very important.

        Hope this helps!


  14. Rose says:

    Kind of confused. My female pygmy had a baby late September. It was doing fine & suddenly passed away early November. Then, for no known reason, my male pygmy passed away mid November. Leaving us with a lone female.

    She appears healthy & happy, & over the past month, our lone female has gotten bigger & a few weeks ago, I noticed she was full of milk. Leading me to believe she was pregnant & soon due. But, Saturday morning when I went out to let her out of the barn, the lost her “fullness” & no longer round…No sign of birthing, but find this really odd.

    Any thoughts??
    Thanks in advance

    • Christine says:

      Hi Rose!

      A few years ago I met a man who was also at a loss because of the deaths of his goats. In about a month he lost more than 20. Just like that. The only symptom was that although they were not skinny and were eating, they didn’t look well. At the last death he decided to spend for a necropsy since he wanted to bring more goats in but was afraid of some mystery contagious disease. He didn’t have to look far. All of his goats had died because of the high content of parasites. His worming program wasn’t efficient & he never thought worms would be the problem because he had been worming.. on & off… Maybe that’s what happened to yours.

      Another case of sudden death was where goats had access to rat poison in the barn from one side of the barn to the other side. Often times rats will not eat on the spot but will carry the granules to their nest & drop some on their path. Just guessing here…

      Your doe appeared to have been pregnant – if the buck had never been removed from the family, I’m positive he bred her again. Lets say she was bred early November, she would be due to kid early/mid April. If she had a premature birth you would have found the baby & it would be fully formed by now, just very small. Since you didn’t find any afterbirth or that she doesn’t have a messy rear end, I suspect that she is still pregnant (just guessing, of course). Goats carry their babies on the right side & the rumen (the major digestive part), is carried on the left. Many people look at a goat and automatically assume she’s very pregnant because of the rumen being so large. It’s possible that the kid has dropped & is just getting into position to come out in the next few weeks. She may still have milk from the kid she lost.

      All this being said, I could be wrong… as long as she’s healthy & eating fine, I’d just let time pass & keep an eye on her. If you haven’t wormed her, I would certainly do that. If you can get a fecal sample to the vet, that would be better – then you’d know exactly what kind of vermin you’re working with.

      Good luck & keep me posted!

  15. K says:

    We are considering adding a pygmy goat to our family. We live in a residential neighborhood and have two dogs (a pug and a chihuahua) that would keep the goat company during the day, although the dogs get crated at night (maybe that would change if the dogs and goat wanted to bed down together). I have several questions regarding pygmy goat ownership.

    1. If we get a kid (say 5 months old or younger) would bonding with the dogs (and us of course) be enough to keep the goat happy in the absence of another goat as it grows up?

    2. I’ve read varying reports on the noise level-quieter than dogs but louder than cats. How accurate is this?

    3. I’ve also read varying reports on the necessity of having scent glands removed in males. Thoughts?

    4. Our pug is a tank, but the chihuahua is only 6lbs. Would the goat hurt her?

    • Christine says:

      K, The only dogs that I’ve seen bond with goats are of the Great Pyrenees type that have been raised from birth with kids from birth. I seriously doubt your dogs will befriend a goat. Their intent will be to chase & maybe catch. As far as introducing a 5 month old goat to your dogs, his instinct by then will be to flee & maybe buck if cornered. This may work but only with a very, very young goat – like a bottle fed goat. The best company for a goat is another goat…As for the smell, your little goat will need to be neutered – a very simple procedure in the goat world.. I neuter my own little billys. This should be done around 3 to 6 months of age. Goats can be very loud and sometimes their bleat sounds like a small person distressed… may freak out your neighbors! I have a 4 lbs Chihuahua that stays clear of my goats and my bigger does will chase him (they’re Pygmys). Remember also that you’ll have to dispose of manure & old hay.. Good luck & keep me posted!

  16. kim says:

    Just had the first babies to be born on our farm!! Stella,our 2 yr. old pygmy, just had triplets. All is ok right now she is very attentive and feeding them all. Can she take care of all three by herself?

  17. Julie says:

    Thank you. This information is still very useful. Gives me a better idea of size.

    • Christine says:

      Julie, once you have them made, if you want to send me a picture, I’ll gladly put it on my website & send you referrals.. no cost, just to be helpful! Christine

  18. Julie says:

    I have a different type of question. I need to know the overall size of pygmy/ dwarf goats at birth. I have read that they are 2 pounds but what length are they and about how big around. I am making sweaters for the babies. I found the pattern on the internet but it is for La Mancha babies. I need to know how to alter the pattern. Thank you.

    • Christine says:

      Julie, I don’t have any kids at this time to give you an accurate measurement but I’d say they’re about 8 to 10 inches around their largest part & 10 to 14 inches from the base of the neck to the base of the tail.

  19. Hi, I am wondering, is the milk production different between the dwarf and the pigmy?

    • Christine says:

      Rick, I don’t think so however the logistics of milking these little gals makes it difficult. There’s not much room between the bucket & their teats for hands!

  20. Kimberly says:

    I have kind of a crazy question, if you could answer it, will be great. If a doe is already pregnant, will she still go to a buck and mate again. Or was she not pregnant to begin with? Because she’s supposed to be due in September. I’m confused maybe you could tell me.

    • Christine says:

      I would think that she is not pregnant. Once a doe is pregnant, bucks are the last creatures they want to associate with but then again, she just might have be having a hormone boost! If she is pregnant, there is no harm done but keep an eye on her “bag” about a week before her due date (and keep Romeo away from her). That’s the best indicator of imminent birthing. The bag will look blown up and ready to burst a day or so before she kids. If the bag never happens, she wasn’t pregnant.

      Hope this helps!

Comments are closed.