Greenway Anyone?

Great Western Greenway goat sightings 

Cara Magazine found on all Aer Lingus flights recently did a feature story on the Great Western Greenway and all there is to see and do along the way. The Old Irish Goat was mentioned and this is what reporter Francis Power had to say:

 The Greenway also crosses the Mulranny Loop walk here - we can see it snake steeply up into the hill towards Lookout Hill and Cru-Carragh.  It’s a strenuous six-and-a-half-kilometre hike but you might just be rewarded with a glimpse of an endangered species, the Old Irish Goat.  Local man Seán Carolan and the Old Irish Goat Society have been working hard to preserve the goat and a small herd are now stabled at westport House.  “How will I know one if I see one?” I ask Sean.  “The male has a long coat, sideburns, a big beard and a mantle of hair,” he says. “he looks just like a medieval Irish king.”

 It is great to know this magazine article  may have been read by 1.4 million readers!

 

 

School visit

As part of OIGS outreach, Rob Corrigan (OIGS intern) invited the Mulranny school children to visit E.O.M. where two orphan goats are being raised.  Both these goats show characterisitcs of introgression.  Unlikely to enter into the breeding program to start in the autumn of 1014, these goats will be kept as pets.

     School visit march 2014

Irish Times article Feb 3rd 2014

This article written by Alison Healy appeared in the Irish Times on Feb 3rd 2014:

Warning that Old Irish Goat will become extinct without plan to save it.

A traditional Irish goat breed will become extinct if urgent action is not taken to preserve it, the Old Irish Goat Society has warned.   The society's vice-chariman Seán Carolan said it was incredible the Old Irish Goat was not officially recognized as a breed and the State was not working to preserve it for heritage and tourism purposes.

The distinctive animlas have long hair, beards and sideburns and large curving horns.  "It would be an absolute crying shame if we lost them, " Mr. Carolan said.  "They are part of our heritage.  They are possibly the oldest breed in Ireland.  The goat was the poor man's cow and saved lives during the Famine times.  It's a huge part of our cultural heritage and it's really sad it has been forgotten about."

He said no one knew how many Old Irish Goats were in existence because of cross-breeding; the figure was now in the hundreds, but the reality is they are all destined for integration and eventually extinction because of cross-breeding."

He said it was ironic the goat was celebrated at the annual Puck Fair in Killorglin, Co. Kerry, yet nothing was being done to stop it becoming extinct.

The October 2013 Mulranny Field trip

A small group of members and volunteers spent 4 days walking the known home range of the Mulranny feral goat group in an attempt to assess numbers and also monitor the degree of introgression in the herd. A total of 53 goats were located both in the village itself and on the mountain slopes above.  The largest group seen totaled 22 males and females in rut and the smallest a solitary male. It is clear that there has been a significant increase in the number of goats that are demonstrating obvious characteristics of improved breeding, meaning goats of both British Alpine and British Toggenberg type. A sad factor contributing to this is that goats belonging to these breeds have been abandoned on the mountain to find their way into the herd. In fact when talking to a local sheep farmer today, we were informed that within the last couple of months a female goat of British Alpine type was released near the road. This goat was seen over two days and on the second day was being persued by a fine long haired grey male of basically Old Irish type. 

Bearing in mind that Old Irish characteristics are very easily lost in a cross, it was to some extent a little surprising that they are still holding up in the herd. However, a good example of the way in which they are being lost came home to us on day 3 when we encountered a group of a dozen goats feeding on waste ground in the village.  We were able to photograph these, and the following examples with comments may give some idea of the way in which the Swiss type characteristics easily become dominant.

 

 

The female on the left shows no distinctive Old Irish characteristics, and she has typical Swiss markings. These can be seen as a white muzzle which connects to broad facial stripes that run into the completely white ears baring a small dark centre on the upper ear. She also has white legs with small dark bars on the upper front legs. Her rump is white. This colour pattern is not found in the original Old Irish goat and is a sure sign of introgression with goats of Swiss dairy breed origin. Apart from colour and marking, she is also a rather blocky goat and is neither typically dairy nor Old Irish landrace in her confirmation. The two goats to her left, however, show many of the characteristics of our old breed. There is a small and pricked, heads petite with dish faces, and their body proportions cobby, meaning that their body length is deeper than their leg length. Their colour is also interesting being a pinkish fawn.

 

 

Apart from showing the two Mulranny females with Old Irish characteristics, the picture above includes a male that would appear to be of Old Irish type apart from his coat which is too short over his body and hind quarters. His proportions, being long and low are good even so, and his head is quite neat. He also appears to be quite small, which is an essential characteristic of Old Irish males.

 

 

Overall, we quite liked this young male, although his coat was extremely disappointing. Male Old Irish goats typically have a coat with neck hair that merges into the beard, and longer hair over the side and quarters that hide the belly line. It is notable that when introgression occurs with Swiss breeds, the males of which are generally short-coated, a first cross male will be also short-coated, and this characteristic being dominant will generally persist and increase in the herd. Short-coated males are therefore an obvious sign that introgression has occurred.

 

 

The females in this picture are not obviously Swiss in type, although the yearling mahogany female on the extreme left is a little leggy and her ears are on the large side. Of particular interest is the fact that the two females in the background have white forehead patches and this is inherited by a separate gene known as "Star". This forehead patch is linked to a white tail tip and is found generally in Old Irish goats. The male, second from the right, demonstrates the very small and pricked ears that was said to characterise the breed, and his coat and body proportions are also very good. His horns, which run parallel and curve backwards and downwards are of the type that was said to typify the breed when they were imported into England.

 

We have already noted that an important characteristic of Swiss markings is broad face striping, although this applies to females only. In the male, as can be seen above, the stripes are replaced by white diamonds over the eyes. Although he has Swiss markings, his coat is very good and he is cobby. Thus, it is his size and Swiss markings that mark him out as being an impure male. 

  

Having looked at these pictures, we can piece together an Old Irish goat by its breed characteristics. Females will have a short, but dense coat, sometimes with longer hair on the quarters, to a coat that be nearly as long as a male. Males, of course, always have long hair. The head is generally small, with a dished face and long facial profile. The ears are small and pricked. Beards are profuse in both sexes. In terms of confirmation, the breed is generally long-bodied with a prominent breastbone and short, thick legs. Although we know that the breed could have been polled in the past, we have yet to find a typical Old Irish goat without horns at the present time. When introgression occurs, the result is a short and finer coat, a heavier head, often with a straight profile, large ears that may point horizontally forwards, a larger and bigger boned body and longer legs.

All these new characteristics are to be found throughout the Mulranny herd, and it has become a matter of extreme urgency to isolate and perpetuate the goats that are still manifestly of Old Irish type.

 

Shangri-La and the Old Irish Goat Breeding Programme

In March 2013, OIGS were delighted to receive word from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine that our funding application for DNA pedigree and relatedness analysis had been approved.  It was such a boost for us to have the department recognise the work of the Old Irish Goat Society as “very relevant and important”.  The funding will allow us to test which of the Mulranny feral goats will form the basis of our founding stock.  We've been working hard to finalise arrangements for the necessary animal housing.

Shangri-La

For a little over a week at this point, we had been caring for an injured adult male, Fionn, using a delightful if slightly run-down house named Shangri-La.  The site is owned by Pádraig and Cheryl Browne and through their endless and enthusiastic support and the hard work of the Rural Social Scheme (RSS) participants, made available to OIGS by South West Mayo Development Company, we have been able to turn the site into suitable animal housing and an outdoor holding pen. 

Thank you very much for my new home!Thank you very much for my new home

 

This progress will greatly help us redomesticate the Old Irish Goats and allow for their preservation in a sustainable breeding programme.

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