There are predominantly six types of dairy goat bred throughout the world for dairy production: the Nubian, Alpine, LaMancha, Toggenburg, Oberhasli and Saanen breeds. Spin-offs of the main breeds are also used, such as Sable goats — Saanen goats with colored coats — and Nigerian Dwarfs, a miniature breed of dairy goat. The different breeds hail from different parts of the world, from the U.S. and Africa, to Europe and Asia.
The Nubian dairy goat is one of the larger breeds. Unlike other dairy goats, any color pattern in the hair is accepted. Its line of descent hails from Europe, Asia and Africa. Nubians are respected for producing rich milk that contains high butterfat. Nubian goats are easy to identify by their large stature, dangling floppy ears and prominent noses. They're also known for having a stubborn streak.
The Alpine, also known as the French Alpine, is a medium-sized dairy goat that's often raised for its ability to produce a rich amount of dairy in various climates. It has relatively short hair, which can sport a wide array of colors. Goats, however, are not considered true Alpines if their color is all-white, or resembles the coloring of a Toggenburg goat, which has a light brown coat with white stripes. Alpines are also distinguished by their perky ears. The breed gets its name from its origins in the French Alps.
The LaMancha breed of dairy goat originated in the U.S., and is a reliable producer of rich milk, even under harsh conditions. The hair is short and can be any color. LaManchas are recognizable for their extremely short ears, which can come in two varieties: the gopher ear, where the ear protrudes very little if at all, and the elf ear, which is no longer than 2 inches (5 cm).
Toggenburg dairy goats hail from Switzerland, specifically from the Toggenburg Valley. Their coat can grow longer than many other dairy goat breeds, and ranges in color from very light brown to a rich chocolate hue, with white ears and legs. The ears stand up and are pointed slightly forward. The Toggenburg is one of the oldest known breeds of dairy goat.
The Oberhasli breed, formerly the Swiss Alpine, also comes from Switzerland. It is known for its bay coat of hair, described as chamoisee, with a black forehead and two black stripes running down either side of the face. Oberhaslis are medium- to small-sized dairy goat with erect ears.
Saanen dairy goats also originated in Switzerland. They have a very light colored coat, which is either white or cream. They are known for producing a high volume of quality milk. Aside from their light color, they can be identified by their pointy ears and short hair.