A Saanen goat is a breed of dairy goat. It is known most for its very large size and mild temperament. Originally bred in the valley of Switzerland where it gets its name, today the goat can be found in dairy farms all around the world.
All Saanen goats have a short coat of fine white hair. Small areas of fringe are common over the thighs and spine as well. Some may have an off-white cream color to the coat, but it is less common. It does have horns, although sometimes these are removed at birth.
The Saanen first found its way out of the Saanen valley in Canton Berne, Switzerland in the late 1800s, when settlers took their goats with them as they moved across Europe. By the turn of the century the goat was being exported to the United States and other countries. It is one of four breeds, along with the Alpine, Toggenburg and Oberhasil, that makes up the Swiss dairy goat breeds.
The Saanen goat is the largest of dairy breeds. Most average between 31 to 32 (about 78 to 81 cm) inches in height, but some have been known to grow as tall as 35 inches (about 89 cm). The goat typically weighs about 145 pounds (65 kg). Despite its very large size, it is one of the most calm and well-behaved of the goat breeds. Their easy-going temperament lends them to be used as show goats or in petting zoos.
In addition to being the largest breed of dairy goat, it also produces more milk than any other goat breed. In a world-record-setting case, a Saanen goat on an Australian milk farm produced more than 7,000 pounds (roughly 3,175 kg) of milk in a single year. The milk produced by the Saanen goat is usually about three to four percent milk fat.
While the Saanen has been bred in a variety of locations and conditions around the world, it does have preferred living conditions. Saanen goats are able to generate the most milk when in conditions that mirror the Swiss valley from which it was originally bred. These conditions include cooler climates with shade. The goat does not do well in excessive sunlight.
Dairy breeds such as the Saanen goat are not commonly used for meat production. Its leg and udder-heavy body are not advantageous to the production of viable meat. Most goat meat eaten in the world today is either from the South African Boer Goat or the Spanish goat.