Press Release

Old English Goat joins RBST Watchlist in Critical category


Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) announces today that it will add the “original smallholder’s goat” breed, the Old English Goat, to its Watchlist for the first time. This marks new RBST support in conjunction with the Old English Goat Society to save this “desperately rare” historic native breed.


With an estimated population of just 74 living  adult females in 2019/2020, the Old English Goat will be placed straight into the RBST’s Critical category for the very rarest goats. The only other native breed of goat in the UK in the Critical category is the separate English Goat breed. The Old English Goat is often called the “original smallholder’s goat” because it was very popular with smallholders in the 19th Century: small and shaggy, these hardy goats provided ample and regular milk for the household for very little cost as they are happy to eat what they find naturally and to live outdoors all year round. 


Published each spring, the RBST Watchlist is the conservation charity’s annual report on the UK’s rarest native breeds of livestock and equines, showing which breeds are the most endangered and whether their numbers are increasing or falling. Only breeds which demonstrate certain criteria are included on the RBST Watchlist, to ensure that animals bred today are genuinely an historic breed that is native to the UK. The Old English Goat Society and RBST have worked together to make sure that these criteria are demonstrated for the Old English Goat breed, and the breed will be included in the Watchlist for the first time in spring 2021.


Rare Breeds Survival Trust Chief Executive Christopher Price said: “I am very pleased that the Old English Goat can be added to our Watchlist, these animals have played such an important role in our rural heritage but now they are desperately rare and urgent action is needed. The breed has been kept going thanks to the passion and dedication of a small number of breeders and I’m looking forward to working with the Old English Goat Society to secure the breed’s future.”


Old English Goat Society Breed Registrar Adam Short said: “These are the original smallholder’s goat, for centuries they were kept by households across the UK to provide for the family thanks to their fantastic ability to convert native flora to milk for next to no cost. Very hardy and low input, they should be an attractive option for smallholders with an interest in self-sufficiency, traditional farming or regenerative agriculture. Joining the RBST Watchlist is a major milestone in the work to save the breed, and I welcome enquiries from anyone who could support the Old English Goat’s survival and work with us as a new breeder.”


With such low numbers of Old English Goats still kept, to maintain crucial genetic diversity breeders use feral goats with the breed’s characteristics but which live in the wild, using a careful inspection regime and separate registration system to maintain the breed’s bloodlines and pedigree.


The addition of the Old English Goat to the RBST Watchlist means that the breed will now benefit from a further level of support from RBST, such as support in developing bespoke breed conservation plans alongside the Old English Goat Breeders Society, support in the use of the latest breeders’ software designed to prevent in-breeding, and RBST’s support in encouraging more people to become Old English Goat breeders.