British Guernseys

What is a British Guernsey goat?

The British Guernsey (BG) is a Golden Guernsey type goat (GG) which is obtained by specific stages of breeding, at the end of which the goat will be 7/8ths GG and hence VERY similar to the GG in appearance, BUT which may have some new characteristics provided by the initial non-GG female used to start the breeding.

There are many reasons why a breeder might choose to breed BGs. For example, with careful selection of the initial non-GG goat female, it may be possible to increase milk yield and/or improve conformation.

The British Guernsey Breed Standard

  • Size – The British Guernsey should be larger and heavier boned than the Golden Guernsey.
  • Head – Ears erect with a slight upturn at the tips permissible. Facial line straight or slightly dished. Tassels permissible.
  • Body – The body should be wedge shaped with a good spring of rib, straight topline sloping slightly to tail. Good dairy quality.
  • Coat – All shades of gold; neither brown nor white permissible. No Swiss marking on the head. White markings/ blaze or star on head permissible.
  • Male Coat – Usually carries more hair than the female.

One possible route to breeding up to a British Guernsey

  • Start with any female of any age (but preferably a white dairy goat) and register this female with the British Goat Society Identification Register (IR).
  • Mate the IR female with a BG/GG male and register any female progeny within two years in the Supplementary Register (SR).
  • Mate the SR female with a BG/GG male and register any female within two years in the Foundation Book (FB).
  • Mate the FB female with a BG/GG male and register any female within two years in the Herd Book stage 1 (HB(1).
  • Mate the HB(1) female with a BG/GG male and register any female progeny within two years in the Herd Book stage 2 (HB(2)).
  • Mate the female with a BG/GG male and register any male or female progeny as British Guernsey (BG).

Why British Guernseys?

With a tremendous shortage of imported Golden Guernseys from the Channel Islands in the early years, it is understandable that people were looking at cross breeding. In 1977 the first English Guernseys were registered, but at that stage it was only permitted to take a GG female to a white Saanen or British Saanen male and then breed to a GG male for two generations.

A revised scheme was put in place by the BGS Herd Book Committee in 1989, allowing similar breeding up as the other British breeds, and in 1996 the name English Guernsey was changed to British Guernsey. An extra generation of breeding up is needed when using an Anglo-Nubian goat as the first outcross, and the use of both British and Golden Guernsey males is allowed.

The quickest way to create a British Guernsey is to cross a Golden Guernsey with a British Guernsey. For those interested, it is very satisfying to see improvement through breeding. The ideal would be to breed from a top quality British breed and to use BG males in the following two generations, as ultimately the aim is improvement in milk production, udder shape or conformation. The resulting British Guernsey should be a slightly larger Golden Guernsey look-alike with the same temperament. For those who do not want to wait to breed up to British Guernsey, there are several breeders with stock for sale.

The first British Guernsey Goat was registered in Herd book 122, which covers December 1995 to November 1996. By 2008, 193 British Guernseys were registered, however a lot of breeding stock was lost due to the TB outbreak in that year, which was a great disappointment and setback.

2013 was an important year for British Guernseys, as it saw the very first Breed Champions – two females, Prastens Capriccio BG000244D, bred by Sally Wilman in Norfolk and Edgewood Treasure BG000359D, bred by Charlotte Dunnill in Dorset. In 2014, the first male British Guernsey gained its Breed Championship, ยง117/117 Albadora Dewberry BG000249D, bred by Janet Neath in Cambs.

British Guernseys in the USA

It is not possible to import GGs into the USA – the strict animal health regulations DO NOT ALLOW goats to be imported. But for many years, some American breeders have wanted to develop a Golden Guernsey-type breed of goat. (Please note that golden coloured goats occur from time to time just by chance, but a golden coloured goat is just that. Being gold in colour does NOT make it a Golden Guernsey!)

To try to establish a GG-type breed in the USA, Guernsey enthusiasts are grading up to BG status, using USA female dairy goats of appropriate size and type with GG semen imported from the UK, to establish a GG-type US herd. There is also a very small number of pure-bred GGs in the USA (from embryos imported in an exercise several years ago) some male progeny of which are being used in the grading up scheme.

When BG status is achieved, the goat is 7/8ths GG so it is very similar to the pure-bred GG. Diane Gray was the first person to achieve BGs in the USA.

Anyone in the US who is interested in this should look at the USA site for Guernsey goats.

Please note that semen for the USA has to be collected on Ministry Approved premises from males blood-tested for specific diseases both before and after collection. Shipping is expensive unless several breeders share the costs.