Updated: Feb 21, 2022
A short history of Bagot goats, an ancient breed now at risk.
Sir John Bagot of Blithfield in Staffordshire was the owner of the original herd of Bagot goats. They were managed as a feral herd in nearby Bagot Park. They survived for six centuries as a single isolated herd until, in the 1960s, Bagot Park was flooded to make a reservoir to provide water for Birmingham so the goats had to be moved. They are a very important breed historically, now classified as ‘at risk' by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (https://www.rbst.org.uk/bagot-goat). Levens Hall in Cumbria (https://www.levenshall.co.uk), home of the Bagot family, has a semi-feral herd of Bagot goats in their parkland and a beautiful Bagot goat mosaic.
There are a few theories on where the Bagot goats originally came from. One is that they were brought back from the crusades in North Africa by Ricard the Lion Heart and given to Lord Bagot by Richard II. Another theory is that they are native to Britain and were bred for their distinctive colouring. They are similar to other native breeds of Northern Europe such as the Icelandic goat, the Dutch Landrace and the Old Irish Goat.
Another theory is that they originate in Portugal and came to Britain by boat with John of Gaunt (1340-1399 - the third of the five sons of Edward II) and his army when they returned from a battle in the Castile region.
The Bagot goat is our only native goat adapted to the English lowland where they thrive outside all year. They have not been bred for improved meat or milk production so their ability to thrive in lowland Britain is due to natural selection alone. Nowadays, they are used for conservation grazing (or browsing as they are good at clearing scrub). The Norfolk Wildlife Trust is using Bagot goats to clear scrub at Cranwich Camp in the restoration of Heathland in an SSSI. Shugborough Farm park uses them to graze in an area with fragile archaeology. Their isolation has made them very self-reliant and unlikely to approach people, but they can become tame and often appear in farm parks such as the Lake District Wildlife Park (https://www.lakedistrictwildlifepark.co.uk) where many of my photographs were taken. Tom’s Farm at Nightingale Community Academy in London (https://www.facebook.com/tomsfarmOHCAT) and Cotswold Farm Park in Gloucestershire (https://cotswoldfarmpark.co.uk) also have Bagot goats.
I have needle felted Bagot goat as part of my Rare Breeds Survival Trust Watchlist project using both wool and alpaca fibre.