Bilberry goat

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A big dirty goat with long curly horns rests in the long grass on top of a hill.
Bilberry goat at rest in the winter morning sun.
A wild goat with huge horns walks through the grass on a winter morning.
A Bilberry goat forages around in the morning

The Bilberry goat is a unique[1] breed of feral goat which is believed to have lived in one herd on Bilberry Rock in Waterford City in the south of Ireland for hundreds of years.[2]

Unlike any other breed found in Ireland or Great Britain, the Bilberry herd is thought to be related to Pashmina, Maltese or Cashmere goats.[3] Locals believe they came over with the Huguenots from France over 300 years ago and have lived on Bilberry Rock ever since.[4]

The goats are feared close to extinction; numbering only 7 in the year 2000 and 21 in 2005.[5] A local charitable society of volunteers, The Bilberry Goat Heritage Trust was set up in 2000 to care for the animals. The herd continues to recover; numbering 42 in 2008.[6][7][8] The herd is led by a dominant nanny. The goats are large, with shaggy coats and very large horns. Two members of the British Feral Goat Society, Dr.Shirley Goodyer and Dr. Ray Werner, together with Robert-Jan Prins, a breeder of Dutch Landrace goats,[9] reported that they were “amazed to see a primitive herd still living in the wild”, and that the goats are a “unique ancient breed.”

Conservation[edit]

A row of newly built yellow houses seen at a slightly off angle through a construction site fence.
Example of 2009 housing development just beyond the habitat of the goats.
A big shaggy goat with long horns eats its grass on top of a hillside in view of several dual carriageways.
The goats overlook the main roads and the river Suir

The Bilberry Goat Trust was set up to protect these goats from extinction. The 14-acre (5.7 ha) piece of land where they graze used to be a commonage but was sold to a developer who wanted to build houses on the whole area. This would render the Bilberry Herd extinct and appeals were made sparking publicity.[10] Zoning authorities decided to reduce the goats' area to 12.5 acres (51,000 m2).[11] The Irish Wildlife Trust is actively involved in the campaign.[12][13] The feral goat is not a protected species and Bilberry Rock is not a Natural Heritage Area under the Wildlife Act 2000.

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