Saanen goats are a white or cream-colored breed of goat, named for the Saanen valley in Switzerland. By the late 19th century they had spread across Europe, and in the early 20th century were brought to the US. In the 21st century, they are among the most popular dairy goat breeds, due to their high productivity and ease of management.
Saanens are the largest of the goat dairy breeds, and one of the largest milk producers. Does typically weigh at least 135 pounds (61 kg) and stand 30 inches (76 cm) tall, with bucks weighing at least 160 pounds (73 kg) and standing 32 inches (81 cm). The profile of the head is straight or dished (concave), with erect, forward-pointing mid-sized to large ears. Saanen does are known for their ease of management in herds, mellow temperaments and adaptability, as well as their production abilities. Their milk generally has a butterfat content of 3-4%.
Saanens are generally white or cream-colored, although breed associations prefer pure white. Their coats are usually short and fine, with occasional longer fringes on the back and hindquarters. Due to their light coloration, they can be sensitive to harsh sunlight and hot climates. Darker-skinned animals are better able to handle these conditions. The Sable Saanen is not a crossbreed, but is a recessive expression of color derived from the white Saanen. Sables can vary in color from beige through black, with almost any color but pure white (which would be a white Saanen). Sables are accepted as a breed in their own right in some dairy goat breed clubs, but not in others.
The Saanen breed was originally developed in Switzerland, south of Canton Berne in the Saanen Valley. They came to international attention in 1893, when several thousands animals from the valley were distributed across Europe. The first documented Saanen goat was brought to the US in 1904, and over the next 30 years, around 150 goats were moved from Switzerland to the US. More Saanens came to the US from England later in the 20th century. In the 21st century, they are still one of the most popular dairy goats in the US.
Organizations for the preservation and advancement of the Saanen breed in the US include the National Saanen Breeders Association and the American Goat Society. The American Goat Society, founded in 1935, registers nine breeds of goat, including the Saanen.
- "Breed Information". National Saanen Breeders Association. Retrieved 2013-12-09.
- "Breeds Registered". American Goat Society. Retrieved 2013-12-09.
- "Saanen". Oklahoma State University. Retrieved 2013-12-09.
- Storey's Guide to Raising Dairy Goats, Fourth Edition, 2010.
- "Goat Project in Uganda Improves Lives of Families Affected by HIV/AIDS". Heifer International. December 6, 2012. Retrieved 2013-12-09.