Bilberry Goats of Waterford


Genetics of the Bilberry Goats
August 13, 2006, 7:35 pm
Filed under: News & Events

The Trust has recently sent (August 2006) biological samples of
the Bilberry Goats for genetic testing. This will
establish their origins and give a conclusive understanding
of their ancestors and when they came to Ireland.

The article below was published in the Waterford News & Star
on Friday 25th August:

Bilberry goats may turn out to be a rare breed
By Jennifer Long

THE world’s leading expert on goat breeds has recommended that steps be taken as a priority to protect the goats of Bilberry Rock in Waterford.
The plight of the 28 feral goats is now “critical” because of extremely low numbers, according to Dr. Raymond Werner in a new report published this month.

Dr Werner was one of a number of international goat experts who travelled to Waterford last year to view the unique goats whom are now threatened with extinction.

As it is, DNA tests are being carried out to determine the origin of the animals whom historians believe may have been brought ashore by French Hugenots who arrived in the city as many as 300 years ago.

The test results are due back by Christmas but in his new report Dr. Werner says there’s every chance the animals may indeed turn out to be a “rare breed”.

In the short-term, he says that the Bilberry herd, eight of which are female, has reached “critically low numbers” but points out that they can still be saved in their current location.

“The origin of the Bilberry goat is intriguing,” he says.

“Whether the breed was imported into Ireland comparatively recently, has a complex origin or represents a pure original breed with possibly some recent admixture, we cannot yet say,” he says.

“It remains a question mark in goat history that needs to be researched in detail. There is every possibility that it may turn out to be a rare breed and for this reason alone its preservation is imperative.”

Dr. Werner, who is a founder of the British Native Goat Preservation Society, says that the Bilberry goats fit the type, for whatever reason, of the Cold Weather Goat and also the Central Asian Pashmina Down Breed Group.

Last year, a member of the National Dutch Landrance Goat Society who also examined the breed, said there were no signs of weakness or inbreeding. He also said that the place where the animals were kept was critical to their survival.

Bilberry Rock, on which the animals graze, is 14 acres in size but is under imminent threat from development since part of the former commonage was recently sold by City Council for this purpose.

However, following the latest report, members of the newly-formed ‘Bilberry Goat Herd Preservation Trust’ say they will begin to seriously lobby City Manager Conn Murray to act to save the goats.

“It’s of vital importance that we protect this land for these animals,” said trust member Catherine Carroll from Ferrybank.

“I think it’s an absolute scandal that the goats are being threatened with extinction; these are extremely special animals that we have on our doorsteps in Waterford and it’s no longer good enough that the Council, or indeed the Minister for the Environment, doesn’t seem to care.”

“The trust has the support of the various experts, the Irish Wildlife Trust, as well as the people of Waterford whom genuinely seem to care about these animals.”

“I’ve been helping to feed them for many years and I just believe someone has to do something before they’re lost to us for good.”

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I’m making a student documentary about the billberry goats next week with Martin Doyle and the Irishwildlife trust. Anyone who would like a copy, please contact me at crazyprices@eircom.net.

Comment by Orla Price




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