Are Pygmy Goats Legal in the United States?

pygmy goats

Are Pygmy Goats Legal in the United States?

Before you go on to get those pygmy goats, you might want to step back a minute and ask whether pygmy goats are legal in the United States. Pygmy goats are domesticated animals for cultivation. They are kept either for companion purposes, for milk and meat production, and even for grazing purposes.

Pygmy goats are legal in the United States, and you don’t need a license to own livestock especially if you reside on the outskirts of the city.

There is, however, a probability that some boroughs that are more urbanized may require some permit before you can own a pygmy goat. All the same, the expected manner is that the rule governing the ownership of pygmy goats would most likely be the same with those who own any other type of goat, or cow.

Pygmy Goat Associations in the United States

There are different pygmy goat associations. There are the national, state and even local pygmy goat associations and clubs.

There is the National Pygmy Goat Association. This association maintains the registry herd book for pygmy goats in the United States. They also work towards promoting and supporting the pygmy goat breeds to be kept as pets, used for show and alternative livestock.

The National Pygmy Goat Association has more than 2000 members worldwide. They have over 53,000 goats in their registry. They publish many books and resource materials especially for pygmy goat lovers. They also publish their memos and magazines six times every year. They also approve about three hundred goat shows every year.

Some states do have their own pygmy goat clubs. The National Pygmy Association has a list of associated pygmy clubs with the contact persons.

The pygmy goat clubs in your area can help you with the vital information you may need. They could help you locate a veterinarian, feed sources, help provide general information for your pygmy goats health and safety. They also give tips on almost everything you need to be a successful pygmy owner.

Current Status of Pygmy Goats

Pygmy goats are popular breeds of goat worldwide. Their popularity does not just end in the United States.

Brief History of Pygmy Goats in the US

West African dwarf goats were imported from zoos in Germany to the United States. This was around 1930 and 1960. At first, they were imported to be used for exhibition in zoos and for research purposes. Some later got into the hands of private owners who bred and raised them as pets (companion animals).

Two types that were different from one another were developed in the 1970s. One was broad, solid, and thick like the original African livestock. The second one was more delicate than the first. The second more delicate type became the Nigerian dwarf, while the first one became the American pygmy.

A breed society was established in 1975, and it was also said that a herd book started within the same year.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States listed the conservation status of the American pygmy as “endangered”. This was in 2007.

In 2019 the DAD-IS breed database listed the American pygmy transboundary risk level as “at risk”. The heritage breed, however, did not include it in its watch list of the Livestock Conservancy.

General History of Pygmy Goats

Pygmy goats are small goats that originated from Africa. They were originally called Cameroon dwarf goats. The goat was initially restricted mostly to the West African countries. Similar forms of pygmy goats were also found in east Africa, in the south western African countries, and in all of northern Africa.

The Cameroon dwarf goats are our subject of interest, because that is the one found in the United States. This particular breed came from the previous French Cameroon area. Pygmy goats are not just considered meat goats, but also are known for milk production and are mainly used as pets.

African Pygmy goats are small. They have an average height of about fifteen to twenty inches (38 – 50.8 centimeters). The weight of the female ranges from about 23 to 34 kilograms, while that if the male ranges from 27 – 39 kilograms.

They come in different varieties of colors. Their color ranges from light grey or silver, dark caramel, light/white caramel, dark grey agouti, solid black, brown agouti, medium grey agouti, medium caramel, dark red caramel, to black with frosted points. They produce quality milk but in a small quantity.

They are small, stout and very stocky. They are also not fine-boned. The Nigerian dwarf pygmies were bred to be stout and hard-boned.

The characteristics of this original Cameroon pygmy include medium long hair that differs in density according to the climatic or season. Their hairs are also straight and fully coated. The females have scanty beards or no beards. The adult males have abundant hair, full beards long and flowing, the males have profuse draping mane across their shoulders.

Uses of Pygmy Goats

Pygmy goats are kept for several reasons. The use of a pygmy goat is dependent on the owner of the pygmy goat.

Some pygmy owners raise pygmy goats for meat, some raise them for their dairy produce, while some keep them as companion animals.

Some pygmy goats are kept in zoos, some are used for exhibition in animal shows, some are also used for grazing.

Pygmy goats are said to be easy to handle, and this makes them good for research purposes. They have been found to produce good antibodies for immunological research.

Pygmy Breeds Found in the United States

There are two miniature goat breeds that are found in the United States. They include the Nigerian dwarf breed and the American pygmy breed.

Differences and Similarities between Nigerian Dwarf and Pygmy Goats

Both the American pygmy and the Nigerian dwarf goats enjoy moving in herds or packs. They both play alike.

Both the American pygmy and the Nigerian dwarf have good adaptability qualities. They provide high resilience to climate and environment.

Size and Color

The Nigerian dwarfs and pygmy look very similar in height and weight. The difference between them is that the pygmy goats have shorter legs and are more sturdy and compact. The pygmy goats are genetically designed to produce meat, so this makes them thicker and heavier than the Nigerian dwarf. The Nigerian dwarfs are thinner with longer legs and slender necks than the pygmy.

Pygmy’s usually have brown eyes and don’t come in many different colors and markings. The Nigerian dwarfs come in lots of different colors and usually have bright blue eyes.


The two goat breeds can be naughty. Both the Nigerian dwarf and the pygmy behave alike. They jump and climb very well. I will say their ancestors were mountain climbers. The kids run around with so much energy and agility. They climb fences and can jump long distances.

The two goat breeds are very friendly and make wonderful companions. When bottle fed, they can become so attached to you.

Milking Production

Milk production is where there is really a noticeable difference between the Nigerian dwarfs and the pygmies. The Pygmies have small teats and udders. The Pygmies, like I said earlier, were genetically designed to produce meat, so they channel all their energy production into their thick muscles. Some person’s try to milk the pygmies, but it’s not very easy because of their small teats and short legs.

The Nigerian dwarf goats are specifically developed for milk production. They are not just known to produce milk, they also produce very tasty milk. It’s the best goat milk, sweet, and creamy.

Meat Production

When you talk about meat production, you talk about the pygmy goat. They are sturdy and compact, with thick muscles. They were produced primarily for meat. The Nigerian dwarf produces meat as well, but it is not to be compared to the pygmy.

Nigerian Dwarf Vs. Pygmy Goats: Which Is Best?

The best pick between the Nigerian dwarf and the American pygmy is dependent on your intentions for keeping them.

If you are looking for the best one for meat, the American pygmy will be the best to raise. If it’s milk, then you should go with the Nigerian dwarf.

Some person’s will prefer keeping the Nigerian dwarf because of its milk producing abilities. You can always raise a chicken, cow, or any other animal if your target is just for the meat, but you won’t get meat with the same exact taste like the meat from the pygmy. This is the same with milk. There is no milk that tastes just like the Nigerian dwarf milk.

Distribution of Goats in the United States

The distribution of the goat inventory in the United States for all goat types indicates that:

  • The Eastern United States has more concentration of goats than other parts.
  • About one third of the goats in the United States are found in Texas. Some say this is because of the favorable environmental and climatic condition of Texas for goat production.
  • One over four of all United States milk goats are produced in California and Wisconsin.

Pets That Are Illegal to Keep in the U.S.


Some bat species are protected federally in the United States. It is illegal to kill this species of bats. It is also illegal to capture and raise wild bats as pet in the United States.

You can’t even transport bats without a permit. Only people affiliated with scientific organizations, legitimate sanctuary, or registered establishment for educational programs can transport bats. Bats are transported only with a permit from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

Big Cats

About twenty states in the United States have a ban on all exotic pets which includes big cats. However, there are about five states that don’t require a permit for you to keep these exotic breeds. These states include Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama and Wisconsin. They allow people to own big cats without a permit. However, states like Montana, Texas, and Pennsylvania allow such only if you obtain a permit.

Several other states classify these big cats as animals that pose a serious danger to humans. These other states don’t allow individuals to keep these big cats as pets or for private use. They only grant you a permit when it’s for commercial purposes.

List of Other Animals Illegal to Own In the US

  • Monkeys
  • Alligators
  • Hedgehog
  • Slow lorises
  • Skunks
  • Penguin
  • Sugar gliders
  • Ferrets
  • Fennec foxes etc.

Additional Tips

Pygmy goats get to sexual maturity very early, at the age of four months. Therefore,

  • Don’t breed them too early
  • Keep the females away from bucks for at least one year
  • Their gestation period is within 5 months
  • Always seek veterinary services especially if you are still a novice in raising pygmy goats.


Pygmy Goats are legal to be raised in the United States. This is especially so when you are living on the outskirts of the city. You can also ask questions to find out if you need a permit to keep them if you stay in the city areas.

This write up includes the brief history of pygmy goats in the United States, the uses of pygmy goats, the two pygmy breeds found in the United States, the differences and similarities between Nigerian dwarf goats and pygmies, and animals that are illegal to keep in the US.

Now that you are sure that keeping a herd of pygmies is legal, you can go on to make your purchase. Also, click here for guidelines on how to raise your pygmies.

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