The Genetics Behind Blue-Eyed and Polled Goats

polled goats

The genetics behind what causes a goat to be polled or blue-eyed is one of the most misunderstood phenomena in the goat world. It starts with a simple misunderstanding of what dominant and recessive mean when we’re talking about genes. A lot of people think that recessive equals rare, and that dominant means that if a goat has the gene, their kids will have it. In other words, they think that 100% of offspring will have a dominant trait. Those definitions are incorrect, but that explains why some people say that blue eyes and polled genes are recessive. They are, in fact, dominant in goats. Here is the definition of dominant, according to

Dominant — A genetic trait is considered dominant if it is expressed in a person who has only one copy of that gene. A dominant trait is opposed to a recessive trait which is expressed only when two copies of the gene are present.

In other words, if a goat has a dominant gene, that gene will be expressed. So, if a goat has a gene for polled or blue eyes, that goat will be polled or blue-eyed. A goat cannot be a carrier of a dominant gene if it does not express that gene. So, if you see an ad for a horned or disbudded goat that “carries” the polled gene, the seller is either misinformed or dishonest.

Horns and brown eyes are recessive

I don’t normally say “never,” but … Two brown-eyed goats will not have blue-eyed kids. Two horned goats will not have a polled kid. Once in awhile you will hear that two disbudded goats had a polled offspring, but it’s pretty well accepted that when that happens, it points to human error. If one of the grandparents is not polled, it could mean that the breeding records are incorrect, and a polled buck bred the doe. But if one of the grandparents is polled, it means that the person who disbudded one of those parents made a mistake.

If you raise polled goats, you know that some kids can keep you guessing about their horned status for a week or two — sometimes even three or four weeks with does. Bucks are pretty easy because if they’re horned, you can normally feel the horn buds at birth. We have only had one horned buckling whose horn buds were not obvious at birth. I don’t think we have ever accidentally disbudded a polled goat, but it’s easy to see how someone could do that, especially when they’re new.

On the flip side, because horns and brown eyes are recessive, there is a 25% chance of having a brown-eyed kid from two blue-eyed parents. There is also a 25% chance of having a horned kid from two polled parents. This is assuming that the parents are heterozygous. If one of the parents is homozygous for one of those traits, then all of their offspring will have that trait.

Homozygous and heterozygous

The reason that only 50% of kids from a polled parent will be polled is because most (if not all) polled goats in North America are heterozygous. A heterozygous polled goat has only one polled gene because it had one polled parent and one horned parent. (You could also get a heterozygous polled goat from two heterozygous parents. See blue-eyed chart below and substitute “polled” for “blue eyes.”) A homozygous polled goat could have two polled genes because it had two polled parents. The same is true for blue eyes.

Each parent will give each kid one gene for eye color and horn status. Let’s use eye color in this example. If a parent has brown eyes, then it has two brown eyed genes, and it can only give each kid a gene for brown eyes. If a parent has blue eyes, and it had one brown eyed parent and one blue-eyed parent, then it is heterozygous for blue eyes. It can give its offspring either a blue-eyed or a brown-eyed gene, and each one happens about 50% of the time.

If one of the parents is homozygous for blue eyes, that means that it has two copies of the blue-eyed gene. It received a blue-eyed gene from each of its parents. Because blue eyes are dominant, and because this goat can only give its kids a gene for blue eyes, then 100% of its kids will have blue eyes.

Unfortunately, you don’t know if a goat is homozygous for blue eyes at birth unless it came from two homozygous blue-eyed parents. If kids have one homozygous and one heterozygous parent, that heterozygous parent could have passed along its gene for brown eyes, but because brown eyes are recessive, the kids will all have blue eyes. In fact, half of the kids will have a recessive gene for brown eyes and half will have two copies of the blue-eyed gene, so although all kids will have blue eyes from that breeding, half will carry a gene for brown eyes.

blue-eyed goats chart
Three out of four kids (75%) from this genetic combination will have blue eyes.

This chart shows what will happen if you breed two heterozygous blue-eyed goats. That means each parent has one blue-eyed and one brown-eyed gene. One-fourth of the kids will have blue eyes with two genes for blue eyes, which means that when they are bred later in life, all of their kids will have blue eyes because they only have blue-eyed genes to give. Half of the kids (25% + 25%) will have blue eyes with a recessive brown-eyed gene, and 25% of the kids will have brown eyes because they got a brown-eyed gene from both parents.

Why are polled goats less common than horned?

The predominance of horned goats may have as much to do with human nature as goat genetics. In the 1940s and 50s, there were several studies done on polled genes in goats. They concluded that when two polled goats were bred to each other, there was a higher rate of hermaphrodites or intersex goats. It also raised the question of whether there might also be a terminator gene in female goats that had two polled genes because one study showed a very high percentage of male kids when two polled goats were bred to each other.

There were 1,362 kids in the 1964 study, so the number was quite significant. In the group where a homozygous polled buck was bred to a heterozygous polled female, 86 kids were male, 28 were female, and 26 were hermaphrodites. Even if you assume that the 26 hermaphrodites were originally females, it is still a lot less than 50% female, leading to the terminator theory. In other words, female embryos died. This turned off most people to the idea of polled goats — even though the studies clearly showed that breeding a polled goat to a horned goat had no such outcomes. In my early years of goat breeding, twice I came across older people who were switching from a larger breed to ND goats, and they were adamantly opposed to having any polled goats.

Unlike cattle and sheep, where you can find entire breeds of polled animals, there are no polled breeds of goats. In fact, there are no polled herds of goats. However, as more new people get involved in goat breeding, and they hate the idea of disbudding, polled goats are becoming popular once again. There have even been groups on social media, such as Yahoo and Facebook, where determined breeders are breeding polled to polled goats and reporting their results. The challenge with polled goats is that the location of the polled gene is very close to the gene for the determination of sex, so although the number of polled goats could certainly increase drastically, it’s unlikely that polled goats will ever become more common than horned.

polled goats

Keep in mind that when you are talking about odds, 50/50 does not mean that every other goat will have horns. Over the long haul, you will get 50% polled goats if one of the parents is polled. But you will have some years with more or less than that. One year I had a doe that gave birth to quads, and they were all polled. Another year, I had a polled buck that sired nine kids, and every one of them was horned. Believe me, we were really starting to second guess ourselves towards the end! But the next year he made it up for with more than 50% polled kids.

Hopefully, this explanation — and the charts — have helped to shed some light on this topic and clear up some misconceptions.

For more information, you can also check out the website for the American Goat Society, which also has an explanation of the polled gene in goats.


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71 thoughts on “The Genetics Behind Blue-Eyed and Polled Goats”

  1. Great post, and I agree with 99% of it. Here is my 1% objection;
    I have 24 female ND, some horned and some naturally polled. 4 years ago I only had one ND male. I had this male since he was 3 months old. He had been disbudded but he constantly had horn scurs that would grow then fall off. So I had to assume he had 2 horned genes. So it surprised me that during one kidding season I had 2 separate horned dams , each birth twins, with one kid horned and one kid polled. Mind you, I only had the 1 scurred male on my farm to do all of the breeding.
    I subsequently sold the polled kids, but kept contact with the new owners. They neither ever developed horns.
    How did this happen twice from 2 horned parents??

    • In the past when people were really curious about this, and they’ve done DNA testing, they’ve discovered that the supposed sire was not really the sire. If you have male kids, it’s possible that one of them reached sexual maturity a little early and bred a couple of does. Or he jumped a fence. Since it happened with two does the same kidding season, that seems most likely. DNA testing is only about $25 per goat (dam, sire, and kid).

      Also, there are polled goats that develop scurs. So, depending on the size of the scurs your buck had, that’s a question. But polled goats throw about 50% polled kids, so that’s not very likely.

      • Where did you get the DNA testing done? I’m very interested in this.
        Also, has anyone every had a buckling, horned mother, polled father, not develop horns until nearly 3 months old? I’m at a loss for words, I handle the babies regularly and up until about a week ago he did NOT have horns, he is 3 months old.

        • You get DNA testing done to determine parentage through ADGA.

          It does seem that some kids from a polled parent can develop horns a little later than kids from two horned parents, but six weeks is the oldest I’ve ever heard of. Are you sure the kid is not a giraffe polled? Some of those poll bumps can get pretty big.

    • I had a “scur polled” buck. He was never disbudded, but would grow little fingernail scurs that would break off. I’ve talked to other breeders who have had scur polled too. The theory is that the is a modifier gene for scur that when paired with the polled gene causes this phenomenon. Since is is a different gene, it can be pair with the polled gene or not, resulting in 50% chance scur polled and 50% polled for those goat who do inherit the polled gene. I just had 3 doelings out of my scur polled buck and none had the scur manifest.

  2. That 1964 study has been questioned, as there were several problems with it. The main problem is that the goats were all related. Breeders of polled goats have consistently found that the incidence of intersex polled goats is no higher than intersex horned goats.

    Another interesting thing found by those I know who breed polled–bucks seems to throw more polled offspring than does by about 3-4%. Not a lot, but statistically significant.

    • You are confusing this study with another one. The 1964 study had more than 1,000 goats in it, and they were from many different herds. The “1964 study” words are a clickable link that will take you to the study so you can read it for yourself.

      • I have read both studies and only Saanen goats or saanen crosses were used and most of the goats were related. As a polled breder we have never seen an intersexxed goat here except a horned doe we bought that had horned parents.

        • I haven’t seen anything in the study that says the 1,362 goats were all related. If you could point out where it says that, I’d appreciate it. It would also be important to know how closely related.

          But the bottom line is that people need to be aware of the possibilities when deciding what they want to do in their own herd.

          • This article is great and your responses are spot on. There are many who discredit the 1964 study. There are many new studies and continued research (as recent as 2017) which further defines the science behind it, and their numbers/percentages are also in agreement with the 1964 study. I have yet to find any scientific research to dispute the 1964 study. I myself have NEVER bred or purchased or known anyone else who has bred a horned doe (to either a polled or horned buck) and ended up with a PIS kid. I have however purchased a PIS kid from two polled parents and have heard of others as well. But many polled breeders will argue that it is as common in Horn to Horn breeding than Polled to Polled. If this was the case…I sure think we would hear about them. Especially since a significant percentage of breeding is NOT Polled to Polled. Is it possible that the horned doe mentioned above was actually a freemartin versus intersexed?

        • If the studies were on one breed of German/French goat, how do we know the same results would happen with say Nigerian Dwarfs? I have a specific question. I have 2 disbudded brown/brown eyed does and I am considering a buck who is blue eyed/naturally polled. His dam was polled/blue eyed and sire horned/brown.
          He is a triplet. One doe a triplet. One doe a quad.
          So with the buck having 1 blue, 1polled what are the chances of blue eyed kids from the brown eyed does? Polled chances?

          • You will get 0 blue-eyed kids from two brown-eyed goats. You will get 0 polled kids from two horned goats. It doesn’t matter whether their parents had blue eyes or were polled. They are dominant genes. That means that if a goat has those genes, they WILL express them — in other words, if they have a polled gene, they WILL be polled, and if they have a blue-eyed gene, they WILL be blue-eyed. The charts above show you the odds of having blue-eyed or polled goats based upon the parents’ eye color or horned status. If you breed a heterozygous blue-eyed or polled goat to a brown-eyed or horned goat, then 50% of the kids will be blue-eyed, and 50% will be polled.

            Just to clarify — the research is only about the incidence of intersex kids. It has nothing to do with how often the genes are expressed. That’s simple genetics. But since NDs obviously have a lot of European goat genetics in them as evidenced by the colors, then the research may be relevant to them. They only started registering them in 1990s, but they had been in the US for decades prior to that, so they are not pure African goats. Most are also not year-round breeders either.

  3. Maybe polled bucks produce more polled kids because some of the polled bucks are homozygous for the polled gene – those polled bucks would produce 100% polled kids, if a relatively low percentage of polled bucks are homozygous, that might account for the extra 3-4% polled kids, presuming that all polled does are heterozygous for the polled gene.

    • I think you might be misunderstanding Dorinda’s comment. She’s talking about heterozygous polled bucks that throw more polled kids than average — not all polled kids. As you said, a homozygous polled buck would throw 100% polled kids. But a homozygous polled buck would come from two polled parents, so it wouldn’t just pop up unexpectedly. You would know if you had a buck that could be homozygous.

      • (It was nothing to do with Dorinda’s comment.)
        I was replying to Joy’s comment that read:
        “Another interesting thing found by those I know who breed polled–bucks seems to throw more polled offspring than does by about 3-4%. Not a lot, but statistically significant.”
        It is a general comment about the number of polled kids thrown by polled bucks compared to polled does. This is possible because the polled doe population is necessarily all heterozygous (homozygotes being intersex and so not part of the breeding population). However, a small proportion of polled bucks will be homozygotes. These homozygous polled bucks will throw 100% polled kids. This will raise the average of polled kids sired by the total of polled bucks (heterozygous and homozygous) above 50% and could well explain the extra 3-4% mentioned in Joy’s comment.

        • If Joy is saying that every individual polled buck throws more polled kids than every individual doe by 3-4% – then I would question how this data could be gathered – every buck and every doe would need to produce a relatively large number of kids to measure this – for most bucks this is unlikely and for does impossible. If the comment is just talking in general (pooling data from a number of buck and does then my comment stands.

  4. I bred my polled boerx buck (his mother and grandmother are polled) to 6 horned boerx does, results were 8 horned male, 3 polled male, 1 horned female.

    • It’s like flipping a coin. Some years you don’t get so lucky. One year I had a polled buck throw 9 horned kids and 0 polled. Other years he was closer to 50/50.

  5. Ok, here is a tricky one. I have a blue eyed ND bred to a brown eyed doe. Now the granddam of the doe is is blue eyed and her sire is blue eyed and never once thrown anything but clue eys.

    So the resuliting kid of the blue eyed buck and brown eyed doe above has … get this…
    one blue eye and one brown eye

    Ok, help genetically on this one???


    • I’ve never heard of a goat having one blue eye and one brown eye, but nature can do weird things sometimes.

      If a goat has two blue-eyed parents, they can by homozygous for blue eyes, and they would not throw anything other than blue-eyed kids.

    • I also have a blue-eyed doe and brown eyed buck that threw a buck kid with 1 blue eye and 1 brown eye. One half of his face is white and has the blue eye, and the other half is dark, with the brown eye.

      • I had one like that! A Nubian.
        I am amazed the blue eyed gene is dominant however, since it seems to beso rare. I had a half brother and half sister (Abram and Sarai), as my first breeders, and they had dozens of kids, but only two blue eyed offspring. It’s all a throw of the dice anyway. I wasn’t determined to raise all blue eyed goats, it just popped out.

    • Might have started out as “twins” and the genes were absorbed once that “twin” failed. I’m new to goats but it’s how Freemartins go undetected in cattle herds unless breeding records are kept (most do).

  6. Ok, here is a tricky one. I have a blue eyed ND bred to a brown eyed doe. Now the granddam of the doe is is blue eyed and her sire is blue eyed and never once thrown anything but clue eys.

    So the resuliting kid of the blue eyed buck and brown eyed doe above has … get this…
    one blue eye and one brown eye

    Ok, help genetically on this one???

  7. Blue eyes are dominant. So you can have Blues eyes with the brown gene
    Bb B= blue eyes Bb X BB or Bb

    result Bb

    When you have a animal with both eye colors it results because the brown-gene has acted in a weakly codominant fashion The offspring would be Bb. It should be totally blue eyed but the dominant blue gene for some reason in the brown eye failed to dominate.

  8. Hello,
    Thankyou for putting up this topic
    with your ideas and extensive research
    as well as allowing goat owners to add their own experiences.
    What a mix, huh.
    We in the goat world appreciate such open discussion.
    Below is what I found interesting.
    (Link is below)
    Maybe some will also find it so:

    “Do we get 1/4 of our genes from each grandparent?

    “I have answered a similar question before: “How many genes do we share with our mother?”.

    “It is not that you “get half your genes” from each parent,
    and thus a quarter from each grandparent,
    it is that you inherit the versions of the genes
    (we all have the ‘same’ genes).

    “The method that determines which traits are inherited
    from each parent by the offspring is known as homologous recombination,
    and this process is (essentially) random,
    and thus you end with ~50% of your traits
    (the alleles of the genes)
    from each parent,
    and ~25% from each grandparent,
    so you are right in this respect.

    “This is, however, a generalization;
    due to the chance nature of the recombination
    it is entirely plausible that you may inherit more traits
    from one grandparent
    in comparison to another,
    but this is unique to each individual
    (with the exception of course of genetically identical twins).

    “This comes down to the ever confusing use of gene to mean allele and loci.
    Just as in the “How many genes..” Q you answered before,
    the term gene is often used
    for both leading to the confused idea
    that we share 99% of our genes with chimpanzees
    yet we only share 25% with our grandparents..
    Alleles are all the different variants (or versions as you called them)
    present at each loci (non-recombining region of DNA).
    We share 25% of our ALLELES with our grandparents
    (assuming no mutation and recombination)
    and 99% of LOCI with chimpanzees.

    “And we should wipe the word gene from the English language
    and just use Allele and Loci!”

    • This comment should be shared in ALL Human Biology & Vet. Biology curriculum. It’d save weeks of lectures & ALL would walk away with a true understanding of our most basic genetic composition IF the word/definition of “gene” were replaced with proper allele and loci, in depth terms as you stated + recomb, variants, gestational circumstances, mineral deficiency (i.e. foliate in human & zinc in animals), etc.
      You [or those who taught/thought via explaining EXACTLY like you] would’ve have been my most useful/favorite mentor or professor during my A.S. ‘prereq. days’ in mid-90’s during my Pre-Med educational journey into forensic pathology/post mortem/R&D in South Florida.
      I’m recently fascinated with goats after unexpectedly fostering a small herd whilst suddenly becoming my Grandmother’s caretaker after “a fall” and her very long-term neighbor passed away unexpectedly and we quickly realized her only middle-aged child was unable to come care for the farm or handle final placement of Miss Betty’s precious herd beyond receiving the meager estates worth after other incredible neighbors, her local vet assisted with proper placement to capable farms, with knowledge needed to ensure correctly placed, to avoid accidental improper breeding; all out of my scope of abilities. The exhausting “season” as Gram’s caretaker & herd sitter was priceless, miraculous, bittersweet & incredible; I’m so blessed myself & my husband’s family, including our 3 young daughters, had the opportunity to experience it.
      Best Wishes from SW Florida

      • Thank you for sharing your thoughts and insight with us.
        So thrilled that you enjoyed the article!

  9. We’ve recently acquired some new additions to our herd and one is a polled doeling. Since our buck is polled we are undecided about keeping the doeling for breeding. We do know that they are not related as the male is a descendant of a buck we owned several years ago and the doe is from a breeder several countries away. You mentioned DNA testing in an earlier response. Where would one look for such a resource? Any help would be appreciated

    • I’m not sure why you’re asking about DNA testing. There isn’t any type of DNA testing that would help you decide whether or not to breed these two polled goats. The odds of an intersex or hermaphrodite are the same regardless. If you’re willing to live with an intersex goat or eat it, then you can certainly breed polled goats to each other.

  10. I assume she was asking about DNA testing to see if the polled goats she’s thinking of breeding are related. I have similar concern. We have a polled doeling and polled buck, non related but unsure if we should breed them for the risk of hermaphroditism. We have read lots of info saying polled to polled is fine as long as they are not at all related as the relation is what causes the hermaphroditism not the polled to polled. But have also read polled to polled is bad regardless of relation. So much mixed info online Eager to hear everyone’s input/experiences.

    • That’s a common misconception that it’s only a problem if inbreeding. If you click on the link in this article, you will see the goats in that study are not related to each other, and the incidence of intersex kids was significant, as well as the ratio of bucks to does. There was a study done in the 1940s that people quote when claiming that it’s only a problem when inbreeding. I know people who have had intersex kids when breeding polled to polled, so it does happen.

  11. We have our first blue-eyed kid this year. Doe and buck BOTH have brown eyes. We only have one buck so we know he is her sire. All of our does are brown-eyed. My buck had a blue-eyed twin.

    • I never say anything is impossible, but I’ve never heard of this actually happening. I wish you could post photos because I’d love to see what they look like.
      When kids are born, they sometimes look blue, even though they’re not. It is a different blue, however, than a goat that legitimately has blue eyes. If your buck actually had a blue-eyed gene, then half of his kids would have blue eyes.

  12. I have been breeding polled angora goats for 30 years and only breed from my polled does – but always with a horned buck. There is a 1 in 4 chance of producing a polled female so it takes a number of years to build up the herd. I am now breeding these to a Boer buck with the aim of having a polled Boer herd.

  13. 1) Eye color is the gene, not blue eye gene or brown eye gene. The variant of the gene, i.e. the exact sequence of the nucleic acids that make up the gene, is called an allele. Thus, blue eyed allele or brown eyed allele and the horned allele or polled allele.
    2) Genetics does not say that a cross between 2 heterzygotes will produce 75% offspring with the dominant trait. I know it is often incorrectly stated that way, but that is wrong! Genetics actually says that each OFFSPRING will have a 75% change of having the dominant trait. Given a VERY LARGE number of offspring, this will frequently work out to ABOUT 75% of the offspring having the dominant trait. But given a small number of offspring, you will get in actuality anywhere from 0% to 100 % having the dominant trait. Similar science math for the hetero being bred to a homozygous recessive, each kid has a 50% chance of having either the dominant or the recessive trait, not 50% of the kids will have the dominant trait and 50% will have the recessive trait.

    • I don’t disagree. I can’t imagine that anyone would think the numbers would always work out exactly perfect with each individual kidding. One year my polled buck only threw 10% polled kids, but the next year it was about 70% polled, so of course, when we talk about the statistic probability of something happening, we are assuming that you’ll get that probability over time.

  14. I recently bred a ND polled doe to a polled billy. She had a set of triplets. Two of the girls have hermaphroditism and the little boy seems to be fine. All three babies are polled. Does this mean that this little billy is a homozygous polled billy?

    • Assuming at least one of the parents has a horned gene, he could have a horned gene also. If each parent has a horned gene and a polled gene, then there is a 25% chance a kid will have 2 horned genes, a 50% chance a kid will have one of each (and will be polled), and a 25% chance the kid will have 2 polled genes. The only way to get guaranteed homozygous polled kids is to breed two homozygous polled parents. There is not currently a test for homozygous polled in goats, so the only way you’d know if he’s homozygous would be after he has thrown a dozen or so polled kids with zero horned.

  15. Throw “epigentics” into that. That is when a toxin, a deficiency, or some other environmental outside influence factors in and messes with the genes. THAT’S where the hermaphroditism comes in. That’s NOT a gene. It’s an adulteration of normal, it is a defect. Can easily be caused by zinc deficiency, which can cause multiple defects of the genitalia or gonads, cleft palate, organs forming outside the body cavity, club feet, extra or missing fingers and toes, it can cause underdevelopment of the penis, all the signs that come with Crutzenfelder’s Syndrome, or Marfan’s Syndrome, scoliosis, dwarfism, and many other things. Add other deficiencies, and you might have anything.

    Dr Joel Wallach, veterinary pathologist wrote “Epigenetics” (for humans as he’s also an ND) and he also wrote 2000 page “Diseases of Exotic Animals” where he covers 400 species and has done the necropsies on them to cover his research., He is a proponent of the theory that damage causes genes to malfunction. And hermaphroditism is not a normal gene. Think about it. They couldn’t breed and be properly fertile if things are out of place. The zinc deficiency can place particular havoc on fertility, and …… offspring.

    Also, Pat Coleby ( Natural Goat Care, Natural Sheep Care, Natural Horse Care, Natural Cattle Care) points out (she has loaned her herds to the University Extension for testing many nutritional theories), that female fetuses are particularly subject to damage if the dam is iodine deficienct. I don’t know why specifically, but iodine deficiency can cause the female fetus to be less developed, while her brothers are big and hearty. (The males are more affected by the Zinc deficiency). Iodine deficiency can likewise affect udder development. So keep that in mind.
    Add to this the now widespread use of Round Up in our human food supply , as well as feed. Conventionally farmed grains (that’s COB w mollasses for us) and legumes are routinely sprayed with Round Up for a quick harvest. Even baled hay is much more contaminated than human sources of food, On this list, you will see human food over the safety limit ( 0.1 ppb causes destruction of beneficial bacteria), but note the livestock and anomal feeds are 100-400 ppb. That’s shocking. I know I have been poisoning them and myself now. Besides their milk and meat, their manure is used in the garden area. I feed this to chickens and rabbits too.
    Nursing moms pass it into their milk.
    Dr Don Huber , soil Pathologist has a good power point on it ; He explains how it binds many important minerals , damages the crops it’s supposed to help, damages the soil, kills all the good bacteria, prevents crops from utilizing minerals in the soil, then kills gut bacteria in bees, poultry, livestock, and humans, and also causes horrible birth defects, (the tiny head syndrome blamed on Zika virus turned out to be Round Up contamination).
    So , goat owners we have to be aware of this. Those birth defects we often call genetic, even in that study, did they test the soil? Did they test the fodder? How do they know there wasn’t a zinc deficiency factoring in?
    I know it’s a fight to get enough minerals to my goats to prevent problems. And an otherwise good mineral The Purina goat mineral with the picture of a Boergoat on the bag, has almost everything…..except iodine! So I have to buy the little iodine block too and make that also available. ANd we feed free choice because they seem to know how much they need. I don’t limit their minerals. I used to buy kelp meal but it’s very hard to get in my area. But I sure can tell from defects and weakness and floppy kid syndrome (that’s selenium and E deficiency by the way) when I haven’t been diligent about keeping their supplements out.

    • No one has ever said there is a gene for hermaphroditism. There is a gene for polled and horned. Of course, hermaphrodites are abnormal.

      GMOs certainly cause problems, but this research on hermaphrodites was done in the 1940s to the 1960s, which is long before there were any GMOs invented. Although I am aware that a lot of problems can also be caused by nutritional deficiencies, I wouldn’t start breeding polled to polled goats assuming that your goats will be born perfect. Since no one has been able to create the totally polled goat herd due to the hermaphrodite issue, it’s really unlikely that this is a nutritional problem. There are breeds of cattle and sheep that are totally polled, but nowhere in the history of goats has there been a breed of goats that is totally polled.

    • I’m not sure which comment you’re referring to because there are too many to read through, but the only DNA testing you get done with goats is for parentage, and you get started with that through ADGA. If I remember correctly, they use the lab at UC Davis. I imagine other goat registries also do it if you don’t have dairy goats.

  16. Just to add to your statistics, I bred polled to polled, believing other breeders that it wasn’t an issue, the study had inbred goats, etc..

    Anyhow, with my heterogeneous polled male and heterogeneous polled female I got 4 babies and 1 of those is intersex. I will no longer be breeding polled to polled.

  17. I recently bought a Fainting doe with blue eyes. She has a brown eyed twin brother. Mom and dad on site both with brown eyes. Actually, her eyes are mostly white- just a little blue around the pupil. It’s very bizarre!, but pretty.

  18. Hello!
    My 14 weeks old doe kids have been deemed polled for months now or so I thought. Is it possible for polled goats to develop little horn like buds? They have only displayed the giraffe like bumps that their polled dam has until the last couple of days. Upon rubbing their heads I feel slight “horns”? I just got their registration papers back last week and have them as polled. Not sure how to determine what is going on.
    Any advice?

    • All polled kids have bumps on their heads. A small number will have scurs, which are rough rather than rounded. Horned kids will have obvious horns peeking out of the hair by 3-4 weeks. By 14 weeks, you would be seeing obvious horns that are 1-2 inches long. It would be super obvious that you have horned goats and you would not have any questions about it.

        • They are definitely scurred. That’s fairly unusual, but it happens, and it’s not a big deal. It doesn’t mean that their dam will throw scurred kids in the future.

  19. It is confusing and genetics in goats do not appear to be a mathematical certainty but more of a statistical one. I think if you have a big enough herd of horned goats or a big enough herd of polled goats, you may have an abnormality. I only have a small herd , I am breeding for mostly polled but there are some horns in the background. Most of my kids this year were polled ,however, I had a polled doe bred to a polled buck and all three of her kids had horns. I have never had a hermaphrodite. Most of my small goats are sold as pets or landscape animals and I think a sterol-one would make just as good a pet ,landscaper, or for that matter, be just as good to eat

    • A hermaphrodite would definitely be good to eat. However, they could wind up as stinky as a buck, but you would not be able to castrate them easily, so the number of people who want a stinky pet might be limited.

  20. Breeding Polled to Polled increases chance of hermaphroditism and increases the percentage of males! Proven in my herd!
    In my opinion,
    If breeding meat goats this is could produce more meat per doe but grow the herd size slower.
    If breeding dairy goats this could be crippling to the producer with such a large number of bucklings to get rid of every year and grow the herd to slowly.

  21. Being skeptical of the published polled to polled breeding studies, I conducted my own study (though my test group was smaller).
    My study was conducted on my Nigerian Dwarf farm for 10 years from 2011 through 2021.
    This is all factual, documented, and current information. Use it as you please. I’m satisfied and confident with my results.
    The term I will use is “incorrect genitalia”. This term will include hermaphroditism, hypo-spadeism, epi-spadeism, and recessed gonads.
    My study group consisted of 6 polled bucks(3 of which were homozygous polled), 7 horned bucks, 18 polled does, and 36 horned does.
    (A)- I had 72 breedings of horned bucks to horned does which produced 69 female kids, 79 male kids, and 2 incorrect genitalia kids(1 in 75).
    (B)- I had 26 breedings of horned bucks to polled does which produced 27 females, 23 males, and 1 incorrect genitalia kid(1 in 50).
    (C)- I had 104 breedings of polled bucks to horned does which produced 100 females, 110 males, and 0 incorrect genitalia kids.
    (D)- I had 41 breedings of polled bucks to polled does which produced 27 females, 55 males, and 9 incorrect genitalia kids(1 in 9).
    I found these 2 obvious conclusions:
    (1)- Every breeding combination produced fairly balanced male & female kids, except polled to polled breeding which produced almost twice as many male kids to female kids.
    (2)- The production of incorrect genitalia kids was far higher (1 in 9) when breeding polled to polled than when breeding in every other combination.

    Because of these conclusions, I now only breed horned to polled or polled to horned. The only time that I purposely breed polled to polled is if I’m wanting to produce a homozygous polled buck. And even those potentially homozygous polled bucklings are a gamble, that take lots of time and several attempts, to finally get one that proves to be a true homozygous polled Breeding Buck. I’ve found that a considerable amount of these potentially homozygous polled bucks turned out to be sterile.

  22. So my question has been for awhile…if we all start making polled goat breeding our goal…and horned goats become more scarce…what then?I know based on genetics they won’t ever be obsolete.

    • That’s not going to happen because when you breed polled to polled, there is a much higher rate of hermaphrodites or intersex kids. Most people who say they are going to do this wind up quitting within a few years because the results are not good. This is why there are no breeds of polled goats like there are sheep and cattle.

  23. Thank you for this post! This is one of the better & easier to understand writings I’ve found on these subjects as I try to educate my customers and point them to good sources of information. From my own experience with breeding polled goats (both NDs & Nubians), I would emphatically advise against polled x polled breeding. Our data set is admittedly small as we only bred purposely one season because we were trying to understand the the conflicting data we had read & been told from other breeders in our research; and then a second season unintentionally when my polled ND buck cleared two 5′ plus electric wire fences to get to our does (that was a lesson learned by itself). While we have had some perfectly normal offspring (some 75% of which were themselves horned…an interesting variable that we’ve tracked) from polled x polled breeding, we had quite a bit of hermaphroditism in various forms as well as birth defects (legs malformed resulting in kids unable to nurse or walk & misshapen heads) and two pregnancies aborted prematurely. As a result, I strongly advise against breeding polled to polled until more research can be done, & we can hopefully get a better understanding of the genetic defect links. I also try to encourage & educate people not to be afraid of polled goats altogether though. There are still many people with a negative misconception about polled goats. The polled genetics are easy to manage in your breeding program & some polled goats are certainly better than none! Thanks again for this informative thread.

  24. This comment should be shared in ALL Human Biology & Vet. Biology curriculum. It’d save weeks of lectures & ALL would walk away with a true understanding of our most basic genetic composition IF the word/definition of “gene” were replaced with proper allele and loci, in depth terms as you stated + recomb, variants, gestational circumstances, mineral deficiency (i.e. foliate in human & zinc in animals), etc.
    You [or those who taught/thought via explaining EXACTLY like you] would’ve have been my most useful/favorite mentor or professor during my A.S. ‘prereq. days’ in mid-90’s during my Pre-Med educational journey into forensic pathology/post mortem/R&D in South Florida.
    I’m recently fascinated with goats after unexpectedly fostering a small herd whilst suddenly becoming my Grandmother’s caretaker after “a fall” and her very long-term neighbor passed away unexpectedly and we quickly realized her only middle-aged child was unable to come care for the farm or handle final placement of Miss Betty’s precious herd beyond receiving the meager estates worth after other incredible neighbors, her local vet assisted with proper placement to capable farms, with knowledge needed to ensure correctly placed, to avoid accidental improper breeding; all out of my scope of abilities. The exhausting “season” as Gram’s caretaker & herd sitter was priceless, miraculous, bittersweet & incredible; I’m so blessed myself & my husband’s family, including our 3 young daughters, had the opportunity to experience it.
    Best Wishes from SW Florida

  25. Perhaps the hermaphroditism comes from a nutritional “fragility” in polled goats that has not been discovered…???
    Does hermaphroditism ever occur in goats other than in relation to the polled allele?
    Just an interesting thought…

  26. Late to the party here, but I have a Nigerian doe with partial blue eyes. She’s clearly blue around the pupils but light amber around the rest of her eye. Can’t find anything about partial expression. Any thoughts?

  27. Hi Amy
    Although I have seen many photos of this in young goats, it’s pretty standard advice that the eye will become mostly if not all brown with age.
    That being said, there is always room in the world of genetics for something a little different 🙂


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