What's That All About?

Your goat is bossy. And she doesn't get pregnant. Is it a hormone imbalance? Could she be a hermaphrodite?

In 2012, we had a hermaphrodite San Clemente Island goat. Most people have heard about hermaphroditism coming from breeding polled (naturally without horns) goats together, but usually little else is said on the subject.
According to Dr. Sponenberg, there are loads of different factors that could cause hermaphroditism, it's just a little more predictable in cases of polled goats, who are OFTEN hermaphrodites when polled is bred to polled. With horned goats, it's unusual, but it DOES happen.

One knee-jerk reaction is that a hermaphrodite goat is obviously out of the breeding pool, so that solves the genetics problem. Think about that for a minute, and you'll see that it's not that simple.

Another auto-reaction is that hermaphroditism is caused by too much inbreeding. The SCI doe who was a hermaphrodite was a first generation 50/50 breeding between 2 bloodlines that hadn't seen each other since these goats ran feral on the island. The first signs of inbreeding are lack of feritlity and lack of ability to thrive well. The "two-headed goat" stuff is NOT what you're looking for as a guage for inbreeding. So that kind of blows that theory away for hermaphroditism.

Are any of the bossy, big, barren SCI girls we have hermaphrodites? We COULD worry, or we could find out pretty quickly. So here's the first step. . .
These are photos of a hermaphrodite SCI goat:

This photo was taken by your average SCI breeder, who, upon seeing what they photographed, felt comfortable that an average goat breeder would see a penis coming out of the goat's vagina and be pretty sure about what they saw.
A lot of vets and scientists haven't actually SEEN that, and so we wonder if hermaphroditism would always manifest itself in such an easily-identifiable way.

(Newbies, please don't get alarmed. No SCI breeder would ever pass off an obviously non-fertile female without mentioning the fact. If she's already 2 years old and has had constant exposure to a buck and never bred, her owner will let you know.)

Sponenberg runs a couple of hundred goats, mainly myotonics, but other breeds, too. He's seen hermaphroditism a few times (like, 3) in 20 years.
Yvonne in Montana runs Spanish goats and commercial meat crosses. About 300 goats in her herd (for about 20 years). She's seen 3 hermaphrodites. Hers were not quite as obvious as these photos. She says that if you looked into the goat's vagina, it was like a cup. . . it didn't go deep. And the penis was not obvious, it looked like a little pea just sitting inside of there. But definately visible.

As for any breeders that suspect their barren does of being rather butch, please consider checking for hermaphroditism

Return to Health Page            Contact Us

San Clemente Island Goat Association