Old vs New: A Comparison of Styles
Maxine Kinne

This article was written during my last month of tenure as Chairperson of the National Pygmy Goat Association's Health, Education & Research Committee. 

Large illustrations are at the top for closer comparison, but there is also an alternating border of them on the left side of the screen for continuous comparison throughout the article.

Original Pygmy body type
Illustration of Anatomical Parts, © 1979
Reprinted by permission of NPGA

Revised concept of type
Illustration of Anatomical Parts, © 1993
Reprinted by permission of NPGA

Ideal body type has always been exemplified by the illustration of anatomical parts, which is an integral part of NPGA's Breed Standard. Our original illustration is the kind of goat many people now call the Old Style. For some years, a New Style has been fashionable, although it had enough problems that many people are now breeding toward the more functional original type. Differences between the two types occurred because judging rewarded the newer style, so people changed their breeding programs to produce goats that some judges considered desirable and placed highly at shows. And an unworkable fad was born.

Because so many people have become members since 1993, when the illustration was changed, you have probably never seen the original illustration that NPGA's founders visualized. The original type is a true working style. This article compares and explains the structural differences between these two body types and why the original model is superior in every way.

Based on changes in body type wrought by show fads, New Style is substantially different from the original. When the new Judges Training Manual was about to be published in 1993, I vociferously objected to the new illustration, because the type of goat it depicts is modified enough to make it far less anatomically useful in the real world. My main objection to the new illustration has always been that each new NPGA member receives a copy of this illustration with the Breed Standard and cannot help but assume that it depicts the most desirable physical traits, in addition to size and scale. This general style of animal, regardless of specie, is well known to be subfertile and to have reduced life expectancy.

Let's look first at the similarities of the two types. They each have one of the things they are only supposed to have one of, and two of everything else. Well, they should have two horns and ears, but they were not really necessary for the illustrations. They are both pictured slightly from the rear to give an idea of dimension and to show the many structures of the hind end. Of the two, Old is cobbier than New in the strictest sense of the word - short legs proportionate to a fairly normal trunk size. Besides the fact that they are both Pygmy does, these are about the extent of the similarities.

Now let's look at the differences between the two and the reasons why these differences impact fertility and longevity.

As already mentioned, many people think that New appears to be more compact, but the truth is that she has just been squashed from end to end and has a very short body. New is just slightly taller, yet she has the length of body to make her proportionately much cobbier in appearance by about 25%. How these proportions affect production and life expectancy is discussed in detail further on.

Compared to New, Old is a rugged, upstanding doe and well-proportioned for her frame size. She is well-balanced and stands squarely on all four legs. Being 28% longer in body (point of shoulder to pin bone), she distributes her weight more evenly, and certainly more strongly on the rear legs. If she came to life and walked off this page, her gait would be solid and purposeful. Each of Old's individual parts are built for business. She is an altogether very impressive animal.

Old's head is slightly longer than New's, but it is proportionate with her frame (body size). She will eat more functionally and not have to be babied along. The strength of Old's jaw is appropriate for her. New's jaw appears to be exaggerated, and her muzzle is one-third deeper than Old's. Her browsing ablity will likely be somewhat hampered by the shape of her muzzle, but that is the least of her problems.

Sixty percent of the goat's weight is carried on its front legs. New's weight has been pitched further forward onto her front legs by her short body and extra height in the rear quarters. The stress on her front legs will be perceptibly greater during pregnancy. Throughout pregnancy her gravid uterus will exert more pressure on her internal organs than will Old's. All of this additional weight forced forward weakens the muscles and ligaments that hold the shoulder blades in place, so New can be expected to have looser shoulder attachments, weaker pasterns and perhaps more arthritis at an earlier age than Old.

Old's sternum is more prominent than New's, giving her more heart and lung capacity. Old's scapula (shoulder blade) is angled more correctly, creating sharp definition of the joint at the point of the shoulder which translates into better angularity throughout the whole front leg. As scapular angulation steepens, like New's, the front end stiffens. Walking puts unnatural force on all the leg joints, and it helps to weaken the muscle and ligament attachments of the shoulder blades.

The most important function of the shoulder blades is that they serve as a sling to suspend the goat's entire front end between the front legs. With loose shoulder blades, the front end drops and the sternum sinks back under the chest. The shoulders can be loose enough that the goat does not have any foreward prominence of the sternum when it is viewed from the side.

One of the most dramatic differences between Old and New is the strength and length of the back. Weakness in the chine, usually referred to as a dip in the chine, is very noticeable in New because she is crammed together from end-to-end. This will make it more difficult for her to walk as easily and freely as New, in both the front and rear legs, and her excessive girth will be cumbersome.

Because New's back is short, she is also steeper in the rump. As body length shortens, the pelvis tilts more steeply and the pelvic opening may even become misshapen. A steep rump alters the angulation of the rear legs and results in a straighter (post-legged) angulation of all the joints of the rear legs. Straighter rear leg angulation is greatly responsible for thrusting additional weight forward where it was not meant to be. Old's longer and more level body will carry a pregnancy more easily. Her length of loin will provide good support and roominess for her gravid uterus, as well as a large rumen capacity. Her more level rump will facilitate kidding and uterine drainage because the contents of her uterus will not have to try to defy gravity.

In body capacity there's really no comparison. From elbow to stifle, Old's barrel is almost 40% longer than New's. Old has abundant room for a full rumen and a large litter of kids without crowding internal organs. She will remain active during pregnancy. New will hit her third month of pregnancy and begin to lounge around in front of the feeder, too uncomfortable to move around. New will sitg on her haunches like a dog much of the time, because she has to let gravity shift her heavier uterus away from her heart and lung capacity, not to mention her diminished rumen capacity and ability to take in sufficient nutrients in the last month of gestation when the fetuses put on 70% of their bulk.

During the last month of pregnancy, the weakest point is New's hind end due to increasing internal  pressure on the soft tissues. Her chances of vaginal prolapse go up dramatically if she is too fat, and she will probablay be because it has been too difficult for her to move around and get any exercise. New is an ideal candidate for a vaginal prolapse.

With that much fetal growth in the last month, New's energy reserves may be taxed beyond her ability to consume enough energy, and she will be susceptible to ketosis as her body metabolizes fat for an energy source. Old has the body capacity and stability on all four legs to be active and carry to term without incident, although if she is poorly managed by overfeeding she may have kidding problems. That is less likely, because she will move around more and be in generally better shape for delivery than New. Old's heart girth is proportionately larger in circumference and deeper than New's. Combined with increased body length, she has far more room for critical organ functions. Likewise, her depth of flank is greater.

Pygmy goats are bred and judged toward a meat standard rather than a dairy standard. Sixty-six percent of the value of the meat animal's carcass is the rear half, from the last rib backward and down through the hind legs, where the best cuts of meat are located. Length and size of the loin eye muscle and length of thigh are important in this respect. The anatomical area called the twist (not identified in either illustration) is the region between the hind legs, below the genitals, where the thigh muscles appear to join. Depth of the twist indicates more muscle. Old has a 33% advantage in depth of twist over New. (Interestingly, the vulva was not named on either illustration, either.)

There are many differences between the legs and feet between the two illustrations. New has much smaller feet and shorter, stiffer pasterns to reduce her agility of movement. As feet become smaller, more pounds of weight per square inch are generated on the feet which will probably intensify any kind of foot problem and be harder on the soil. Old stands squarely and solidly on her rear legs. Her femur is the appropriate length, with the stifle joint located at the same level as her flank. And her hock angulation, which will translate into more resilient movement, is more pronounced than New's. The bones of New's front leg are slightly angled forward here they meet at the knee joint, resulting in a condition called "buck knee" or "over at the knees." Front legs should always be straight when viewed from the side and from the front. Crookedness reflects bones that do not line up correctly to create a sturdy knee joint. Arthritis results from excessive wear and tear on poorly angulated joints.

Only a small portion of the udder is shown in each illustration. New's udder is carried substantially higher, indicating a shallow rear abdomen and perhaps a concurrent reduced udder capacity. New's teats are also half the length of Old's, making hand milking difficult.

The validity of this comparison is borne out by detrimental changes people have wrought on many different types of animals, including livestock. When body type is changed to reflect human desires, simple mechanics and normal physiological processes are ignored, and these animals perform poorly when compared to their more correctly structured counterparts. Genetic improvement is measurable, and it depends on productivity and longevity of the sort that the Old Style of goat is far more likely to possess.

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