Conner Prairie, Indiana’s first Smithsonian affiliate, welcomed three of the rarest breed of goats in the world last month.
The Arapawa kids were born the week of March 19-23 to two Arapawa does through natural breeding. The new arrivals were about 5-7 pounds when born, said Conner Prairie Livestock Staff Interpreter Emily Nyman. They will nurse for about two months while their diet shifts to hay and grass.
“As babies, they can double their weight every two weeks and mature around age 1,” Nyman said. “The breed is incredibly hardy and can survive harsh weather and poor growing conditions.”
According to the Livestock Conservancy, the Arapawa goat derives from the extinct Olde English milch goat that would have been brought to the country by English settlers. Historic records show that goats of that breed were released in 1777 by European colonist Capt. James Cook on Arapawa Island, known today as Arapaoa Island, located off the northern tip of the South Island of New Zealand. They were left on the island as a future, renewable source of meat and milk for the area. Although they eventually went extinct in the U.S., the breed thrived on Arapawa Island. They were first imported to the U.S. in 1993.
The Arapawa goat is critically close to extinction – it is estimated that there are fewer than 300 worldwide.
Heritage breeds are endangered livestock breeds that were raised by farmers in the past before modern, higher producing breeds displaced them. Conner Prairie maintains four heritage breeds of livestock – Arapawa goats, English Longhorn cattle, Ossabaw Island hogs, and Tunis sheep. The museum is committed to helping increase their bloodlines and help each avoid endangerment and extinction.
Conner Prairie has a herd of 11 English Longhorn cattle, which is the second-largest herd in the U.S. There are only about 40 of the breed in the country. One year ago, an embryo transfer English Longhorn calf was born at the museum, the first such birth of its kind in the U.S. in decades. Conner Prairie also has Ossabaw Island hogs, a breed indigenous to Ossabaw Island off the coast of Georgia. The hogs are descendants of Spanish pigs that Spanish sailors brought to the New World more than 400 years ago. DNA from a Conner Prairie hog was entered into the National Animal Germplasm Preservation program in 2016.
The museum maintains its herds of heritage breeds due to their resemblance to livestock present in 19th-century Indiana. Tunis sheep is one of the oldest breeds indigenous to the U.S. The breed has benefited in recent years from the growing sustainable agriculture movement in the U.S. and is increasing in numbers. Tunis sheep are recognized for their meat, wool, and milk.
Spanning more than 1,000 wooded acres in central Indiana, Conner Prairie welcomes nearly 430,000 visitors of all ages annually. As Indiana’s first Smithsonian Institute affiliate, Conner Prairie offers various outdoor, historically themed destinations and indoor experiential learning spaces that combine history and art with science, technology, engineering, and math to offer an authentic look into history that shapes society today.