Standards & Judging problems with the Head and Horns
We have concerns with the standards and how much weight some judges give to a specific look in the head and neck when judging a show. We are not asking for any change in the standards or how judges weight those features in the overall quality of the animal. We are just stating our opinion on these features and how they fit into our breeding program. The picture to the top right is Classic, a world champion Boer Goat in South Africa. We will use the picture of his head to discuss the standards and why we don't follow them. There are two features that we want to look at in detail. They are:
The Horns (see Classic)
The Roman Nose (see Classic)
The Boer standards are "Horns should be dark, round, strong, of moderate length, positioned well apart and have a gradual backward curve before turning outward symmetrically". Our problems with the horn standards and judging are:
If you look at the picture of classic on the top right, you will see that the horns curve backwards near the neck and then curve outward. In many animals, the horns will come back so close to the neck that, at an older age, the horns start rubbing on the neck. This is shown in the second picture from the top. It will rub off all of the hair and can start rubbing on the skin enough to cause sores and infections. The horns are set wide a part at the base but because they curve back towards the body, they now are continuously rubbing the neck causing problems. We know of many "Ennobled" bucks that eventually had to have their horns cut off because of the problems it was causing to the neck. The picture at the bottom is two of our bucks. The picture shows how the horns are wide at the base of the scull but quickly grow up and away from the body. It minimizes, feet getting caught between the horns, rubbing on the neck and getting caught in field fence.
The standards want the horns positioned well apart at the base to minimize the chance of another animal's leg getting caught between the horns and break or injure the leg. The same thing can occur if the horns come back close to the neck and another animal's leg gets caught between the horn and the neck. There is much less chance of any of that occurring if the horns come out of the head in a more upward direction and quickly spread out. That keeps the horns wide and far away from the neck. However some judges will call this a "wild set of horns" and dramatically move the animal down.
Many breeders that are serious about showing their animals and gathering ennoblement points will change the natural shape of the horns to look like what the judges want to see in a "quality Boer look". I don't mean that they sand the horns down to make them smooth. They actually change the shape of the horns to come back smoothly near the neck and stop the ends from coming out too much. I have had directors and judges tell me how I could improve the horn set on some of my animals to do better in the show. That includes vices, weights, grinders, etc. Directors and judges know this is going on and nothing is done about it. This is the same as if I were to clip extra teats off of a doe so they would have a "clean look". Shaping the horns don't change the genetics and many breeders breeding with their animals for that perfect horn set, will be very disappointed when the kids come out looking like a unicorn. We guarantee we have not nor will ever change the shape of our animals' horns. We believe that is unethical and most breeders that do it would not willingly tell you they do it. Also, we guarantee our breeding program will focus on having horns similar to the ones to the right that come up out of the head and quickly turn away from the neck and body. That is justified, the horn standards are not.
The Roman Nose
Look at how strong of a Roman Nose the world champion Boer has. Remember back to shows and production sales when the judge talked about how nice of a head the animal had and the beautiful Roman nose. The show breeders put too much emphasis on how the head looks and the value some judges give it. There is NO justification for a Roman nose in the standards. When I questioned an ABGA director giving a Boer Goats 101 lecture, they finally admitted that there is no justification for the nose other than it makes the head look strong. In the same lecture, they were talking about a bad mouth. The speaker stated that breeders did not see bad mouths before the Boer breed came to the US. Many breeders believe the Roman nose may be the cause of Boers getting a bad mouth. The jaw is straight and will grow out straight. However, with the Roman nose, part of the upper mouth will be growing straight out similar to the lower jaw but some of the growth must grow up to give the Roman nose curve. That means the lower jaw may have more growth outward than the upper part of the mouth. This may cause the animal to have a bad bite as it grows older. Also, the Roman nose is a cull factor in the Kiko standards. It is a cull for the very reason discussed above. Also consider if you take a small piece of hose and start to bend it. The hose will start to pinch as the hose is curved more and more. That means an animal with a strong Roman nose may have problems with air moving through the nostrils. We do not have any focus on having strong Roman nose genetics in our breeding herd.