In Sicily, selective breeding practiced by farmers over the centuries has resulted in hardy breeds that are well suited to free-range grazing and able to survive the most difficult and arid periods. These animals produce high quality milk and flavorsome meat, but as they are less productive than modern breeds they are at great risk of extinction today. Consuming the quality cheeses that are made from their milk, or their meat, supports the farmers that are their guardians today and is a great way to save them!

Girgentana Goat


Named after the town of Girgenti (modern-day Agrigento) – the Girgentana goat breed is unmistakable for its long spiraled “corkscrew” horns. These horns, together with the goat’s coat, resemble wild Asian goats, and its origins, according to some, can be traced back to Tibetan goats from the Himalayan region. Others connect it to the Markhor, also called Falconeri after the English naturalist Falconer, who first discovered this breed in northern Afghanistan and Balochistan. The Arabs are thought to have brought the first Asian goats to Sicily in 800 AD, landing in the port of Marsala from where they spread throughout the island’s southwest.

It is a medium-sized goat with a thick, long, white coat that is sometimes speckled. It has a goatee on its chin and a thick clump of hair on its forehead that breeders cut “in bangs” (with the exception of the billy goat). But the beauty of this breed is, above all, all about its horns, which are erect and joined at the base. Both males and females have horns, and they can reach up to 70 centimeters long in the males. In the 1920s and ‘30s shepherds would walk from house to house with their flock, or even with just one goat, offering “door-to-door” milking. In the 1950s there were around 30,000 Girgentana goats, but today only around 500 remain.

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