If you are interested in getting into raising goats, either for fiber, meat, milk, or as pets, you need to pay attention to the breed since different goats have different things they are best suited for. There are more than 100 breeds of goats, but we will only cover the most common here, and you can do further research on other breeds available in your area if you wish. In any case is it important you know about goat care, and what purpose you want your goats for.
Goats for Fiber
There are two main types of goats used for fiber, the Angora and the Cashmere.
Angora goats are sheared once or twice a year. Angora goats are medium to large sized goats that like to graze (most goats prefer to browse). They tend to be prone to internal parasites and must have good protection from cold, or damp, weather after shearing and when kidding. They often only have one kid per breeding. Angora goats produce long wavy hair which is called mohair. You should select a goat with a thick coat. You can determine how thick their coat is by parting their hair, the more skin you see, the less thick their coat is.
Cashmere goats have an undercoat called cashmere. This is not an actual breed, but rather is the type of hair produced by many different breeds, including the Spanish goats, and myotonic (fainting) goats. Some are called American Cashmere goats, they are not known to be particularly good climbers compared to other goats.
Agnora goats after shearing. photo source
Some of the most common goat breeds used for meat are the Boer, Spanish, San Clemente, and the Myotonic (fainting) goats, although in recent years fainting goats are more commonly kept as pets.
Boer goats are large, floppy eared goats with a white body and colored head and upper neck, but with a white face. They prefer to browse and often have twins. They originated in Africa and have low tolerance of cold weather.
Spanish goats are not really a breed as such but are a type of goat that came from feral stock in the southern USA, originating with the Spanish introduction of the goat to the Americas. They are robust and hardy but can vary greatly as the term is usually given to any goat of unknown breeding.
The most common dairy goats are the Alpine, LaMancha, Nubian, and Toggenburg.
Alpine goats are often recognized because of a longer ridge of hair that runs down their back. They often have multiple births, make excellent mothers and produce a lot of milk.
LaMancha goats have such short ears it may appear they had frostbite. They are noted for being the calmest of the dairy breeds.
Nubian goats have roman noses and are a very playful, active breed, prone to climbing fences. They often have multiple births.
Toggenburg goats are more cold hardy than some of the other breeds (they still need winter protection) but they do not do well in hot conditions. They are one of the oldest dairy breeds.
Nubian goat - photo source
Pets and Novelty Goats
Myotonic goats, pygmy, and dwarf goats, are generally kept as novelty animals, and pets.
African Pygmy goats look like a miniature meat breed, their hair often has a salt and pepper look to it, which is called agouti (horse people would call it roan).
Myotonic goats are also often called fainting goats, they have a genetic abnormality that causes the muscles in their legs to freeze when they are excited or startled. As such they are easy prey in areas where predators are a problem. They are not good climbers, and have also been used as a meat breed.
Nigerian dwarf goats appear like a miniature dairy breed. The agouti color pattern is discouraged. They should have a large body in proportion to their head and legs.