When we think of sheep and goats in America we have a tendency to think they’ve always been here. On the contrary, sheep and goats came from European countries, to South America. Then when the Spanish explorers headed north three hundred years ago, they brought domestic sheep and goats with them.
Sheep served the obvious purpose of wool. I find it interesting that though the Navajo are famous world wide for their hand woven wool blankets they did not begin weaving until the sheep were introduced to them by the Spanish. Whereas the Pueblo Indians were weaving blankets from cotton long before the Spanish came but somehow their blankets have not achieved fame.
Goats were valued for their milk and meat were kept with the sheep. Sheep are not as smart as goats so even today you will not see a heard of sheep without some goats to lead the way and help keep the sheep out of trouble (or get them into trouble, what ever the case may be!)
A lot of research has been done today about the benefits of goat’s milk. In many ways it is better than cow milk. It is high in protein, low in cholesterol, and contains more calcium, potassium, and most other vitamins than cow’s milk. It has slightly less lactose than cows milk and do to its molecular structure, goat milk is much easier to digest than cows milk. To put this in perspective the size of the molecules of goat’s milk are about 1/9thof the size of cows milk! Because of this and the fact that it has a chemical make up much closer to human milk, it is easy to digest and assimilate into the human body. For these reasons even some lactose intolerant children can drink it. It has also been noticed that the people who drink goat’s milk have less problems with allergies of all types.
Goat’s meat is great too it is the second lowest fat red meat that there is, right behind ostrich! As a bonus goats are easy to keep breed in terms of grazing and hardiness. They don’t eat a whole lot, take up a lot of space and are very hardy. All reasons why they were perfect for the Indians and Pioneers.
If you are interested in learning more about goats, here are a couple of links that can get you started.