When we think of sheep and goats in the Rocky Mountains, perhaps we commonly think they’ve always been here, they’ve had to have some kind of root here. On the contrary, sheep and goats alike, all bare the record of coming from European countries, to South America, and up to North America. When the Spanish explorers headed north three hundred years ago, they brought domestic sheep and goats with them, as well as many other animals ie. longhorn, mustang, etc. Sheep served them an obvious purpose, same as today – wool. Interestingly enough, natives to this area were already weaving blankets and rugs, but it wasn’t until the Spanish came up and introduced the sheep to them. Boy, did that make things simpler. Wool is thicker, making it an ease to spin into yarn and weave into rugs and blankets. Wool also supplied them with some clothing.
Well, along with the sheep also came goats. Goats provided more of a subsistence benefit than sheep. They were valued for their milk, cheese, and meat. Native American women acquired their own goat flocks and kept and managed them. A lot of research has been done today about the benefit of goat’s milk and the healthier aspect thereof as compared to cow’s milk, for example. It is high in protein, low in cholesterol, and contains more calcium, potassium, and most other vitamins than cow’s milk. Also, it has been found that goat’s meat is the second most low fat red meat that there is, right behind ostrich. Not only do goat’s supply all these things essential to a good diet, but it is a bonus that they are an easy-keep breed in terms of grazing and hardiness. They don’t eat a whole lot, take up a lot of space, or run very far from home. And they sure are tough critters!
If you are interested in learning more about goats, here are a couple of links that can get you started.