Background information

I have been researching goats since 1960.  My initial interest was based around the introduced and acclimatized animals of the British Isles, but this branched out to researching the origin and history of domesticated animals in general, and of rare breeds of livestock in particular. References to feral goats were particularly appealing, and mainly because little attempt had been made to study them in the same was as, for example, Red Deer. For this reason little was published about their behaviour and population dynamics, particularly in comparison with the natural history of the Wild Goat proper.  In the course of trying to remedy this, I became more and more interested in their origin and breed type, carrying out studies in the British Museum Library (printed sources), the Natural History Museum (osteological material) and the Victoria and Albert Museum and art galleries (paintings, prints and sketches).

In the 1960’s, feral goat research in general was pauce, the universally accepted scientific view regarding the origin of the British feral goat being a “reversion to wild type” theory that was interpreted as meaning that any domestic goat, of any breed, would revert rapidly to a ‘wild type’ within 10 years, developing the phenotype (small, horned and hairy) associated with feral goats in general. This explanation seemed to be at best unsatisfactory. Why was it, for example, that old prints and paintings showed exactly the same kind of British goat that was to be found in the uplands of the British Isles in the mid-Twentieth Century? And why did Welsh farmers insist that their father and grandfather knew the self same herd that still resided on their land, which took the existence of these goats back to a time before the introduction of Modern goat stock? I therefore researched feral goat origins for seven years, both as a generality and individual herds, completing my thesis in 1967.  The basis of this was that the British feral goat represented the only and original landrace breed of the British Isles. This had implications for its historical value, status as a rare breed, and landrace qualities worthy of preservation in terms of genetic conservation. These conclusions were not well received at the time, although they were eventually lodged with the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.

During this research, I was able to identify the first Arabian Wild Goat known to science. This was part of the study being carried out in the London Zoo, the animal in question having previously been identified as a Nubian Ibex. 

Work continued to give the British feral goat its correct breed origin and status, this being formalized by the founding of the British Feral Goat Preservation Society in 1980.

Between 1977 and 1984, I was a researcher for the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, specializing in sheep and cattle. This work included a study of Heck cattle in Germany, the conclusion being that Heck cattle were, in fact, two distinct breeds: Berlin cattle and Munich cattle. These terms have been accepted internationally.

I have been a goat warden, managing the Lynton feral goat herd, since 1983.  I was also the founder, with Joyce and Eric Salter, of the Lynton Feral Goat Preservation Society (1997); founder, with Annette Cleaver, of the Great Orme Goat breeders’ Association (1998); the founder, with Tracey Livingstone and Dr. Shirley and Les Goodyer, of the British Feral Goat Research Group (2004); and the founder, with Patrick McCormack and Colin Johnston, of the Old Irish Goat Society (2006). 

An important aspect of the work has involved the setting up of support groups to encourage the preservation, promotion and sympathetic management of individual feral goat herds.  As a part of this endeavour, the work has included involvement with grazing schemes as a means of preserving the breed.   A milestone in this aspect of the work involved the organizing of a conference for those involved in grazing animal projects that considered the usefulness of feral goats in land management.

I have been a researcher for the English Goat breeders’ Association (1980 to 1994), and am currently a researcher for the Old English Goat Society. Other work has involved the preservation of the Arapawa feral goat (New Zealand), and establishing the unique status of the Bilberry feral goat, Waterford, Irish Republic. Work has also been carried out in Snowdonia, the Mull of Kintyre, Loch Lomondside, the Border Hills and Galloway. More recently, there has been an involvement with preserving the Burren feral goat and attempting to save the Old Irish goat.

Continuing work into the origin and history of the British feral goat has identified it as a distinct breed, which we now term the British Primitive goat with four varieties (Irish, Welsh, Scotch and English).  This shares a common origin with the Nordic breeds and the Old Dutch goat. Collectively, I have termed these breeds the Northern Breed Group. The continuing work has established their origin as a Cold Weather type that emerged during the intensely cold phase associated with deglaciation at the end of the Ice Age. It is therefore a breed group that was kept on the Eurasian Great Steppe by hunter-pastoralists during the late Pleistocene. This research was initially presented at an international conference on the Nordic goat held in the Netherlands in 2005.

Integral to researching the origin of the Northern Breed Group and its subsequent history has been a close study of the following disciplines: palaeontology; Eurasian prehistory/history; the nature of the late Pleistocene and the interpretation of the Great Steppe/the Ice Age and the Big Chill; archaeology; vegetation succession; agricultural history and livestock husbandry historically;  origin and history of domestic livestock; the nature of the Neolithic; validity and parameters of dating techniques; the chronology of historical events;  early civilizations; origin and development of the caprinae, including horn development, wild and domestic;  geology; habitat zoning; people migration, both prehistoric and historic; natural selection- both accepted and theoretical models.

I hold qualifications in the theory and practice of education; agricultural history; learning resources; counselling; behaviour management; t.e.a.c.h.; theological studies and assertive Discipline.  I am currently a specialist advisor in autism. 

Raymond Werner

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