Bagot goats are helping to graze Incleborough Hill
Thought to be Britain’s oldest breed of goat, a herd of Bagot goats have been brought in to graze Incleborough Hill and help us manage this heathland habitat in our care.
The Bagot goat
The Bagot, whose ancestry stems from the Rhone Valley, were probably bought to England by returning Crusaders. Richard II gave the goats to John Bagot of Blithfield Hall, Staffordshire, in recognition of hunting enjoyed by the King on the estate. The Bagot family coat of arms even features the goat.
The Bagot goat is a small to medium sized breed, with both sexes having large curving horns. They can be nervous in temperament, though tolerant to harsh weather conditions and are extremely agile on rough terrain.
Grazing for nature
Commercially this hardy breed has little to offer. They’re too small for viable meat production and although their milk is of good quality, they produce little of it. However, their excellent disposition for grazing and browsing is increasingly utilised in conservation work.
At Incleborough Hill in West Runton, these goats will be helping us manage the heathland habitat in our care. After securing a fence line around the Hill, this herd of Bagot goats have the freedom to graze and browse, which will help maintain and increase biodiversity.
How these goats are helping
Over the centuries, heathlands were grazed by livestock, and sand and timber supplied local communities with building materials. Traditionally gorse was also gathered to fire bread ovens making use of its flammable properties. These practices helped create and maintain open areas of heathland rich in biodiversity. Since the decline of such activities, it has become increasingly important to manage heathlands and preserve this important habitat.
The goats will browse on scrub, eating bramble, bracken and gorse, aiding the retention of Incleborough’s mosaic of vegetation. This targeted grazing will therefore prevent the loss of the heathland, that would naturally return to woodland and bracken if left unmanaged.
There are currently six billies grazing on Incleborough Hill, the oldest of which has magnificent horns and a dominant personality. These goats are part of the same herd that North Norfolk District Council grazed on the cliffs at Cromer.