The Primitive Goat at Windy Willows

During the Neolithic period in England, the Primitive goat was brought to the island by the Saxons. Today they exist in feral populations and some have been taken in at wilderness parks to help protect and preserve this rare breed of goats.

English Primitive goat herd

The story of why it is at Sir Winslow’s Zoo is pretty cheesy. Cheddar cheese that is. And pear trees! It’s getting crazy! I never thought I would find such a peculiar story in the journals. But here it is.

There had long been a pear orchard at Windy Willows, the estate of Sir Winslow, Lady Susan and their children. It was said to have been established in the late 1600s by bringing over the young trees from France. Around that same time, a small herd of goats was introduced to the estate. This goat was known at the time to be called the English Landrace or Old English goat.

This breed of goat was widely used around the British Isles for its milk, meat, wool, and tallow. It was a good all-around goat to have. The manors all around had herds that they used for these purposes.

The pear orchard was home to the herd. They kept the grass short and ate the fallen pears which actually made their milk sweeter. In the winter the younger goats were allowed to climb on the trees, but as soon as spring blossomed special barriers where put in place to protect the fruit.

Pear orchard

In the late summer as the pears ripened and where harvested, they were brought to the cider shed. Making pear cider was the job of the estate brewer, Reginald. Not only did he do pear cider, but the family had apple cider as well as a rye beer made for their needs. After the fruit was harvested the barriers were taken down and the goats had free rein of the orchard again.

Cheese and pear cider

The goats were also valued on the Estate for their wool. One way it was used was to be made in soft blankets that were given to the tenant's children during the Christmas season. Another way the wool was utilized was woolen socks. Lady Susan would knit everyone a new pair each fall after it was spun into yarn. Because the wool is white on the English Primitive, it is easily dyed into vibrant colors.

Red and green wool socks

The last use of the goat was to make cheddar cheese from their milk. They are not known as abundant producers, but the herd provided enough for the family’s needs. The milk was collected and brought down to a dairy in Somerset county to be made into cheese. It was aged in caves near the town of Cheddar for 6 months and then brought back to Windy Willows. This process survives to current times and can be ordered from this site: Quickie's Goat Cheese

The goats featured in many sketches in the journals and I created our stuffed animal from those. I can make the goat in many colors to fit a specific breed that you may like. Here is Even modeling the goat. He is adorable! Goat Stuffed Animal 

little boy holding a goat stuffed animal

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