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The wild goats of south Armagh

The wild goats of south Armagh

Newry Mourne and Down District Council through the Ring of Gullion Partnership  commissioned the Old Irish Goat Society in January 2017 to identify if the feral goat population in the area could contain the Old Irish phenotype and to estimate numbers.

What is an Old Irish Goat?

The Old Irish Goat is Ireland’s indigenous, landrace breed of goat. The term ‘landrace’ refers here to the fact that the breed has been naturally shaped by the Irish landscape and climate since its arrival, approximately 5,000 years ago, in the Neolithic Age. For more information on the history of the Old Irish Goat, click here.

This project is investigating numerous opportunities for sharing and learning between the Ring of Gullion team and the Old Irish Goat Society in Mayo. The Ring of Gullion Team is working with the Old Irish Goat Society to learn how the area can make the most of these amazing animals and their heritage. The Old Goat Irish Society is working with historians in the Ring of Gullion to add to the rich cultural heritage tapestry of the Old Irish Goat and the people who have managed them over the years.

This project aims to create key cultural tourism products to attract visitors from across the country and internationally. An important aspect of this project is to inform the public, those with an interest in heritage and support agencies of the importance of the Old Irish Goat as an icon of living cultural heritage and its current critical conservation status by incorporating the Old Irish Goat in local heritage-based tourism.

Both parties aim to replicate the success of the annually held Old Irish Goat Heritage Week Events in Mulranny, Co Mayo.

Objectives of this project include:

  • Create and develop a cultural link between South Armagh and Mayo in regards the Old Irish Goat.
  • Further research the cultural history of the Old Irish Goats in South Armagh, as the area was known as the ‘Goat Droving Capital of Ireland’ and that the ‘Goat Men of South Armagh’ were central to the Irish traveling herd trade of exporting goat stock to Britain.
  • Further survey the Slieve Gullion population in order to further clarify the ranges of the feral herds, and the Old Irish Goats specimens within them in order to devise a programme to inform local heritage / conservation interests in a meaningful manner for their conservation management.
  • Organise a ‘Cultural Tourism Festival’ around the Old Irish Goat to commence a discussion with local stakeholders. Additionally, the Old Irish Goat Artistic exhibit would be launched in Northern Ireland, which unearths old paintings & modern interpretations of the breed that will stir wonder & appreciation of our pastoral heritage that has remained obscure for decades. A morning session would give participants the opportunity to partake in a ‘goat quest’ that involves a bus-tour and guided walk in order to locate feral herds and view the Old Irish Goat in situ.

Project Updates

The Old Irish Goat Society Survey March 2017

Update published on: March 18, 2017


The Old Irish Goat Society, having surveyed the feral goat population of Slieve Gullion, County Armagh, has confirmed that a proportion of the population are within the Old Irish phenotype range, in their conformation, features, color pattern, coat length and stance and hence are a vital part of the remaining native, landrace population on the island of Ireland and as such, deserve to be conserved and utilised locally for valuable heritage resource that they are.

Click here for survey report.

Click here for Slieve Gullion Old Irish Goat Phenotype Restoration Plan.

Old Irish Goat Society provide talk at Michael J Murphy Winter School 2017

Update published on: November 25, 2017


Ray Werner, an expert on rare breeds, spoke on behalf of the Old Irish Goat Society in a talk inspired by a line from Michael J.Murphy’s first broadcast for the BBC in April 1937 on ‘The Goatmen of South Armagh’—-‘The Project was Successful’. Click here for the full talk.

In a thoroughly researched lecture he traced the prejudice against the goat in England after the coming of the enclosure acts and the identification by the people of Dromintee of a niche in the market for goats.These herders collected goats from Connemara and West Mayo,took them to the Slieve Gullion area and transported huge herds of up to 600 goats to Scotland,Wales and as far as the south coast of England.

He detailed how they slept with their herds;sold the milk and goats on the edges of the industrial cities and gradually overcame the prejudice of the English people against both the animals and their handlers.

Indeed,to add atmosphere to the talk, an old Irish goat, provided by Thomas Rafferty of Carricknagavna townland,was tethered on the lawn outside and became an added attraction for both young and old.


Co-operation with Northern Ireland Funding from Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht

Update published on: September 1, 2017


Newry, Mourne and Down District Council in partnership with the Old Irish Goat Society were awarded €1,700 from the Co-operation with Northern Ireland Fund Scheme provided by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and decided to make the most of the funding by creating and developing the cultural link between South Armagh and Mayo by carrying out further research on the cultural history of the Old Irish Goats in South Armagh. This was done and resulted in a number of documents created by a member of the Old Irish Goat Society:-

  • Booklet on the importance of the Irish Travelling Goat Herds to the history of the Old Irish Goat. Click here. 
  • Old Irish Goats in Crossmaglen Market in the 1800’s Paper. Click here.
  • Late Victorian Irish Travelling herd in Turnbridge Wells. Click here.
  • Irish travelling Goat herd in Wiltshire, 1889. Click here.
  • The Goat Men of South Armagh Paper. Click here.
  • The statistical importance of Irish  travelling goat herds during the Victorian and Edwardian period Paper. Click here.


Lottery Funded
NIEA DoE N&M DC Biodiversity

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