Old Irish Goat
In the summer of 2021, Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB) was faced with various fires at Howth over a long six-week period where it seemed smoke was always billowing from an outbreak. Two months later, DFB had the benefit of a new crew of Old Irish Goat firefighters permanently based on the hill which has resulted in a vastly improved situation since then. The herd have done their bit by eating their way through vegetation like gorse, briars and bracken. By reducing the burnable vegetation and maintaining existing firebreaks, they are reducing the potential spread of any wildfires which may start.
Goat herder for the Old Irish Goat Society, Melissa Jeuken, who began managing the herd in September 2021 said: “The goats have had a really positive impact on the grazing sites in Howth, and they have settled in very well. Howth Hill is a very scenic location to work in, but it is also an ideal landscape for these goats and I think the Old Irish goats feel like it is a home away from home. The herd is thriving in Howth.
“We also welcomed an additional 15 new kids who were born in the spring of 2022, which will supplement the herd and the great work it is doing. Alongside these new arrivals, a team of bucks (males) Old Irish Goats have also joined from Mayo so we now have 64 goats calling Howth Hill home.”
The Old Irish Goat is Ireland’s indigenous landrace breed, now critically endangered and only found in remote mountain ranges roaming in feral herds. Interbreeding with imported domestic goats has caused major loss of the original the characteristics and adaptations.
The Old Irish Goat is highly adapted to the Irish landscape and climate. The males in particular are impressive animals, featuring – long hair, coiffs, beards and sideburns, and impressive horns. The females have a more delicate frame and a matriarchal role with their lineage being the social thread of the herd. Collectively these attributes make them a fascinating part of Ireland’s natural heritage.
After arriving in Ireland during the Neolithic age, about 5,000 years ago, they adapted naturally to the Irish landscape over time. They move differently to modern (improved) goat breeds due to their height to leg length which has resulted in a small stocky goat with short legs and a long body. Its ears are small and worn in a pricked position and its impressive horns are large, corrugated, and bend over the shoulders in individual ways. These goats have no tassels and are always bearded. The male beard blends into the long-haired coat which is rough and thick and hangs down to the belly line. Being cold weather goats, they have an underwool of cashmere. They have 12 different colour patterns which give rise to the description ‘coats of many colours’.
Credit: The Old Irish Goat Society
With a spike of starry, golden 12-15mm flowers which turn later to dark bronzey orange, the Bog Asphodel is a joy to behold when you find it growing in the **bog**s of Ireland. Between six and twenty flowers are borne on a 15-30cm high stalk which has a very few small scale-like leaves. They bloom in July and August. This is a rhizomatous perennial which has rigid, sword-shaped leaves, all coming from the roots. The whole plant turns dark orange-brown colour and persists into late autumn. This is a native plant and belongs to the family Nartheciaceae
Credit: Wild Flowers of Ireland