Several years ago while collecting material on Angora goats I stumbled across the following passage in a rather old book: SHEPARD'S EMPIRE by Town and Wentworth:
Perhaps Captain Cooke got it wrong like those who attend county fairs and frequently accuse us LaMancha exhibitors of cropping our goats' ears. Maybe these too were actually born that way.
Domesticated goats in the southwest and western territories probably accompanied the successive waves of Spanish conquistadors and missionaries who arrived by land and by sea. All we really know is that goats were not indigenous to this part of the world. But there they were - and are - with, or without, "traditional" ears.
In the Sierra foothills of Northeastern California angoras and meat goats have been herded, together with sheep flocks led by Basque shepards, for many decades. Tiny ear kids frequently appeared among them and still do. These animals were not used for dairy purposes and may have been "bred" - to use the term loosely - for meat and to suckle bummer lambs.
We do know that at the end of the 19th century a Miss Phoebe Wilhelm in these same Sierra foothills (Mokelumne Hill) was milking dairy goats including several short ear does. Apparently she never used short ear bucks for breeding. It is known that early on she used Toggenburg bucks from the well known herd of Jane S. White. After 1930 purebred Alpine and Nubian bucks from the Blue Ribbon herd of Mrs. C.R. John were added to the mix. Obviously Phoebe was a lady who kept up with the times.
Sometime between 1935 - 1940 she died and the Goodridges of "RioLinda" goat reknown purchased 125 of her animals. According to Edith Goodridge about half carried gopher ears and the other half elf. She also noted - somewhat cryptically - that after 30-40 years of breeding LaMancha does with long ear bucks the "LaMancha type" ear persisted.
Some of the Wilhelm does were sold to a Mrs. Brashear of Weimar (NE of Sacramento.) In all likelihood she bred only LaManchas. In the beginning she used Alpine and Saanen bucks out of heavy producers and in her later phase, only LaMancha type bucks. Again according to Mrs. Goodridge - "Mrs. Brashear was a skillfull breeder keeping only the LaMancha doe kids from eight quart dams." It is significant that up until the early 1940's there is no other reference to anyone attempting to breed "type to type" to establish a true breeding short-ear goat.
In 1937 (September) Eula Fay Frey and her husband, Jene, purchased the Poplar Goat Dairy in Bell (SE of Los Angeles)which included 130 resident goats. Two had very small ears: a small roan doe and her young son, "Tommy," who was to be used on does from whom they had did plan to keep kids. "Rose" - a tricolored Nubian Alpine cross was the last doe bred to him. On May 23, 1938 Rose produced a "golden-brown, curly haired, short ear doe kid with very large eyes." For whatever reason they decided to keep her, named her "Peggy" and she became Fay's pride and joy. She was taught several tricks. Louise Erbe of K-Lou fame remembered seeing Mrs. Frey parading her around on a leash. No doubt, she was thought to be eccentric. Peggy was the start of something interesting in the official goat world: The first and only American-made breed of dairy goat.
Nesta with friend
1940 Fay purchased - from the Goodridges - a LaMancha doe she named "Nesta." Peggy and Nesta, both of which she thought were beautiful and very productive, were destined to become matriarchs of the "Fay" LaMancha herd. (Mrs. Frey's story - in her own words - was published in the January 1960 Dairy Goat Journal.)
Fay bred her LaMancha does to purebred bucks of the Alpine, Toggenburg, Saanen, and Nubian breeds as well as a Nubian/French Alpine buck and a bright red Nubian/Murcian buck, "Christopher." She remarked on the fine flavored, rich-in- butterfat, milk of the Murcian breed and regretted not saving more of Christopher's male descendants. She credited Mr./Mrs. Harry Gordon as the owners of the Murcian who was the sire or dam of Christopher.
By 1954 she had bred and kept quite a number of LaMancha type buck kids and after 1957 consistently bred only LaMancha to LaMancha. In the same period she purchased 36 LaManchas from Ira Peel, a breeder/dairyman, who had acquired them at a sale. She culled most of the does and kept only one of the seven bucks.
Significantly Fay Frey thought she recognized more than just a "look" in the tiny ear goats. She formulated a standard having special relevance for dairying:
Mrs. Frey was not alone for long in publicly promoting the merits of the earless "wonders." A few active suppporters came forward although for many years there were many more naysayers and the scornful - in the dairy goat world as well as the general public - who disliked the "thrifty" or "something missing" look.
By 1953 Mrs. Brashear had died and her LaManchas were back in the hands of the Goodridges who sold (or gave) Tom Draper of Chico (north of Sacramento) two sets of twin does (2/white and 2/chamoisee) and their sire from this group. This was the start of Tom's adventures with his Blue Diamond LaManchas which he detailed with great enthusiasm in a Dairy Goat Journal article - January 1974.
He and fellow breeder John Lutes showed off their mixed and inbred milkers and kids at the Chico Silver Dollar Fair (May 20, 1954) and at the Sacramento Fairgrounds (June 6, 1954.) Draper describes the experience:
Tom's cheerleading style led to the founding of the first LaMancha breed organization - California LaMancha Breeders Club - in 1953. Mrs. Frey was elected President and Draper, Secretary. There were five other members identified (Lutes, Foss, Dean, Wolf and Brown.) Within three years they had secured a promise from AMGRA (ADGA's earlier name) to open a herd book. Secretary Robert Soen's letter dated February 29, 1956 stated "the herd book had been approved by the association and was ready for entries whenever the club and the inspection committee could supply certified initial animals."
Some of the early Draper LaManchas ended up in the herd of a Saanen breeder, Mrs. Schmidt. This herd was sold to Dolores Dunlap (Midolane) who operated a dairy in Stockton for a relatively short period of time. These animals (or more probably their descendants) are interesting because many were inspected and became "basic stock" in the second wave which might explain why many of the Midolane LaManchas were white, especially the bucks who, at least in this herd, were not required to be gopher eared.
Draper can be credited with suggesting the tail tattoo as an alternative for a breed with an ear too small for the conventional tattoo.
The following 1956 statement by him is illustrative of the depth of his observations.
It is interesting to note that both Draper and later Louise Erbe (private communication) referred to these early LaManchas of being of more than one type. Mrs Erbe described one type as "long bodied and real dairy", and the others as "the fat ones: heavier boned, shorter legged with high, round udders." She also said she culled heavily at first and admired their good temperment and non-fussy attitude about eating.
Dr. C.P. DeLangle, the American importer of the basic French Alpine stock, in writing about the Murcia, the presumed common ancestor, in the August 1921 issue of "The Goat World" states: The true Murcien goat, is one, if not, the handsomest goat known. It is a made-up breed like most all important goats." As we advance into the 21th century American LaMancha breeders struggle to make their "madeup" breed into "the most handsome goat known." Knowing more about their predecessors efforts can't help but make the adventure more interesting.