Polled & Horned Genetics
Most Nigerian Dwarfs are born with horns. If a breeder chooses to leave the kid's horns intact, the horn buds will break through the skin at just days after birth and begin growing usually at a quite rapid rate. Horns can be wonderful to some people and pretty to look at as well as providing the goat with some kind of defense if needed. They also help the goat stay cool during hot weather. The large blood vessels in the horns are a natural way for the goat to regulate and cool it's body temperature. Some owners think the horns are dangerous or obnoxious. There are goats that always seem to get their horns caught on a fence which can be dangerous for the animal. An accidental bump from a goat's horns can actually be quite painful. Another downside to having horns left on a Nigerian Dwarf is that most registries will not allow horned goats to be shown and if you need to clip or milk your goat in the stanchion, those horns tend to get in the way. Whether a breeder/owner chooses to disbud or dehorn their goats or kids is a personal choice which has both down and up sides.
What does polled mean?
A goat that is born naturally without horns is polled. There is no disbudding or dehorning required for these goats which can be nice to some breeders, meaning one less kid to disbud. In place of the horns, there are two, usually small, bumps or nubs that you can feel. Newborn or very young polled kids can sometimes be distinguished among horned kids (whose horn buds have not yet come in) by the lack of "swirl" of fur where the buds would come in. Most horned kids will have a tiny swirl of fur where the buds will start to break through the skin; polled kids usually don't have this.
The polled gene is a dominant gene, just like blue eyes in goats. This means that a goat can only be polled if one or both of it's parents are polled.
Lets look at the chart below.
PP - Homozygous polled. Cannot produce horned offspring, regardless of mate.
Ph - Heterozygous polled. Can produce both polled and horned offspring, unless bred to a homozygous polled mate.
hh - Horned. Cannot produce polled offspring unless bred to a polled mate.
What does it mean if your goat is disbudded?
When a kid is just a few weeks old, some breeders will choose to remove the horn buds by disbudding which will kill the horn tissue therefore permanently making the goat "hornless." Most breeders you an electric iron specifically designed to burn the horn tissue from the young kids. Other ways of removing the horns would be through banding, surgical (done by a vet), or with disbudding paste. The photos above show some kids weeks after disbudding, minutes after disbudding, and goats as adults after being disbudded as kids. On your disbudded, adult goats you can feel a little rough or flat area where the horns would be.
What are scurs?
Scurs occur from an improper disbudding that does not remove or kill all the horn tissue. The leftover tissue will cause part of the horn to grow in an unusual shape.
Scurs can come in many shapes and sizes, from little nubs to large curls. Some of these scurs can become dangerous to the goat if they start to curl around towards or into the head, not to mention, they are a little unsightly on some goats. They also tend to break easier or get bumped off sometimes causing an open wound, blood loss, or even possibly and infection if left untreated. From my experience, I have not had a problem with scurs breaking off except when bucks start getting rough with each other and on fencing during rutt (breeding season).
The disbudding procedure.
Done with an electric dehorning iron. This is a perfect disbudding job.
Huge thank you to Phoenix Rising Farm for the use of their photos!