The Cabra Algarvia is a hardy breed of goat in the Algarve. Some say it is indigenous to the Algarve, but the accepted view seems to be that it is a 19th century creation – part Charnequeira and part Moroccan with a little bit of Spanish goat thrown into the mix in the early 20th century.
They are a short-haired multi-coloured goat, the majority we have seen have been mostly white with brown spots. Unless you happen to attend one of the Spring festivals which have goat races, you’ll usually see them grazing in the Algarvian hills. Some on farms others being managed in the traditional way with a goatherd moving them throughout the day. We have also seen mixed flocks of sheep and goats, although the goats didn’t seem pure Algarvian.
In Dan Stanislawski’s excellent book he found that generally ‘Only he who has no land has flocks’. I’ve no idea whether that is still true these days but goats being herded in the Caldeirão and also on scrub land nearer the coast is still a regular sight. Although perhaps not as frequent as it once was as in the early 1990s a society was launched to help protect the breed and a recent media report suggests the goat business is struggling.
It is certainly hard work looking after goats, as females lactating need milking twice a day, and the lactation period can be as much as 3/4 of the year. They are also ‘eating machines’ happily clearing fast an area of all its vegetation, hence moving them regularly. The Cabra Algarvia is also a prolific breeder, which makes it interesting that we have rarely seen goat stew or goat meat for sale. Seen plenty of sheep and lamb, but goat doesn’t seem to be a meat the Portuguese favour. There again the Brits don’t seem to like it much either! There is though plenty of goats cheese, particularly fresh cheese – Queijo fresco de cabra – made using thistle. I do enjoy the fresh cheeses especially when made with herbs or served with honey, but our favourites remain the sheep cheeses – sorry goats!
Oh before I go I better explain my title! It’s a Portuguese proverb ‘Cabra manca não tem sesta‘, or possibly Iberian since there is a very similar Spanish one – A lame goat will not sleep by day’. In other words if you are struggling with something you cannot afford to lose time or waste effort by doing something else, you need to put extra effort in. I guess an English equivalent could be ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try try try again’. What do you think? For more Portuguese idioms do visit this 2015 post, it has some great ones about donkeys!