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Goats & Their Protector
updated: Jan 19, 2013, 11:00 AM

By the Urban Hikers (Stacey Wright & Peter Hartmann)

Last week we took you on a tour of the Bliss estate known as Casa Dorinda, now operating as as senior living community. We also promised to tell you more this week about the history of the estate and the many people whose lives were intertwined with it. But, alas we are still in the process of discovering information and possibly old photographs for our story. So, we're switching gears a bit and will share with you what we've learned about the herd of goats that regularly clear parts of the property of its "fire fuel" in order to help minimize the dangers a fire on the property would present.

These photos were taken in August of 2011, during a visit to Casa Dorinda. The guardian dog, referred to as a "predator control dog" looks so sweet and unassuming with his/her herd of goats. But watch out if you get too close, and the dog feels threatened. Nice no more!

Brush Goats 4 Hire is a locally owned company that provided the goats and their guardian to Casa Dorinda. You may have seen the goats and dog(s) around SB at other locations clearing brush. They've been used on the hillside at the County Bowl, on TV Hill, Skofield Park and other places where the terrain is steep and ravines are many. The goats, a hybrid of Boer, Kiko, La Mancha and other Spanish breeds are voracious eaters with nimble hooves. A herd of 300 goats can devour an acre of brush and weeds each day, and will eat just about anything within its reach - including poison oak, blackberry brambles, vinca, pampas grass and and ivy.

The dogs used by Brush Goats 4 hire are the same breed of dogs who have been used for centuries throughout Europe and Africa as "LGD's" or livestock guard dogs. According to the company's website, the dogs are Anatolian Shepherd, Akbash and Great Pyrenees. The Anatolians "look like labs on steroids". We did a bit of research on these amazing dogs and this is what we found.

The breed, now commonly referred to as Anatolian Shepherd, was the Western name given to them in 1973, and named for the region in Turkey where they have been used for over 2,000 years. Used by nomads, they served as both companion to the shepherd and protectors of the herd or flock. Prior to being called Anatolian Shepard, they were called Coban Kopegi, which is Turkish for "shepherd dog".

Great Pyrenees have been used by shepherd in the Basque region of France and Spain for as long as 3,000 years, protecting goats and other livestock from predators, including wolves. In Namibia and Southwest Africa, Anatolians are used by shepherds to protect their flocks and herds from attacks by cheetahs.

The Anatolian shown protecting this herd of goats works 24/7 alongside the goats. The dogs are "trained" by placing them with their herd as very young puppies. They are naturally "imprinted" by the goats, most likely through olfactory influences, and the goats become their family. Generally the Anatolian can and will protect sheep, cattle and goats, but is used only with the livestock breed with which it was imprinted. Both males and females make excellent protectors, and both genders grow to be very large - usually over 100 lbs and up to 120 lbs. Since ancient times they have been bread to be trustworthy, attentive and protective, and will fight to the death if necessary. Often, however, even a predator who could take on one of these dogs, will sense the dog's fierceness and go elsewhere for its prey. Anatolian Shepherds are said to be capable of defending a herd or flock against coyote, bobcats, bear, mountain lions, domesticated dogs and unarmed humans. We can certainly confirm that we understood that protector dog's language loud and clear, and had absolutley no intension of messing with his or her family.

Be sure to stay turned for next week's story - Episode II of Montecito's Downton Abbey, in which we promise to fill you in on Casa Dorinda's history; it includes spectacularly wealthy residents, a staff of 40+, opulent parties, prominent guests, (including royal visitors) patriotic use during the war effort, "interfamily" marriage, intrigue, financial despair and more...

As always, we encourage you to go out and explore the neighborhoods, keep your eyes, ears and minds open to all that you encounter, and above all expect the unexpected.

Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 SBSURFERLIFE agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-19 11:19 AM

Even though the dog looks pretty menacing, he's still adorable. I wouldn't mind having a goat in my front yard to cute my grass either.


 COMMENT 365274 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-19 11:54 AM

thank you for all the info and the additional photos. i love the dog and the goats. i saw those goats and their dog on the fire road up to inspiration point a couple of moths back. they were going to town on the vegetation.


 COMMENT 365279 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-19 12:28 PM

Darwin wrote about such dogs in Argentina during his voyage around the world on the ship Beagle.


 COMMENT 365292P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-19 01:53 PM

I would love to have those goats eat a huge patch of poison oak near where I live... Alas, it's not on my property.


 COMMENT 365359P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-19 06:42 PM

I can tell you where to go to find old pictures of Casa Dorinda. I have volunteered theres since it opened and have also worked there. Go in the library in the main house. They might not let you see all the old stuff. I have met hundreds of people and had dinner and BBQs there. Maybe I can meet you there.


 COMMENT 365415 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-19 10:25 PM

59P - Hi, UH here. We would love to meet you regarding Casa Dorinda and talk about this wonderful property. The dedicated staff at Edhat will forward your e-mail and or phone number to us if you send it to them.We'd love to contact you to arrange a day, time and place to meet and talk about history. Thanks so much for your kind offer! - Stacey
PS - We're working udner a deadline, so the sooner, the better!


 FLICKA agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-20 07:39 AM

I've had milk goats (lived in Montecito), they are wonderful animals and real characters. Such a great idea to have goats clear the land. Thanks, UHs, for the history of the guard dog breed, and for the pictures. This article shows that while we think we've made progress w/chain saws, weed whackers, etc, , going back to the old ways can prove best.


 COMMENT 365490 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-20 09:46 AM

I have a good friend who purchased an Anatolian from a breeder in Santa Ynez thinking she was getting just a cute white puppy. Lest this article inspire anyone else to making the same mistake, I tell the cautionary tale. She would take him out running with her in the mornings, and as he got older he decided that the entire route was his territory. Then as he matured, he began to attack other dogs they encountered on the route. Why she thought it was appropriate to run a 120lb dog off leash, well, that's another issue. Eventually the poor confused fellow had to be "re-homed" to a ranch life, because he was hard-wired genetically to be far too "protective" for urban life.


 COMMENT 365533 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-20 11:42 AM

does someone feed the dog or is he on his own?


 COMMENT 365628 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-20 04:11 PM

Thank you for the wonderful article! We enjoy clearing Casa Dorinda Retirement Center and of course all of our other locations throughout Santa Barbara County. Yes, the dogs are fed daily. We are there each day to be sure that all is well and the clearance is progressing as planned.


 COMMENT 404969 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-05-03 05:30 PM

Like a lot!


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