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Herder Melissa Jeuken with the goats
Herder Melissa Jeuken with the goats
Image: Orla Murray/Coalesce Ltd

Goat this: Old Irish Goats reintroduced to Howth after nearly a century to help prevent fires

25 native goats have been brought to Howth Head today as part of a three-year project.
Sep 8th 2021, 1:31 PM 24,376 29

OLD IRISH GOATS have been returned to Howth Head in a bid to reduce the risk of fires on the hill.

25 goats of the native Irish breed were brought to Howth Head today as part of a three-year project to reintroduce them to the area. 

Goats and other livestock used to graze widely on Howth Head in previous centuries, but their presence declined from the 1940s.

It’s hoped that the goats will help to manage the growth of gorse to reduce the risk of fire, as well as increasing biodiversity.

Biodiversity Officer at Fingal County Council Hans Visser said there is a “clear link between the disappearance of livestock and the decline of the heathland on Howth”.

“By reinstating grazing with goats, we intend to restore the heathland and reduce the wildfire risk on Howth,” Visser said.

The 25 goats originate from a feral herd living on the hill behind Mulranny village in Co Mayo.

Some Old Irish Goats were found among the herd in 2011 and a breeding programme was established a few years later in 2015 to prevent the breed becoming extinct.

The goats on Howth Head will be managed by a herder and sheepdogs.

The project, which is led by Fingal County Council and the Old Irish Goat Society, “will also trial, for the first time in Ireland, the Norwegian ‘no-fence’ system which employs GPS tracking to define fenceless grazing areas”

Walkers are asked to keep their dogs on a lead and not to feed the goats.

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Mayor of Fingal Councillor Séana Ó Rodaigh said the return of the goats is a “natural, sustainable solution to reducing wildfire risk that also benefits the animals themselves who belong in this beautiful habitat”.

During the summer, gorse fires burned on Howth for over a month during the string of high temperatures, with around 65 acres burned between June and July.

Dublin Fire Brigade Station Officer Darren O’Connor told The Journal that years of dried-out vegetation allowed the fires to spread more easily than they otherwise would have.

“It burns with very little oxygen, it results in a lot of smoke and it’s very, very hot,” O’Connor said.

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