This chamois-colored goat is one of the most adaptable goat breeds that orginated in Switzerland. There were three breeding centers. The horned Bundner type in the Canton of Graubunden. The polled Brienzer-Oberhasli in the Canton of Berne, Canton of Greyerzer and from different polled strains in the area around Brienz the Oberhasli (also known as the Oberhasli Brienzer) was developed. It was fawn to chestnut brown or reddish brown with black markings on the head, back and legs. The Bundner Type is more brown to dark brown instead of red.
In Switzerland, until just a few years ago the Swedish Brienzer-Oberhasli was bred to be completely polled. More and more the Bundner Type was pushed out by bringing in and breeding to the Brienzer Type . Semen was brought back from France for artificial insemination. In France a broad gene pool of approximately half a million chamios-colored alpine goats was available.
Oberhasli goats were first imported to the United States in the early 1906 and 1920 and lost when lumped into the Alpine registry. It was not until 1936 that purebred herds were established and maintained. The breed was initially called the Swiss Alpine. Its registrations were incorrectly included in the Alpine studbook,and its genetics contributed to the Alpine breed.
Today's Oberhaslis can be traced back to four does and one buck imported in 1936 by Dr. H.O. Pence of Kansas City, Missouri. Three of the four does had been bred to different bucks while still in Switzerland. Only the purebred descendants were registered as Swiss Alpines, while the cross breeds were registered under the name "American Alpine". Because of this, much of the Oberhasli gene pool was lost. In 1941, Dr. Pence sold his 'Swiss Alpines' in two divided groups. One of the groups was eventually lost in the 1950's while the other ended up in California, owned by Esther Oman. For the next thirty years she was almost the only breeder preserving the Swiss Alpine in the United States. In 1977, the breed name Oberhasli was adopted, and registration records were separated from the Alpines.
This evolution of the breed in the United States has been one reason that its population in the United States has remained fairly small and its natural polled trait has almost been lost. Many years of hard work have gone into the improvement of this great and rare breed. In the late nineteen nineties there was yet a fourth importation as Colleen Monahan (Redtail RIdge) imported semen from two Swiss bucks, this brought some "fresh" Swiss Genetics into the original 5 animals that Dr Pence brought over in the thirty's.
The breed’s color pattern is called chamoisee. Goats are brown, with hues between light tan and deep reddish brown, and have black points. Two black stripes from the eyes to the black muzzle give a distinctive facial appearance. The forehead is nearly all black, and black stripes run from the base of each ear to a point just behind the poll and continue along the neck and back to the tail as a dorsal stripe. The Oberhasli has a black belly and light gray to black udder. The legs are black below the knees and hocks and the ears are black on the inside. The Oberhasli face is straight with no evidence of a Roman nose. The breed is well known internationally, and it is still numerous in Switzerland.
Oberhasli heads vary with the most distinctive type being shorter in length than the other Swiss breeds. This head type has a deep jaw and broad muzzle with wide forehead and prominent eyes. The short erect ears are set low and pointed forward. The face is dished or straight. The Oberhasli is alert in appearance with a friendly, gentle disposition. Mature goats are medium in size. Bucks range in height from 30–34", and does 28–32", with weights of 100–150 pounds. While the does are a dependable source of milk, bucks and wethers are also useful as pack animals because of their strength and calm demeanor. Some goat packers prefer Oberhaslis because they are said to be less fearful of water and other trail obstacles than are other breeds.