Staphylococcus aureus is the major cause of very severe mastitis of dairy goats. The initial objective of our study was to fine-tune an experimental model of infection of the goat mammary gland with two strains of S. aureus and two lines of goats (low and high somatic cell score lines). Following the challenge, the 10 infected goats divided in two clear-cut severity groups, independently of the S. aureus strain and the goat line. Five goats developed very severe mastitis (of which four were gangrenous) characterized by uncontrolled infection (UI group), whereas the other five kept the infection under control (CI group). The outcome of the infection was determined by 18 h post-infection (hpi), as heralded by the bacterial milk concentration at 18 hpi: more than 107/mL in the UI group, about 106/mL in the CI group. Leukocyte recruitment and composition did not differ between the groups, but the phagocytic killing at 18 hpi efficiency did. Contributing factors involved milk concentrations of α-toxin and LukMF' leukotoxin, but not early expression of the genes encoding the pentraxin PTX3, the cytokines IL-1α and IL-1β, and the chemokines IL-8 and CCL5. Concentrations of TNF-α, IFN-γ, IL-17A, and IL-22 rose sharply in the milk of UI goats when infection was out of control. The results indicate that defenses mobilized by the mammary gland at an early stage of infection were essential to prevent staphylococci from reaching critical concentrations. Staphylococcal exotoxin production appeared to be a consequent event inducing the evolution to gangrenous mastitis.