Did you know the scientific name for the domestic goat is Capra aegagrus hircus? And appropriately enough, the Latin ‘Capra’ is the root of the word ‘capricious’, which means quirky, impulsive, fanciful and apt to change quickly—which also perfectly describes a goat! Domestic goats hark back to the wild goat of southwest Asia and Europe: they were first domesticated around ten thousand years ago.
While having many similarities to sheep, there are some stark differences, the major tell-tale one being that goats have short erect tails. Although they are very social animals, they are not quite as flock-orientated as sheep—but they do hate being on their own, so never keep a lone goat. Both goats and sheep have rectangular eyes, which enables them to see well in the dark. Entire male goats (bucks) have quite a distinct pungent odour and delight in urinating on their beards; male sheep (rams) do not observe this odiferous pastime. Unlike sheep, who are content to eat grass (grazers), goats are known as browsers and contrary to popular belief they do not eat tin cans. Perhaps this reputation was earned by their desire to nibble on just about everything, coupled with their natural curiosity and confidence. Goats are in fact quite fussy eaters and do not like to eat food that has been soiled or contaminated. Sheep are content to graze grasses close to the earth, while goats require a more varied diet consisting of grasses, leaves, twigs and shrubs. They like to eat the tender and succulent tops of plants, which does not make them very popular with those who cherish their gardens. So be warned: if you love your garden and you love goats, you had better love making a good fence!!
As ruminants, animals whose stomach is divided into four chambers, goats regurgitate their food. This means they will eat, chew their cud (the green stuff that comes up regurgitating their food) and repeat that process all day long. Oh and their burps smell wonderful, NOT! And check out their teeth, they only have bottom front teeth; instead of top teeth they have a hard dental pad. But don’t be fooled, their back molars are razor sharp, this helps them break up those tree limbs they have just managed to reach.
While it is legal to tether both goats and sheep, it is also very cruel and most unkind. As prey animals and creatures who need a more varied diet than just grass, tethering is not for them. Animals can easily become tangled and it can be difficult to provide adequate shelter and water. Please do not tether animals. Another misconception about goats is that they are tough animals—they are not. They hate to be wet and tolerate weather extremes much less than sheep, and so they do need good draft-free shelter. And they can get sick very quickly. One must not delay intervention when a goat is off-colour; the difference between a couple of hours can be the difference between life and death. It really is that serious.
Now, let’s get down to it: goats really are cool and they are incredibly curious guys and gals who have been described as the clowns of the barnyard. The Saanen bred have perfected this trait the best! They are very agile and have a constant desire to explore their world, so you had better have pretty good fences if you are considering sharing yours with goats. As further proof of their clown-like antics, goats love to climb and rely heavily on their keen sense of balance. Have you ever seen pictures of goats on steep mountain walls or even standing high up in trees enjoying the view? They live for around 12 to 18 years, although some live much longer. Baby goats (or ‘kids’ as they are known) follow their mothers almost immediately after they are born. Given the chance, they will hang with their mothers until they are weaned at around six months of age. Goats communicate with each other by bleating, each goat having their signature sound, and mother and kid can readily recognise each other’s call.
Entire male goats are known as ‘bucks’, neutered or castrated ones are called ‘wethers’, females are referred to as ‘nannies’ or ‘does’ and a group of goats is called ‘flock’, ‘herd’, ‘tribe’ or ‘trip’.
And finally, did you know that goats helped in the discovery of coffee? That’s right, in Ethiopia, goats were observed behaving most erratically, with an extra dose of goatee exuberance, after eating a particular bush. The goat herder, curious, tried the bush and experienced the same euphoric high.
Up for goats? Edgar’s Mission is always on the lookout for suitable loving homes for rescued goats. Please contact us today if you are interested in surrendering you heart to a couple (or more) goats.