Animals Nature

Domestic Goat

baby goat

Domestic goats are one of the nine members of the Capra Genus.  The species originated from taming wild goats (Capra aegagrus) indigenous to Eastern Europe and Asia.  They are one of the first animals domesticated by the human species.  Archeological evidence traces the earliest occurrence to Iran over ten thousand years ago.  The word goat originates from the Old English word gāt, that stems from the Proto-Germanic word gaitaz.

Most goats have two horns that vary in size and shape.  Some are polycerate and have more.  The highest number of horns documented was eight.  It is possible to selectively breed cattle with the trait.  Transitioning it through goats is unreliable and often results in sterile offspring.  The horns are composed of living bone and surrounded by keratin and assorted proteins.  They are used to display dominance and to defend territory.

Large goats weigh up to three hundred pounds.  The smaller breeds frolic between forty to sixty.  The miniature variations weigh less.  All have four-chambered stomachs comprised of the abomasum, omasum, reticulum and rumen. The animals have horizontal pupils.  The pale pupils are prominent slits blended against dark irises.  They have no tear ducts.  Male and females have beards and some have wattles attached to each side of their neck.

white goat
A white goat with a modest beard – Photo Credit: Drew Avery


Goats are capable of eating anything including cardboard and tin.  They are browsers and not grazers.  The animal will chew and taste their food before deciding if it is edible or fitting for their palate.  The ends of trees and shrubs are their favorite.  Sometimes goats eat leaves.  Vines and weeds are preferred over grasses.  Accidental consumption of nightshade may kill a goat.  Fermented grass hay and corn stalks are digestible if eaten right after opening.  Chinese goats are unleashed among the tea terraces to eliminate the delicious invasive weeds while they avoid the bitter green tea leaves.

Goats are agile and nimble and curious.  They are the only ruminant that can climb trees.  They are famous for escaping their pens and enclosures by testing the surrounding fences for available escape routes.  No weakness will go unnoticed.  Some are as intelligent as dogs and will try to communicate with people.  Grouped goats tend to be independent and roam alone.  Sheep will feed side by side.  Intruders are met and challenged.  The animals are more aggressive than rams.

Puberty is reached after three to fifteen months.  Breeders prefer to wait until goats amass seventy percent of their adult weight before selecting mates.  The separation is difficult to manage within open range herds.  The Switzerland breeding season begins in winter and ends before spring.  Animals located in the middle of the globe are bred year-round.  Available forage supply is the most import factor.

A goat with four horns – Photo Credit: m01229

Goat Mating

Bucks come into rut to match the does’ heat cycles.  The males lose their appetite as they chase the ladies.  They curl their lips and are self-anointing to show interest.  Scent glands near their horns flare and increase their attractiveness to the females.  Certain does will ignore scentless males.  Gestation lasts five months.  Twins are the typical result.  Triplets are conceivable.  Quadruplet, quintuplet and sextuplet births are rare. 

The birthing process is known as kidding.  The mother becomes anxious as her physiology changes.  She eats the placenta after the kids arrive.  The act helps stop the bleeding and provides her with a plethora of nutrients.  Its removal helps masks the birth from predators.  Milk production begins after kidding.  Male lactation is possible.  The output varies between diet, age and breed.  Dairy goats can produce up to four thousand pounds of milk every three hundred days.  The average is six pounds every twenty-four hours.  India is the top producer and generates over four million metric tons a year.  Bangladesh is a distant second with an output that is fifty percent less.  

Goats are tough animals.  They have a life expectancy between fifteen to eighteen years.  The oldest on record was twenty-four.  Stress and issues during kidding can shorten a does life to ten or eleven years.  Problems from going into rut can reduce a male’s existence to eight years.  The various breeds are classified by use into distinct categories that can overlap.  The main groups are meat, milk and wool.  Sub sets included companion and pack animals.

baby goat
Baby goat – Photo Credit: Björn S…

Goats will try to become feral when presented the opportunity.  The cat is the only other known animal with this characteristic.  Human comforts are too alluring to the rest of the animal kingdom.  Unlimited water supply and limited predators are the two requirements for a natural feral community to sustain itself.  When unchecked feral goat grazing may cause serious ecological side effects.  Any measure of balance to the numbers allows them to thrive within the local food webs.  There are prominent examples of goatopias in Great Brittan, New Zealand, Australia and the Galapagos.  Over three hundred million roam the terrain of Australia today. 

Domestic Goat Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Subfamily: Caprinae
Genus: Capra
Species: C. hircus
goat herd
A herd of goats – Photo Credit: Forest and Kim Starr

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