While it is commonly believed that goats will eat anything even remotely edible, that is not the case. This belief in their broad appetite probably occurred due to their tendency to taste various items to see if they are edible. The children’s story “Three Billy Goats Gruff” tells the story of three brother goats trying to cross a bridge to graze in a field. Even that is not accurate as goats prefer other sources of food to grass. Perhaps due to their long history with humans, goats are often found in mythology and the most famous example is the mischievous Pan, the partial goat Greek god of nature.
Scientific & Common Names
Kingdom – Animalia
Phylum – Chordata
Class – Mammalia
Order – Artiodactyla
Family – Bovidae
Subfamily – Caprinae
Genus – Capra
Species & Subspecies - C. aegagrus hircus
Common Names – Goat, Domestic Goat; each breed will have a specific name
Most goats have horns, but there are a very few naturally polled (hornless) breeds. Their pupils, which are horizontal like those in cows and sheep, are more noticeable in goats due to the higher contrast found in goat eyes. These pupils are often found in grazing or browsing prey species and may help them notice predators at more of a distance. Their size ranges dramatically depending on the breed. Boer goats are the largest and males can reach weights of well over three hundred pounds while pygmy goats have a top weight of about eighty pounds.
There are nearly one billion goats in the world, indicating the success with which they breed. Depending on the species, they reach maturity at only a few months to over a year. Most females have two udders, but some breeds can have several more. The climate will affect the breeding season, with colder climates have limited breeding seasons and warmer climates having breeding year-long. The gestation lasts five months and then the mother will give birth to 1-6 kids, although 1-2 is more common.
Goats are a browsing species and they prefer to feed on bushes, small trees, and grains. Although they have been domesticated for thousands of years, goats will become feral extremely quickly and do very well as wild populations. They are intelligent and curious which, when combined with their dexterity and fearlessness, allows them to live in areas that other flightless animals would not even attempt. It is not uncommon to see goats in trees or on seemingly unclimbable cliffs
Goats and sheep were some of the earliest livestock animals to be domesticated, beginning in 6000 BC. The primary wild ancestor to modern livestock goats was the Bezoar goat found in the mountains of the Middle East and Asia Minor.
While goats in general are not in any danger of extinction, there are a few populations that are at risk. The wild Bezoar goat (Capra aegagrus) is listed as vulnerable and the Markhor (Capra falconeri) is listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).
International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN)
The Goat Handbook by Ulrich Jaudas, Seyedmehdi Mobini DVM
Backyard Farming: Raising Goats: For Dairy and Meat by Kim Pezza
The Comparative Anatomy of the Domesticated Animals by Auguste Chauveau
Domesticated Animals: Their Relation to Man and to his Advancement in Civilization by Nathaniel Southgate Shaler
Domesticated animals and plants; a brief treatise upon the origin and development of domesticated races, with special reference to the methods of improvement by Eugene Davenport
Animal Life in Nature, Myths, and Dreams by Elizabeth Caspari , Ken Robbins