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Domestic goat
Temporal range: 0.01–0 
pygmy goat on a tree stump
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Subfamily: Caprinae
Genus: Capra
C. hircus
Binomial name
Capra hircus

Capra aegagrus hircus Linnaeus, 1758
Capra depressa Linnaeus, 1758
Capra mambrica Linnaeus, 1758
Capra reversa Linnaeus, 1758

Herd of goat bleating

The goat or domestic goat (Capra hircus) is a

Caprini, meaning it is closely related to the sheep. There are over 300 distinct breeds of goat.[1] It is one of the oldest domesticated species of animal, according to archaeological evidence that its earliest domestication occurred in Iran at 10,000 calibrated calendar years ago.[2]

Goats have been used for

skins across much of the world.[3] Milk from goats is often turned into goat cheese

In 2011, there were more than 924 million goats living in the world, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.[4]


Goat-herding in Spain.
Goats in Ağrı Mountain, Turkey.

The Modern English word goat comes from Old English gāt "she-goat, goat in general", which in turn derives from Proto-Germanic *gaitaz (cf. Dutch/Frisian/Icelandic/Norwegian geit, German Geiß, and Gothic gaits), ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *ǵʰaidos meaning "young goat" (cf. Latin haedus "kid").[5] To refer to the male goat, Old English used bucca (cf. Dutch/Frisian bok and giving modern buck) until ousted by hegote, hegoote in the late 12th century. Nanny goat (females) originated in the 18th century, and billy goat (for males) originated in the 19th century.[citation needed]

Female goats are referred to as does or nannies,

intact males are called bucks or billies, and juvenile goats of both sexes are called kids. Castrated
males are called wethers. While the words hircine and caprine both refer to anything having a goat-like quality, hircine is used most often to emphasize the distinct smell of domestic goats.


Horn cores from the Neolithic village of Atlit Yam

Goats are among the earliest animals domesticated by humans.[6] The most recent genetic analysis[7] confirms the archaeological evidence that the wild bezoar ibex of the Zagros Mountains is the likely original ancestor of probably all domestic goats today.[6]

Skeleton (Capra hircus)

Western Asia at between 8,000 and 9,000 years ago.[6]

Studies of DNA evidence suggests 10,000 years ago as the domestication date.[7]

Historically, goat hide has been used for water and wine bottles in both traveling and transporting wine for sale. It has also been used to produce parchment.[citation needed]

Anatomy and health

Each recognized breed of goat has specific weight ranges, which vary from over 140 kg (300 lb) for bucks of larger breeds such as the Boer, to 20 to 27 kg (45 to 60 lb) for smaller goat does.[10] Within each breed, different strains or bloodlines may have different recognized sizes. At the bottom of the size range are miniature breeds such as the African Pygmy, which stand 41 to 58 cm (16 to 23 in) at the shoulder as adults.[11]


A white Irish goat with horns

Most goats naturally have two

proteins, and are used for defense, dominance, territoriality,[13] and thermoregulation.[14]

Digestion and lactation

Goats are

ruminants. They have a four-chambered stomach consisting of the rumen, the reticulum, the omasum, and the abomasum. As with other mammal ruminants, they are even-toed ungulates. The females have an udder consisting of two teats, in contrast to cattle, which have four teats.[15] An exception to this is the Boer goat, which sometimes may have up to eight teats.[16][17]


Eye with horizontal pupil

Goats have horizontal, slit-shaped pupils. Because goats' irises are usually pale, their contrasting pupils are much more noticeable than in animals such as cattle, deer, most horses, and many sheep, whose similarly horizontal pupils blend into a dark iris and sclera.[citation needed] Goats have no tear ducts.[18]


Both male and female goats may have beards, and many types of goat (most commonly dairy goats, dairy-cross

pygmy goats) may have wattles, one dangling from each side of the neck.[19]


Brown/tan goat with some white spotting

Goats expressing the tan pattern have coats pigmented completely with

pheomelanin (tan/brown pigment). The allele which codes for this pattern is located at the agouti locus of the goat genome. It is completely dominant to all other alleles at this locus. There are multiple modifier genes which control how much tan pigment is actually expressed, so a tan-patterned goat can have a coat ranging from pure white to deep red.[citation needed


Goats are

SLC11A1 gene is located on goat chromosome 2.[21]


Goat kid

Goats reach puberty between three and 15 months of age, depending on breed and nutritional status. Many breeders prefer to postpone breeding until the doe has reached 70% of the adult weight, but this separation is rarely possible in extensively managed, open-range herds.[22]

In temperate climates and among the Swiss breeds, the

(heat) every 21 days for two to 48 hours. A doe in heat typically flags (vigorously wags) her tail often, stays near the buck if one is present, becomes more vocal, and may also show a decrease in appetite and milk production for the duration of the heat.

A two-month-old goat kid in a field of capeweed

Bucks (intact males) of Swiss and northern breeds come into

flehmen lip curling and will urinate on his forelegs and face.[23] Sebaceous scent glands at the base of the horns add to the male goat's odor, which is important to make him attractive to the female. Some does will not mate with a buck which has been descented.[13]

In addition to natural, traditional mating,


A female goat and two kids

herbivores, such as deer, to reduce the lure of the birth scent for predators.[24][25]

Freshening (coming into milk production) usually occurs at kidding, although milk production is also relatively common in unbred doelings of dairy breeds.[26] Milk production varies with the breed, age, quality, and diet of the doe; dairy goats generally produce between 680 and 1,810 kg (1,500 and 4,000 lb) of milk per 305-day lactation. On average, a good quality dairy doe will give at least 3 kg (6 lb) of milk per day while she is in milk. A first-time milker may produce less, or as much as 7 kg (16 lb), or more of milk in exceptional cases. After the lactation, the doe will "dry off", typically after she has been bred. Occasionally, goats that have not been bred and are continuously milked will continue lactation beyond the typical 305 days.[27] Meat, fiber, and pet breeds are not usually milked and simply produce enough for the kids until weaning.

Male lactation is also known to occur in goats.[28]


Goats are reputed to be willing to eat almost anything, including tin cans and

browsing animals, not grazers like cattle and sheep, and (coupled with their highly curious nature) will chew on and taste just about anything remotely resembling plant matter to decide whether it is good to eat, including cardboard, clothing and paper (such as labels from tin cans).[29]

Aside from sampling many things, goats are quite particular in what they actually consume, preferring to browse on the tips of woody shrubs and trees, as well as the occasional broad-leaved plant. However, it can fairly be said that their plant diet is extremely varied, and includes some species which are otherwise toxic.[30] They will seldom consume soiled food or contaminated water unless facing starvation. This is one reason goat-rearing is most often free-ranging, since stall-fed goat-rearing involves extensive upkeep and is seldom commercially viable.[citation needed]

A domestic goat feeding in a field of capeweed, a weed which is toxic to most stock animals

Goats prefer to browse on

Mold in a goat's feed can make it sick and possibly kill it due to the presence of mycotoxins. Goats can contract Listeriosis, which is a life-threatening disease often caused by the ingestion of moldy hay. In various places in China, goats are used in the production of tea. Goats are released onto the tea terraces where they avoid consuming the green tea leaves (which contain bitter tasting substances), but instead eat the weeds. The goats' droppings fertilise the tea plants.[31]

The digestive physiology of a very young kid (like the young of other ruminants) is essentially the same as that of a monogastric animal. Milk digestion begins in the abomasum, the milk having bypassed the rumen via closure of the reticuloesophageal groove during suckling. At birth, the rumen is undeveloped, but as the kid begins to consume solid feed, the rumen soon increases in size and in its capacity to absorb nutrients.[32]

The adult size of a particular goat is a product of its breed (genetic potential) and its diet while growing (nutritional potential). As with all livestock, increased protein diets (10 to 14%) and sufficient calories during the prepuberty period yield higher growth rates and larger eventual size than lower protein rates and limited calories.[33] Large-framed goats, with a greater skeletal size, reach mature weight at a later age (36 to 42 months) than small-framed goats (18 to 24 months) if both are fed to their full potential. Large-framed goats need more calories than small-framed goats for maintenance of daily functions.[34]


An example of goats browsing together in Japan.

Goats are naturally curious. They are also agile and well known for their ability to climb and balance in precarious places. This makes them the only ruminant to regularly climb trees. Due to their agility and inquisitiveness, they are notorious for escaping their pens by testing fences and enclosures, either intentionally or simply because they are used to climbing. If any of the fencing can be overcome, goats will almost inevitably escape. Goats have been found to be as intelligent as dogs by some studies.[35]

Goats establish a dominance hierarchy in flocks, sometimes through head butting.

When handled as a group, goats tend to display less herding behavior than sheep. When grazing undisturbed, they tend to spread across the field or range, rather than feed side by side as do sheep. When nursing young, goats will leave their kids separated ("lying out") rather than clumped, as do sheep. They will generally turn and face an intruder and bucks are more likely to charge or butt at humans than are rams.[36]

Goats blocking a road in Ladakh

A study by Queen Mary University reports that goats try to communicate with people in the same manner as domesticated animals such as dogs and horses. Goats were first domesticated as livestock more than 10,000 years ago. Research conducted to test communication skills found that the goats will look to a human for assistance when faced with a challenge that had previously been mastered, but was then modified. Specifically, when presented with a box, the goat was able to remove the lid and retrieve a treat inside, but when the box was turned so the lid could not be removed, the goat would turn and gaze at the person and move toward them, before looking back toward the box. This is the same type of complex communication observed by animals bred as domestic pets, such as dogs. Researchers believe that better understanding of human-goat interaction could offer overall improvement in the animals' welfare.[37][38] The field of anthrozoology has established that domesticated animals have the capacity for complex communication with humans when in 2015 a Japanese scientist determined that levels of oxytocin did increase in human subjects when dogs were exposed to a dose of the "love hormone", proving that a human-animal bond does exist. This is the same affinity that was proven with the London study above; goats are intelligent, capable of complex communication, and able to form bonds.[39]


While goats are generally considered hardy animals and in many situations receive little medical care, they are subject to a number of diseases. Among the conditions affecting goats are respiratory diseases including pneumonia, foot rot, internal parasites, pregnancy toxicosis, and feed toxicity. Feed toxicity can vary based on breed and location. Certain foreign fruits and vegetables can be toxic to different breeds of goats.[citation needed]

Goats can become infected with various viral and bacterial diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease, caprine arthritis encephalitis, caseous lymphadenitis, pinkeye, mastitis, and pseudorabies. They can transmit a number of zoonotic diseases to people, such as tuberculosis, brucellosis, Q fever, and rabies.[40]

Life expectancy

Life expectancy for goats is between 15 and 18 years.[41] An instance of a goat reaching the age of 24 has been reported.[42]

Several factors can reduce this average expectancy; problems during kidding can lower a doe's expected life span to 10 or 11, and stresses of going into rut can lower a buck's expected life span to eight to 10 years.[42]


husbandry is common through the Norte Chico region in Chile. Intensive goat husbandry in drylands may produce severe erosion and desertification. Image from upper Limarí River

A goat is useful to humans when it is living and when it is dead, first as a renewable provider of milk, manure, and fiber, and then as meat and hide.[43] Some charities provide goats to impoverished people in poor countries, because goats are easier and cheaper to manage than cattle, and have multiple uses. In addition, goats are used for driving and packing purposes.

The intestine of goats is used to make "catgut", which is still in use as a material for internal human surgical sutures and strings for musical instruments. The horn of the goat, which signifies plenty and wellbeing (the cornucopia), is also used to make spoons.[44]

Worldwide population statistics

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the top producers of goat milk in 2008 were India (4 million metric tons), Bangladesh (2.16 million metric tons), and the Sudan (1.47 million metric tons).[45] India slaughters 41% of 124.4 million goats each year. The 0.6 million metric tonnes of goat meat make up 8% of India's annual meat production.[46] Approximately 440 million goats are slaughtered each year for meat worldwide.[47]


Species-appropriate goat husbandry with stable and hay rack

Husbandry, or animal care and use, varies by region and culture. The particular housing used for goats depends not only on the intended use of the goat, but also on the region of the world where they are raised. Historically, domestic goats were generally kept in herds that wandered on hills or other grazing areas, often tended by

adolescents, similar to the more widely known shepherd. These methods of herding
are still used today.

In some parts of the world, especially Europe and North America, distinct breeds of goats are kept for dairy (milk) and for meat production. Excess male kids of dairy breeds are typically slaughtered for meat. Both does and bucks of meat breeds may be slaughtered for meat, as well as older animals of any breed. The meat of older bucks (more than one year old) is generally considered not desirable for meat for human consumption. Castration at a young age prevents the development of typical buck odor.

smallholder farmers in many countries, such as this woman from Burkina Faso

Dairy goats are generally pastured in summer and may be stabled during the winter. As dairy does are milked daily, they are generally kept close to the milking shed. Their grazing is typically supplemented with hay and concentrates. Stabled goats may be kept in stalls similar to horses, or in larger group pens. In the US system, does are generally rebred annually. In some European commercial dairy systems, the does are bred only twice, and are milked continuously for several years after the second kidding.

Meat goats are more frequently pastured year-round, and may be kept many miles from barns. Angora and other fiber breeds are also kept on pasture or range. Range-kept and pastured goats may be supplemented with hay or concentrates, most frequently during the winter or dry seasons.

In the Indian subcontinent and much of Asia, goats are kept largely for milk production, both in commercial and household settings. The goats in this area may be kept closely housed or may be allowed to range for fodder. The Salem Black goat is herded to pasture in fields and along roads during the day, but is kept penned at night for safe-keeping.[48]

In Africa and the Mideast, goats are typically run in flocks with sheep. This maximizes the production per acre, as goats and sheep prefer different food plants. Multiple types of goat-raising are found in Ethiopia, where four main types have been identified: pastured in annual crop systems, in perennial crop systems, with cattle, and in arid areas, under pastoral (nomadic) herding systems. In all four systems, however, goats were typically kept in extensive systems, with few purchased inputs.[49] Household goats are traditionally kept in Nigeria. While many goats are allowed to wander the homestead or village, others are kept penned and fed in what is called a 'cut-and-carry' system. This type of husbandry is also used in parts of Latin America. Cut-and-carry, which refers to the practice of cutting down grasses, corn or cane for feed rather than allowing the animal access to the field, is particularly suited for types of feed, such as corn or cane, that are easily destroyed by trampling.[50]

Pet goats may be found in many parts of the world when a family keeps one or more animals for emotional reasons rather than as production animals. It is becoming more common for goats to be kept exclusively as pets in North America and Europe.


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