Temporal range: Neolithic–Recent
pygmy goat on a tree stump
Capra aegagrus hircus Linnaeus, 1758
The goat or domestic goat (Capra hircus) is a
Female goats are referred to as does or nannies,
In 2011, there were more than 924 million goats living in the world, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
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"). 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.
Goats are among the earliest animals domesticated by humans. The most recent genetic analysis confirms the archaeological evidence that the wild bezoar ibex of the Zagros Mountains is the likely original ancestor of probably all domestic goats today.
Studies of DNA evidence suggests 10,000 years ago as the domestication date.
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.
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. 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.
Most goats naturally have two
Digestion and lactation
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.
Goats have no tear ducts.
Both male and female goats may have beards, and many types of goat (most commonly dairy goats, dairy-cross
Goats expressing the tan pattern have coats pigmented completely with
This section needs additional citations for verification. (June 2021))
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. However, this separation is rarely possible in extensively managed, open-range herds.
In temperate climates and among the Swiss breeds, the
Bucks (intact males) of Swiss and northern breeds come into
In addition to natural, traditional mating,
Freshening usually (coming into milk production) occurs at kidding, although milk production is also relatively common in unbred doelings of dairy breeds.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. 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.
Goats are reputed to be willing to eat almost anything, including tin cans and
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. 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.
Goats prefer to browse on
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
Life expectancy for goats is between 15 and 18 years. An instance of a goat reaching the age of 24 has been reported.
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.
This section needs additional citations for verification. (June 2021))
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. 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.
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). 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. Approximately 440 million goats are slaughtered each year for meat worldwide.
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
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.