- Plural of goat
The domestic goat (Capra aegagrus hircus) is a subspecies of goat domesticated from the wild goat of southwest Asia and Eastern Europe. The goat is a member of the Bovidae family and is closely related to the sheep, both being in the goat antelope subfamily Caprinae.
Domestic goats are one of the oldest domesticated species. For thousands of years, goats have been used for their milk, meat, hair, and skins over much of the world. In the last century they have also gained some popularity as pets.
Female goats are referred to as does or nannies, intact males as bucks or billies; their offspring are kids. Castrated males are wethers. Goat meat from younger animals is called kid, and from older animals is sometimes called chevon, or in some areas mutton.
EtymologyThe Modern English word "goat" comes from the Old English gat which meant "she-goat", and this in turn derived from Proto-Germanic *gaitaz (compare Old Norse and Dutch geit'(meaning' "goat"), German Geiß' ("she-goat") and Gothic gaits, ("goat")) ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *ghaidos meaning "young goat" but also "play" (compare Latin haedus meaning "kid"). The word for "male goat" in Old English was bucca (which survives as "buck", meaning certain male herbivores) until a shift to "he-goat" (and also "she-goat") occurred in the late 12th century. "Nanny goat" originated in the 18th century and "billy goat" in the 19th.
HistoryGoats seem to have been first domesticated roughly 10,000 years ago in the Zagros Mountains of Iran. Ancient cultures and tribes began to keep them for easy access to milk, hair, meat, and skins. Domestic goats were generally kept in herds that wandered on hills or other grazing areas, often tended by goatherds who were frequently children or adolescents, similar to the more widely known shepherd. These methods of herding are still used today.
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, which was the most common material used for writing in Europe until the invention of the printing press.
AnatomyMost goats naturally have 2 horns, of various shapes and sizes depending on the breed. While horns are a predominantly male feature, some breeds of goats have horned females. Polled (hornless goats) are not uncommon and there have been incidents of polycerate (multiple horns, up to 8) goats, although this is a genetic rarity thought to be inherited. Their horns are made of living bone surrounded by keratin and other proteins and are used for defense, dominance, and territoriality.
Goats are ruminants. They have a four-chambered stomach consisting of the rumen, the reticulum, the omasum, and the abomasum.
Goats have horizontal slit-shaped pupils, an adaptation which increases peripheral depth perception.. Because goats' irises are usually pale, the pupils are much more visible than in animals with horizontal pupils but very dark irises, such as sheep, cattle and most horses.
Both male and female goats have beards, and many types of goats may have wattles, one dangling from each side of the neck.
Some breeds of sheep and goats appear superficially similar, but goat tails are short and point up, whereas sheep tails hang down and are usually longer (though some are short, and some long ones are docked).
ReproductionIn some climates, goats are able to breed at any time of the year. In temperate climates and among the Swiss breeds, the breeding season commences as the day length shortens, and ends in early spring. Does of any breed come into heat every 21 days for 2 to 48 hours. A doe in heat typically flags 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. Bucks (intact males) of Swiss and northern breeds come into rut in the fall as with the doe's heat cycles. Rut is characterized by a decrease in appetite and obsessive interest in the does.
In addition to natural mating, artificial insemination has gained popularity among goat breeders, as it allows easy access to a wide variety of bloodlines.
Gestation length is approximately 150 days. Twins are the usual result, with single and triplet births also common. Less frequent are litters of quadruplet, quintuplet, and even sextuplet kids. Birthing, known as kidding, generally occurs uneventfully. Right before kidding the doe will have a sunken area around the tail and hip. Also she will have heavy breathing, a worried look, become restless and show great display of affection for her keeper. The mother often eats the placenta, which gives her much needed nutrients, helps stanch her bleeding, and is believed by some to reduce the lure of the birth scent for predators.
Freshening (coming into milk production) occurs at kidding. Milk production varies with the breed, age, quality, and diet of the doe; dairy goats generally produce between 660 to 1,800 L (1,500 and 4,000 lb) of milk per 305 day lactation. On average, a good quality dairy doe will give at least 6 lb (2.7 l) of milk per day while she is in milk, although a first time milker may produce less, or as much as 16 lb (7.3 l) or more of milk in exceptional cases. Meat, fiber, and pet breeds are not usually milked and simply produce enough for the kids until weaning.
Goats are reputed to be willing to eat almost anything. The digestive systems of a goat allow nearly any organic substance to be broken down and used as nutrients.
Contrary to this reputation, they are quite fastidious in their habits, 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 goats will eat almost anything in the botanical world. Their plant diet is extremely varied and includes some species which are otherwise toxic or detrimental to cattle and sheep. This makes them valuable for controlling noxious weeds and clearing brush and undergrowth. They will seldom consume soiled food or contaminated water unless facing starvation. This is one of the reasons why goat rearing is most often free ranging since stall-fed goat rearing involves extensive upkeep and is seldom commercially viable.
Goats do not usually consume garbage or clothing, although they will occasionally eat items made primarily of plant material, which can include wood. They have an intensely inquisitive and intelligent nature: they will explore anything new or unfamiliar in their surroundings. They do so primarily with their prehensile upper lip and tongue. This is why they investigate items such as buttons, camera cases or clothing (and many other things besides) by nibbling at them, occasionally even eating them.
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 reticular/esophageal 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.
Goats will consume, on average, 4.5 units of dry matter per 100 units of body-weight per day.
Goat usesA goat is useful to humans both alive and dead, first as a renewable provider of milk and fibre, 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.
For instance, the intestine is used to make "catgut", which is still in use as a material for internal human sutures. The horn of the goat, which signifies wellbeing (Cornucopia) is also used to make spoons etc.
The taste of goat meat is similar to that of lamb meat; in fact, in some parts of Asia, particularly India, the word "mutton" is used to describe both goat and lamb meat. However, some feel that it has a similar taste to veal or venison, depending on the age and condition of the goat. It can be prepared in a variety of ways including stewed, curried, baked, grilled, barbecued, minced, canned, or made into sausage. Goat jerky is also another popular variety. In India, the rice-preparation of mutton biryani uses goat meat as its primary ingredients to produce a rich taste. "Curry goat" is a traditional West Indian dish.
Nutritionally, goat meat is healthier than mutton as it is lower in fat and cholesterol, and comparable to chicken. It also has more minerals than chicken, and is lower in total and saturated fats than other meats. One reason for the leanness is that goats do not accumulate fat deposits or "marbling" in their muscles; chevon (goat meat) must ideally be cooked longer and at lower temperatures than other red meats. It is popular in the Middle East, South Asia, Africa, northeastern Brazil, the West Indies, and Belize. Chevon, as yet, is not popular in most western nations, though it is among the fastest growing sectors of the livestock industry in the US.
Other parts of the goat including organs are also equally edible. Special delicacies include the brain (where legal) and liver. The head and legs of the goat may be smoked and used to prepare unique spicy dishes and soup.
One of the most popular goats grown for meat is the South African Boer, introduced into the United States in the early 1990s. The New Zealand Kiko is also considered a meat breed, as is the Myotonic or "fainting goat", a breed originating in Tennessee.
Milk, butter and cheeseSome goats are bred for milk, which can be drunk fresh, although pasteurization is recommended to reduce naturally occurring bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli. If the strong-smelling buck is not separated from the does, his scent will affect the milk. Goat milk is commonly processed into cheese, goat butter, ice cream, cajeta and other products.
Goat milk can successfully replace cow milk in diets of those who are allergic to cow milk. However, like cow milk, goat milk has lactose (sugar) and may cause gastrointestinal problems for individuals with lactose intolerance. It is also said that "formula derived from goats' milk is unsuitable for babies who are lactose intolerant as it contains similar levels of lactose to cow's-milk-based infant formulae."
Goat butter is white (compared to yellow butter from cow's milk) because the goats produce milk with the yellow beta-carotene converted to a colorless form of vitamin A.
Goat cheese is known as chèvre in France, after the French word for "goat". Some varieties include Rocamadour and Montrachet. Feta is a well-known Greek variety that may be made with a blend of goat and sheep milk.
FiberSome goats are bred for the fiber from their coats. Most goats have softer insulating hairs nearer the skin, and longer guard hairs on the surface. The desirable fiber for the textile industry is the former, and it goes by several names (mohair, fleece, goat wool, cashmere, etc., explained below). The coarse guard hairs are worthless as they cannot be spun or dyed. The proportion and texture varies between breeds, and has been a target of selective breeding for millennia.
The Cashmere goat produces a fiber, cashmere wool, which is one of the best in the world. It is very fine and soft. Most goats produce cashmere fiber to some degree, however the Cashmere goat has been specially bred to produce a much higher amount of it with fewer guard hairs.
The Angora breed produces long, curling, lustrous locks of mohair. The entire body of the goat is covered with mohair and there are no guard hairs. The locks constantly grow and can be four inches or more in length. Angora crossbreeds, such as the pygora and the nigora, have been created to produce mohair and/or cashmere wool in a smaller, easier-to-manage animal.
Goats do not have to be slaughtered to harvest the wool, which is instead shorn (cut from the body) in the case of Angora goats, or combed, in the case of Cashmere goats. However, the Angora goat usually gets shorn twice a year with an average yield of about 10 pounds while the Cashmere goat grows its fiber once a year and it takes about a week to comb out by hand, yielding only about 4 ounces. The fiber is made into products such as sweaters and doll's hair. Both cashmere and mohair are warmer per ounce than wool and are not scratchy or itchy or as allergenic as wool. Both fibers command a higher price than wool, compensating for the fact that there is less fiber per goat than there would be wool per sheep.
In South Asia, cashmere is called "pashmina" (from Persian pashmina, "fine wool") and these goats are called pashmina goats (these well-fleeced animals are often mistaken for sheep). Since these goats actually belong to the upper Kashmir and Laddakh region, their wool came to be known as "cashmere" in the West. The pashmina shawls of Kashmir, with their intricate embroidery, are very famous.
Goat breedsGoat breeds fall into somewhat overlapping, general categories.
- Alpine:French Alpine,British Alpine,American Alpine
- Anglo-Nubian or, in the United States, simply "Nubian". This breed is considered a dual-purpose milk and meat breed in some areas.
- Golden Guernsey
- La Mancha
- Nigerian Dwarf
- Sable Saanen
- Canarian goats: Majorera (Island of Fuerteventura), Palmera (Island of La Palma), etc.
ShowingGoat breeders' clubs frequently hold shows, where goats are judged on traits relating to conformation, udder quality, evidence of high production, longevity, build and muscling (meat goats and pet goats) and fiber production and the fiber itself (fiber goats). People who show their goats usually keep registered stock and the offspring of award-winning animals command a higher price. Registered goats, in general, are usually higher-priced if for no other reason than that records have been kept proving their ancestry and the production and other data of their sires, dams, and other ancestors. A registered doe is usually less of a gamble than buying a doe at random (as at an auction or sale barn) because of these records and the reputation of the breeder. Children's clubs such as 4-H also allow goats to be shown. Children's shows often include a showmanship class, where the cleanliness and presentation of both the animal and the exhibitor as well as the handler's ability and skill in handling the goat are scored. In a showmanship class, conformation is irrelevant since this is not what is being judged.
Various "Dairy Goat Scorecards" (milking does) are systems used for judging shows in the US. The American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) scorecard for an adult doe includes a point system of a hundred total with major factors including general appearance, the dairy character of a doe (physical traits that aid and increase milk production), body capacity, and specifically for the mammary system. Young stock and bucks are judged by different scorecards which place more emphasis on the other three categories; general appearance, body capacity, and dairy character.
The American Goat Society (AGS)] has a similar, but not identical scorecard that is used in their shows. The miniature dairy goats may be judged by either of the two scorecards. The "Angora Goat scorecard" used by the Colored Angora Goat Breeder's Association or CAGBA (which covers the white and the colored goats) includes evaluation of an animal's fleece color, density, uniformity, fineness, and general body confirmation. Disqualifications include: a deformed mouth, broken down pasterns, deformed feet, crooked legs, abnormalities of testicles, missing testicles, more than 3 inch split in scrotum, and close-set or distorted horns.
In religionGoats are mentioned many times in the Bible. A goat is considered a "clean" animal by Jewish dietary laws and was slaughtered for an honored guest. It was also acceptable for some kinds of sacrifices. Goat-hair curtains were used in the tent that contained the tabernacle (Exodus 25:4). On Yom Kippur, the festival of the Day of Atonement, two goats were chosen and lots were drawn for them. One was sacrificed and the other allowed to escape into the wilderness, symbolically carrying with it the sins of the community. From this comes the word "scapegoat". A leader or king was sometimes compared to a male goat leading the flock. In the New Testament, Jesus told a parable of The Sheep and the Goats. (Gospel of Matthew 25)
Goats are also often prevalent in Satanic and occult imagery.
Feral goatsDomestic goats have established themselves in the wild in many places in the world. Feral goats occur in Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, the Galapagos and in many other parts of the world. When feral goats reach large populations in habitats which are not adapted to them, they may have serious negative effects, such as removing native scrub, trees and other vegetation. However, in other circumstances they may become a natural component of the habitat.
- Goat breeds
- Goat resources
- Goat care and feeding guide
- Abraham Lincoln's sons kept pet goats inside the White House
- The American Dairy Goat Association Home Page
- Ruminations, The Nigerian Dwarf and Mini Dairy Goat Magazine
- American Goat Society
- Miniature Dairy Goat Association
- How to keep fires down in California scrub: Chew it.
- International Goat Association
goats in Arabic: ماعز
goats in Bengali: ছাগল
goats in Bavarian: Goaß
goats in Bulgarian: Домашна коза
goats in Welsh: Gafr
goats in Danish: Ged
goats in German: Hausziege
goats in Emiliano-Romagnolo: Chèvra
goats in Spanish: Capra aegagrus hircus
goats in Esperanto: Kapro
goats in Basque: Ahuntz
goats in Persian: بز
goats in French: Chèvre
goats in Croatian: Domaća koza
goats in Indonesian: Kambing
goats in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Capra
goats in Italian: Capra hircus
goats in Hebrew: עז הבית
goats in Swahili (macrolanguage): Mbuzi
goats in Kurdish: bizin
goats in Latin: Capra
goats in Lingala: Ntaba
goats in Hungarian: Házi kecske
goats in Malayalam: ആട്
goats in Malay (macrolanguage): Kambing
goats in Mongolian: Ямаа
goats in Dutch: Geit
goats in Japanese: ヤギ
goats in Norwegian: Geit
goats in Norwegian Nynorsk: Geit
goats in Narom: Biche
goats in Occitan (post 1500): Cabra
goats in Low German: Teeg
goats in Polish: Koza domowa
goats in Portuguese: Cabra
goats in Romanian: Capră
goats in Russian: Козлы (род)
goats in Slovak: Koza domáca
goats in Slovenian: Koza
goats in Serbian: Коза
goats in Finnish: Vuohi
goats in Swedish: Tamget
goats in Tagalog: Kambing
goats in Tamil: ஆடு
goats in Thai: แพะ
goats in Turkish: Keçi
goats in Yiddish: ציג
goats in Chinese: 家山羊