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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 are in the goat-antelope subfamily Caprinae. There are over three hundred distinct breeds of goat.

Goats are one of the oldest domesticated species. Goats have been used for their milk, meat, hair, and skins over much of the world. In the twentieth century they also gained in 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 or cabrito, and from older animals is sometimes called chevon, or in some areas “mutton”.

Etymology

The Modern English word goat comes from the Old English gat which meant "she-goat", and this in turn derived from Proto-Germanic *gaitaz (cf. Old Norse and Dutch geit "goat", German Geiß "she-goat", and Gothic gaits "goat"), ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *ghaidos meaning "young goat" but also "jump" (cf. Latin haedus "kid", Old Church Slavonic zajęcǐ "hare", Sanskrit jihīte "he jumps"). To refer to the male of the species, Old English used bucca (which survives as "buck") until a shift to he-goat (and she-goat) occurred in the late 12th century. "Nanny goat" originated in the 18th century and "billy goat" in the 19th.


History

The most recent genetic analysis confirms the archaeological evidence that the Anatolianmarker Zagrosmarker are the likely origin of almost all domestic goats today. Neolithic farmers began to keep them for easy access to milk and meat, primarily, also for their dung, which was used as fuel and their bones, hair, and sinew for clothing, building, and tools. The earliest remnants of domesticated goats dating 10,000 before present are found in Ganj Darehmarker in Iranian Kurdistan. 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.

Anatomy

Most goats naturally have two 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 goats (having as many as eight horns), 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 cattle, deer, most horses and many sheep.

Both male and female goats have beards, and many types of goats (most commonly dairy goats, dairy-cross boers, and pygmy goats) may have wattles, one dangling from each side of the neck.

Some breeds of sheep and goats look similar, but they can usually be told apart because goat tails are short and point up, whereas sheep tails hang down and are usually longer – though some (like those of Northern European short-tailed sheep) are short, and longer ones are often docked.

Reproduction

In 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 parallels the behavior of wild herbivores such as deer 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. A first time milker may produce less, or as much as 16 lb (7.3 l), or more of milk in exceptional cases. After the 305 day 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.

Diet

Goats are reputed to be willing to eat almost anything, even tin cans. While goats do not in fact eat tin cans, goats are browsing animals, not grazers like cattle and sheep, and as such will attempt to consume just about any plant matter.

A domestic goat feeding in a field of capeweed, a weed which is toxic to most stock animals
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 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 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 prefer to browse on shrubbery and weeds, more like deer than sheep, preferring them to grasses. Mold in a goat's feed can make it sick and possibly kill it. Nightshade is also poisonous; wilted fruit tree leaves can also kill goats. Goats should not be fed grass with any signs of mold. Silage (corn stalks) is not good for goats, but haylage can be used if consumed immediately after opening. Alfalfa is their favorite hay; fescue is the least palatable and least nutritious.

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.

Behavior



Goats are extremely curious and intelligent. They are easily trained to pull carts and walk on leads. Ches McCartney, nicknamed "the goat man", toured the United Statesmarker for over three decades in a wagon pulled by a herd of pet goats. They are also known for escaping their pens. Goats will test fences, either intentionally or simply because they are handy to climb on. If any of the fencing can be spread, pushed over or down, or otherwise be overcome, the goats will escape. Being very intelligent, once a weakness in the fence has been discovered, it will be exploited repeatedly. Goats are very coordinated and can climb and hold their balance in the most precarious places. Goats are also widely known for their ability to climb trees, although the tree generally has to be on somewhat of an angle. The vocalization goats make is called bleating.

Goats 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.

Life expectancy

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, however; 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 8 or 10.

Goats in agriculture

A goat is useful to humans either living or 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 surgical sutures and strings for musical instruments. The horn of the goat, which signifies wellbeing (Cornucopia), is also used to make spoons.


Meat

The taste of goat meat is similar to that of lamb meat ; in fact, in the English-speaking islands of the Caribbeanmarker, and in some parts of Asia, particularly Pakistanmarker and Indiamarker, 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. The flavour of goat meat is said to be primarily linked to the presence of 4-methyloctanoic and 4-methylnonanoic acid . It can be prepared in a variety of ways including stewed, baked, grilled, barbecued, minced, canned, fried, or made into sausage. Due to its low fat content, the meat can toughen at high temperatures without additional moisture. 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 cheese



Some goats are bred for milk, which can be drunk raw, although some people recommend pasteurization to reduce bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli.Ekici, K, &alii; "Isolation of Some Pathogens from Raw Milk of Different Milch [sic] Animals", Pakistan Journal of Nutrition v 3 (2004) #3, pp 161-162. If the strong-smelling buck is not separated from the does, his scent will affect the milk. Goat's milk is commonly processed into cheese, goat butter, ice cream, cajeta and other products.

Goat's milk can replace sheep's milk or cow's milk in diets of those who are allergic. However, like cow's milk, goat's milk has lactose (sugar), and may cause gastrointestinal problems for individuals with lactose intolerance.

Goat's milk naturally has small fat globules, which means the cream remains suspended in the milk, instead of rising to the top, as in raw cow's milk; therefore, it does not need to be homogenized.

Many dairy goats, in their prime, average 6 to 8 pounds (2.7 to 3.6 kg) of milk daily (roughly 3 to 4 US quarts (2.7 to 3.6 liters)) during a ten-month lactation, producing more after freshening and gradually dropping in production toward the end of their lactation. The milk generally averages 3.5 percent butterfat. A doe may be expected to reach her heaviest production during her third or fourth lactation. It is also said that "formula derived from goat's milk is unsuitable for babies who are lactose intolerant as it contains levels of lactose similar to cow's-milk-based infant formulae."

Goat butter is white because 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.

Fiber



The Angora breed of goats 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 cashgora on a smaller, easier-to-manage animal.The wool is shorn (cut from the body) twice a year, with an average yield of about 10 pounds.

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 (down, cashmere and pashmina). The coarse guard hairs are of little value as they are too coarse, difficult to spin and difficult to dye. The cashmere goat produces a commercial quantity of cashmere wool, which is one of the most expensive natural fibers commercially produced; cashmere is very fine and soft. The cashmere goat fiber is harvested once a year, yielding around 9 ounces (200 grammes) of down.

In South Asia, cashmere is called "pashmina" (from Persian pashmina, "fine wool").In the 18th and early 19th century, Kashmir (then called Cashmere by the English), had a thriving industry producing shawls from goat down imported from Tibet and Tartary through Ladakh. The shawls were introduced into Western Europe when the General in Chief of the French campaign in Egypt (1799-1802) sent one to Paris. Since these shawls were produced in the upper Kashmirmarker and Ladakhmarker region, the wool came to be known as "cashmere".

Goat breeds

Goat breeds fall into overlapping, general categories. They are generally distributed in to those used for dairy, fiber, meat, skins, and as companion animals. Some breeds are also particularly noted as pack goats.

Showing



Goat 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 categories that include 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 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.

Religion, mythology, and folklore



According to Norse mythology, the god of thunder, Thor, has a chariot that is pulled by the goats Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr. At night when he sets up camp, Thor eats the meat of the goats, but take care that all bones remain whole. Then he wraps the remains up, and in the morning, the goats always come back to life to pull the chariot. When a farmer's son who is invited to share the meal breaks one of the goats' leg bones to suck the marrow, the animal's leg remains broken in the morning, and the boy is forced to serve Thor as a servant to compensate for the damage.

Possibly related, the Yule Goat is one of the oldest Scandinavian and Northern European Yule and Christmas symbols and traditions. Yule Goat originally denoted the goat that was slaughtered around Yule, but it may also indicate a goat figure made out of straw. It is also used about the custom of going door-to-door singing carols and getting food and drinks in return, often fruit, cakes and sweets. "Going Yule Goat" is similar to the British custom wassailing, both with heathen roots. The Gävle Goatmarker is a giant version of the Yule Goat, erected every year in the Swedish city of Gävlemarker.

The Greek god, Pan, is said to have the upper body of a man and the horns and lower body of a goat. Pan was a very lustful god, nearly all of the myths involving him had to do with him chasing nymphs. He is also credited with creating the pan flute.

The goat is one of the twelve-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar. Each animal is associated with certain personality traits; those born in a year of the goat are predicted to be shy, introverted, creative, and perfectionist. See Sheep .

Several mythological hybrid creatures are believed to consist of parts of the goat, including the Chimera .The Capricorn sign in the Western zodiac is usually depicted as a goat with a fish's tail. Fauns and satyrs are mythological creatures that are part goat and part human. The mineral bromine is named from the Greek word "brόmos," which means "stench of he-goats."

Goats 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)

Christianity has associated Satan with imagery of goats (see Pan ). A common superstition in the Middle Ages was that goats whispered lewd sentences in the ears of the saints. The origin of this belief was probably the behavior of the buck in rut, the very epitome of lust. The common medieval depiction of the Devil was that of a goat-like face with horns and small beard (a goatee). The Black Mass, a probably-mythological "Satanic mass," was said to involve a black goat , the form in which Satan supposedly manifested himself for worship.

The goat has had a lingering connection with Satanism and pagan religions, even into modern times. The inverted pentagram, a symbol used in Satanism, is said to be shaped like a goat's head. The "Baphomet of Mendesmarker" refers to a satanic goat-like figure from 19th century occultism.

Feral goats

Goats readily revert to the wild if given the opportunity. They have established themselves in many areas: feral goats occur in Australia, New Zealandmarker, Great Britainmarker, the Galapagosmarker and in many other places. 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. Feral goats are a severe problem in Australia. However, in other circumstances they may become a natural component of the habitat.

See also



References

  1. Hirst, K. Kris. "The History of the Domestication of Goats". About.com. Accessed August 18, 2008.
  2. Coffey, Linda, Margo Hale, and Ann Wells; "Goats: Sustainable Production Overview.
  3. McLeod, Lianne; "Goats as Pets" at About.com.
  4. Watkins, Calvert, et alii; The American Heritage Dictionary (1975, edited by William Morris).
  5. Goat Medicine: Horns
  6. "Experiments On The Function Of Slit-Form Pupils", Toronto Univ. Studies in Psychology v. 2
  7. Frequently Asked Questions - Triple I Goats
  8. http://www.dairygoatjournal.com/issues/84/84-6/Tim_King.html
  9. "War on Weeds," Rails to Trails Magazine, Spring 2004, p. 3
  10. anonymous; Goat-Horn Spoon.
  11. Cramer, D.A. (1983) Chemical compounds implicated in lamb flavor. Food Technonogy. flavor.. 37:249-257 and Wong, E., Nixon, L.N. and Johnson, B.C. (1975) The contribution of 4-methyloctanoic (hircinoic) acid to mutton and goat meat flavor. New Zealand j. Agr. Res. 18:261-266. Both cited in K. Intarapichet K., Sihaboot W. and Chungsiriwat P. (date?) Chemical and Sensory Characteristics of Emulsion Goat Meat Sausages Containing Pork Fat or Shortening available as a PDF from- [1]
  12. The World's Healthiest Foods. "Milk, goat."
  13. American Dairy Goat Association
  14. Chèvre cheese
  15. it is believed that there are over 50,000 feral goats in the Australian Outback. "The feral goat (Capra hircus) - Invasive species fact sheet".


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