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THE DOMESTIC GOAT
Goats have been kept by people for almost 10,000 years and are among the first domesticated animals. Remains found at archeological sites in Western Asia, Jericho, Choga, and Mami indicate that goats were domesticated as early as the eighth century. There are over 210 breeds of goats, and an estimated 450 million goats in the world. Goats are found on every continent in the world excluding Antarctica.
Goats are ruminants, or cud chewing animals, with four stomach compartments. Wild goats can survive on bushes, trees, desert scrub, and aromatic herbs. Goats can thrive in places sheep and cattle would starve. Domestic goats eat cracked or ground corn mixed with oats, hay, and grass.
Goats are very sociable and independent animals. Although they live in herds they do not necessarily “follow the herd” as sheep do. If a goat encounter something new it will move away a few steps to study it. A sheep, faced with the same problem, is likely to bolt and the entire herd would follow.
Goats are mainly used to produce dairy products. One goat can produce 3000-5000 pounds of milk a year. They are also raised for meat, wool, and leather. Goats are used as pack animals and their dung is a useful fuel in some parts of the world. Pygmy goats have found an increased use as a lab animal and are commonly kept as pets.
The pygmy goat originated in West African countries. They were exported from Africa to zoos in Sweden and Germany where they were displayed as exotic animals. In 1959 pygmy goats arrived in California and New York from Sweden. The pygmy goat is small and compact. Mature goats stand 16-23 inches at the shoulder. Pygmy goats come in a variety of colors, the most predominate is a grizzled brown coloration called agouti.
- Goats are intelligent and can learn how to operate the latch on a gate.
- GOATS DO NOT EAT TIN CANS! They are curious animals and will feel everything with their lips.
- Goats have no upper front teeth. They have a lower set of teeth that meet a hard pad in the upper jaw.
- A goat’s pupil is rectangular instead of round like in other mammals.
- Some goats have wattles, which are little round balls of skin and fur on the neck near the chin.