Farm Animal Fun Facts - Focus on Goats
About Nubian Goats
Formally, this breed is known as the Anglo-Nubian goat, named after the ancient civilization of Nubia in northeastern Africa, along the Nile River in a region that is today recognized as northern Sudan and southern Egypt. In America the breed is simply identified as Nubian goat, originating in England as a cross between Old English milking goats and Nubian bucks (intact male goats) imported from North Africa, India, and the Middle East. Nubian goats were first imported to America in the early 1900s, where the breed has become the most popular of dairy goat breeds thanks to the rich butterfat content of its milk, used to make cheese and ice cream. Nubian goats also have a longer breeding season than other goats, producing milk year-round, to the delight of dairy farmers. Because Nubian goats have more flesh on their bodies than other goats, they are also bred for meat, earning them the dubious distinction as a “dual-purpose breed.”
But let us put aside the utilitarian use of Nubian goats. Their real popularity with goat enthusiasts is that these goats are so flippin’ cute.
With their long, floppy ears that flare into a slight bell shape and their aristocratic “Roman” nose, Nubian goats might be the most adorable breed of goat. Silky short hair covers their sturdy bodies, and their coats are a range of solid or patchwork colors. Their friendly personality, inquisitive behavior, playfulness, and talkative nature are qualities that further endear Nubian goats to people who decide to keep them as pets. These goat enthusiasts claim that goats far surpass dogs as companion animals—asserting that goats possess greater intelligence (indeed, certain scientific studies seem to confirm this)—whimsically discrediting the title of “man’s best friend” that humans have bestowed upon the furry creatures who share our beds, or at least have their own dog beds.
But you don’t want a goat in your bed, in part, because your hoofed friend just might eat it. Although goats are primarily browsing herbivores, and Nubian goats are no exception (they have a penchant for clover, alfalfa, woody shrubs and a variety of plants), they are known to eat cotton textiles including clothing and bed sheets. So keep your goat out of your bed and away from your clothesline.
Gladys demonstrates how goats challenge a fence even when they don't mean to. The need for attention, that last leaf on a branch, or insatiable goat curiosity drives them to do what they do best... climb. Nubians are larger and heavier than one might think and can too easily compromise a fence like this one.
You’ll want a secure fenced area (because Nubians, like all goats, are accomplished escape artists) that safely contains your goat and keeps out potential predators, including free-roaming dogs. This fenced area should provide grass and shrubbery for grazing.
Goats are ruminants, like cows and sheep; they have multiple stomach chambers that allow them to swallow food and then bring it back up again to continue chewing—you are probably familiar with the expression “chewing the cud.”
Just be sure to eradicate poisonous plants such as oleanders, rhododendrons, and members of the nightshade family—all toxic to Nubian goats. Their foraged greenery should be supplemented with nutritious feed, and fresh water should be readily available. A well-ventilated, clean, and durable shelter for safety and protection from the elements—don’t forget a comfy bed of fresh straw or wood shavings—is also required.
Because of their Middle-Eastern heritage, Nubian goats acclimate well to hot climates. In colder climates, care must be given to ensure that those adorable ears don’t become frostbitten. Regular deworming, vaccinations,  and pedicures (that is, hoof trimming) will help keep this hardy breed of goat in good health.
Like all goats and most other ungulates (hoofed mammals), Nubians have rectangular pupils. Their eyes are on the sides of their head, and they are able to see 280 to 360 degrees around their bodies, so sneaking up on them for a surprise cuddle is not easy. (Regardless, you don’t want to startle them, as Nubian goats are sensitive to stressful stimuli.) Their “vertical axis” vision, however, is poor. They cannot easily see, for example, a hawk flying directly above or a snake slithering across their feet. Their eye shape is common in herbivores, whereas predatory animals usually have vertically slit pupils.
Excluding specifically bred horn-free varieties of Nubian goats, both male and female Nubians begin to develop horns before the age of three weeks. These horns curl backward alongside the neck toward the body, become grooved with growth rings as the animal ages, and can grow to an impressive two feet in length, if allowed. Like most dairy goats, however, Nubian goats are usually dehorned (or “debudded”)  before they are two weeks old.
Nubian goats love to play and jump. They are natural performing acrobats. A stack of old tires, crates, straw bales, a large yoga ball, or a trampoline will give them hours of amusement—and entertainment for you as you watch their silly, agile antics. A large pile of rocks is good, too. Like all goats, Nubians are equipped with two-toed hooves that have soft, gripping pads, making them incredible climbers.  Just don’t put their little “rock mountain” beside the fence that contains them, or your goats might climb right over it.
Finally, because goats live an average of 12 to 14 years, longer than the lifespan of large-breed dogs, people who prefer goats to dogs as pets may have a few more years of loving and laughing with their hooved friends.
The breed is sometimes referred to as the Greyhound goat, due to its loppy ears and, if conjecture is allowed, the soulful countenance it shares with the fast canine of this name. But Nubian goats are larger than greyhounds. An adult female (known as a “doe”) stands at least 30 inches at the withers (highest part of her back, measured at base of neck, just above the shoulders) and can weigh more than 135 pounds. An adult male stands at least 35 inches at the withers and can weigh more than 175 pounds. By the way, a castrated male goat is known as a “wether.” If you have a mixed population, you want to make sure that your male goats are wethers—unless you are prepared for rambunctious, stinky, and unsanitary behavior—and a lot of kids!
1. What is a female goat’s gestation period? How many babies (kids) does she have?
Female goats have a five-month gestation period (pregnancy) and give birth to two or three (but can be as many as five) “kids.” New mothers will begin producing milk (called “freshening” in the dairy industry) immediately and will continue to produce milk, in the case of Nubian goats, for nearly a year. As is common practice in the dairy industry, however, baby goats are taken from their mothers and raised separately on pasteurized goat’s milk. This practice helps prevent the spread of a disease called caprine arthritis encephalitis (CAE). Although CAE virus infection is widespread among dairy goats in most industrialized countries, it is rare among indigenous goat breeds of developing countries— unless they have been in contact with imported goats. A CAE infection decreases the lifetime productivity of dairy goats and prohibits the exportation of goats from North America, so the move to separate babies from their mothers is foremost utilitarian and motivated by economics.
2. What to vaccinate against?
You’ll want to vaccinate your goats against rabies, tetanus, and clostridium. Clostridium is a bacterial infection that can lead to Enterotoxemia, often referred to as overeating disease (or “bloat”), which can be caused by ingesting too much processed grains—resulting when a goat breaks into his feed bin, for example, and gorges himself.
Furthermore, because the rabies vaccine can stress a goat’s constitution, the recommendation is to give the other vaccines a minimum of one month before or after the rabies vaccine.
3. Why castrate?
Unless you are breeding your goats (and only one “stud” is required for a large herd), you will want to castrate the males. Intact males (“bucks”) can be quite ornery and wreak havoc, including tearing down fencing, to get to females. If they are unable to get to the sequestered females, bucks are just as happy to hump, or ram, you. They are also very smelly when “in rut” (equivalent of a female goat being “in heat”) and engage in behavior regarded by humans as pretty disgusting (unless one has a fetish for these things). As an example, they delight in covering themselves with their own urine and will eagerly stick their faces in the urine flow of female goats. A buck whose white coat is colored yellow by urine is one fully proud, virile goat. Furthermore, a young buck is capable of breeding at just two months of age. So most goat keepers advise castration when the goats are still young kids.
The most common method of castration, largely because of low expense, is through banding. This procedure is performed by tightly fastening a specially designed rubber band, known as an elastrator, over the buck’s scrotum and testicles. After about two weeks, the scrotum and testicles will dry up, die, and fall off. Banding is not always successful, however. Faulty technique can result in the retention of one testicle, and extremely virile goats will still be fertile and need to be re-castrated. The procedure also poses risk of tetanus to the animal. As with dehorning, banding is not without controversy. Some European countries have banned this method, deeming it inhumane.
A second method of castration uses a scalpel or sharp knife to cut off the bottom of the scrotum and pull out the testicles. Pain medication should be used for this surgical procedure. Bucks over a month old should be cut only by a veterinarian, while under anesthesia. “Cutting" older bucks is not advised, due to the possibility of bleeding to death. This method is the one familiar to humans who have their dogs and cats surgically neutered by their veterinarian.
Finally, a third method employs a clamp-like tool (marketed as a Burdizzo, Emasculatome, or Ritchey Nipper) to crush the spermatic cord and blood vessels leading to the testicles. By preventing blood from reaching the testicles, they gradually wither away and die. It is a bloodless method that involves no cutting; when properly performed, the skin is not broken. Because no cutting or blood is involved, the chance of infection is eliminated. The newly wethered goat will always have his scrotum, but his testicles will stop growing and eventually disappear.
4. What’s involved in dehorning?
Dehorning (also known as “debudding”) is performed foremost for safety reasons. It prevents accidental or intentional goring to the humans caring for the goats or to other animals, and also prevents goats from getting their heads stuck in fencing and other areas where the curious creatures might explore. A goat who gets his head stuck and goes unnoticed by caregivers is at risk of attack from predators, and even starvation. Both male and female goats can have horns.
Because removing fully grown horns would require a major veterinary surgery, something that is rarely performed, many goat farmers opt to debud their kids (young goats) themselves.
But dehorning is not without controversy; some people who keep goats as pets forgo this procedure, citing it as inhumane.
The dehorning procedure is performed either with a hot iron or with a caustic paste that destroys the tissue on the goat’s skull where the horns develop. Possible side effects include infection, brain damage (due to excessive heat from the iron), and even blindness (if paste gets into a goat’s eye). Goats who are dehorned with a hot iron can develop deformed spikes, known as “scurs,” around the edges of their horn buds. Scurs break easily when goats indulge in natural behavior, such as head-butting, and risk injury to their playmates.
If goat keepers opt not to dehorn their pets, it is important that they follow goat etiquette when interacting with their hoofed friends. Goats are easily stressed. So you don’t want to engage in behavior that might spook your goat or have him interpret your actions as a challenge. For example, resist the urge to play with your goat by grabbing his horns. Not a good idea. He will respond with goat behavior and likely ram you. Instead, gently scratch the chin of your friend. Even if your goat is dehorned, it is wiser to scratch his chin, instead of his head, so you don’t unintentionally challenge him.
6. Superb climbers
In the wild, goats’ superb climbing skills not only help them in accessing hard-to-get and yummy foliage from the side of a cliff. They are also able to avoid predators who are unable to cling to a cliff face like a goat.
Goat Fun Facts, Legends, Lore, and the Judas Goat
Billy Goat is another name for a male goat.
Nanny goat is another name for a female goat.
More than 200 recognized breeds of goats share the planet with us.
Humans and goats
Goats are the oldest domesticated animal, dating back 10,000 years to the first evidence of goat farming. They are the first “farm animal” to be milked. But goats have (and continue to be) also eaten for their flesh. But some people prefer to keep goats solely as pets, because they are so adorable, funny, and fun.
His Honor, the Mayor?
The small town of Lajitas, Texas, has elected three ceremonial goats as mayor. The first goat mayor, Clay Henry, is said to have drank 40 beers a day.
The pharaoh’s goats
When he died, the Egyptian Pharaoh Cephranes was interred in his tomb with the company of 2,234 goats.
What’s all the talk about?
Goats, particularly Nubian goats, are talkative animals. They’re capable of developing different goat dialects or accents; to point, when a goat is introduced to a goat group new to him, he or she will adapt the accent of that group. Goat vocabulary includes a range of loud, shrill shrieks, maniacal screams, and trills—leading some goat keepers to subjectively interpret goat-talk as human words. But, let’s get real people. This is not to say that your goat does not understand you; goats are super smart.
Goats are not only adorable; they are exceptional problem solvers. In one behavioral study intended for primates, researchers placed a tasty treat inside a box that could only be retrieved if the goats used their teeth to pull on a rope to activate a lever, and then lift the lever up with their muzzle. The goats in this study easily retrieved their treats, leading researchers to quip that goats belong on the “ungulate honor roll.” But it’s not only in a controlled setting where goats apply their determination and aptitude to a problem. Goats in Morocco, for example, are known to climb trees where they will balance on branches to reach the tastiest leaves. [there is a photo of this!]
Not garbage eaters
The portrayal of goats as garbage eaters is a misconception that needs to be debunked (sure, they might eat your tattered cotton bed sheet—but you shouldn’t have your goat in your bed anyhow). Goats have two times the taste buds as humans and are surprisingly picky eaters. They are able to deftly pick leaves off of thorn bushes or seek out a succulent sprig of grass.
What gets your goat?
According to Urban Dictionary, if I want to “get your goat,” I need to annoy you to the point of getting you really pissed. A sub-definition suggests that the goat is a metaphor for a state of peacefulness and tranquility. But if I were to steal your goat (metaphorically), you would become angry and upset.
A more fanciful, folklorist origin of “get your goat” actually involves goat stealing. The expression is said to come from a tradition in horse racing. Thought to have a calming effect on high-strung thoroughbreds, a goat was placed in the horse's stall on the night before a race. Unscrupulous opponents would then steal the goat in an effort to upset the horse and cause it to lose the race. This theory is largely disputed, but it’s fun to suggest. (I hope playing with your head like this didn’t get your goat!)
A scapegoat is a person or animal who is blamed, usually unfairly, for the transgressions of others. The concept originated in the ceremonial Day of Atonement in Judaism. A goat, having the sins of the community placed upon its back, would be cast into the desert to perish—thereby sparing the lives of the people whose sins he carried.
President Abraham Lincoln’s White House Goats
Anecdotes abound about President Abraham Lincoln’s love and sensitivity for animals. His fondness extended to Nanny and Nanko, two goats whom he had adopted for his son as playmates. Nanny and Nanko had free run of the White House grounds—and inside the White House itself, pulling Lincoln’s son through the rooms on a cart—much to the consternation of Lincoln’s staff, who protested the goats were causing damage to both the flora and the furniture. President Lincoln told his staff to “chill,” and leave the goats be. Describing his goats once, he stated, “I believe they are the kindest and best goats in the world.”
Yes, goats engage in playful “devilish” behavior, but that’s no reason to portray them as Satan. So what’s with this mythic goat-devil creature, popular in horror films and legend? Well, one source traces this goat-like idol, who is half man and half goat, to the Greek pastoral deity, Pan, and is a representation of the spirit of nature.
Reference to this devil-goat creature can also be found in the scriptures, where it is compared to corrupt rulers who climb to the highest level of power with no regard for those whom they crush. (Remember, goats are excellent climbers; however, they are not motivated by a perverted desire for supreme power over others.)
Another source focuses on a medieval pagan deity, Baphomet, also known as the Sabbatic goat, who may have been created by the Inquisition at the behest of the Catholic Church, for the purpose of attracting worshippers and subsequently accusing them of heresy.
In fact, Baphomet has been worshipped by followers of the occult and other mystical traditions. A goat pentagram created in 1897 by a prominent French occultist was usurped by the Church of Satan in 1969 as its official symbol, naming it the Sigil of Baphomet.
Contemporary Satanists use Baphomet’s imagery to “mock modern fundamentalist Christians for their tendency to concoct imaginary enemies to stoke their own paranoid fantasies about being persecuted.”
What’s with the fainting goats?
One endearing little breed of goat appears prone to fainting spells. However, these goats actually are affected by a genetic condition that has weakened their muscles and causes them to suddenly collapse when spooked or panicked. But they don’t truly lose consciousness and, in fact, will continue to chew their cud during their brief “down time” until they can get back on their feet.
Goat Poop – Spontaneous Combustion
Yes, goat poop (manure) can spontaneously combust. This pungent, smoky phenomenon happens when the bacteria in goat droppings multiply, creating heat in generous poop piles, until the temperature gets so hot that when oxygen finds its way into the mix, the poop ignites and smokes. Goat keepers can easily avoid poop combustion by storing their goats’ manure in a manner that does not involve dense, tall poop piles.
The Judas Goat
With a biblical reference to the disciple who betrayed Jesus, the Judas Goat shares the ignoble distinction of one who betrayed his herd, although unwittingly, resulting in their gruesome deaths.
For years, sailors would drop off their goats on an island in the Galapagos. Their intention was to eat the goats the next time they visited the island. But in the span of their absence, the goats procreated – exponentially; by the 1960s, 40,000 goats inhabited the island; by 1997, that number had risen to 100,000. The goats were eating nearly all the island’s vegetation, leaving little to eat for the native tortoise, whose population plummeted to just 15 individuals.
Thus, the inception of Operation Isabella, an aerial slaughter that recruited snipers to fly overhead in helicopters and shoot all the goats using high-powered rifles. The snipers killed a lot of goats; the goat’s poor vertical vision made them easy targets. But some goats escaped and still roamed the island. These goats had gotten smart ; they hid in caves and kept out of sight whenever they heard the helicopters overhead that contained their human hit men. So the architects of Operation Isabella got another idea: “Let’s send in one of their own.” They fit a female goat with a radio-transmission collar and released her on the island. She did what goats do; she sought out the herd, thus leading the shooters to their location. And they killed the remaining goats. Operation Isabella operated from 1997 to 2006. The tortoise population rebounded to 1,000 individuals.
Goats for Hire
Increasingly, goat keepers are earning a profit thanks to goats’ natural proclivity for munching on blades of grass and pesky weeds. They are renting out their charges as hoofed lawn mowers and weed whackers. “Goats for Hire” and “Goats to Go” signs are springing up in suburbia and in rural neighborhoods.