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All Things Goats.
Information and pictures on Goats.
Educational, Zoological, and Classification info.

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The domestic goat (Capra aegagrus hircus) is a domesticated subspecies of 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 all over the world. In the last century they have also gained some popularity as pets. Goats
The domestic goat's most often seen color is of an ivory hue, and the rarest colors are of a cyan hue.
Female goats are referred to as “does” or “nannies” (or, less frequently, as “mishas”), intact males as “bucks” or “billies”; their offspring are “kids”. Castrated males are “wethers”. Goat meat is sometimes called “chevon”.

Etymology
The Modern English word “goat” comes from the Old English “gat” which meant she-goat which itself derived from Proto-Germanic “*gaitaz” (compare Old Norse and Dutch “geit”, German “Geiß” and Gothic “gaits” all meaning goat) ultimately from Proto-Indo-European “*ghaidos” meaning young goat but also play (compare Latin “hædus” 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/she-goat occurred in the late 12th century. “Nanny goat” originated in the 18th century and “billy goat” in the 19th.
The word “chevon” is derived from the Norman French “chevre” (goat).

Scientific classification

  • Kingdom:      Animalia
  • Phylum:         Chordata
  • Class:            Mammalia
  • Order:            Artiodactyla
  • Family:           Bovidae
  • Subfamily:     Caprinae
  • Genus:           Capra
  • Species:        C. aegagrus
  • Subspecies:  C. a. hircus

Trinomial name

  • Capra aegagrus hircus: (Linnaeus, 1758)

History
Goats seem to have been first domesticated roughly 10,000 years ago in the Zagros Mountains of Iran. Ancient cultures and tribes began to Goats 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.

Reproduction
In some climates, goats, like humans, are able to breed at any time of the year. In northern 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, obsessive interest in the does, a strong heat.

In addition to live breeding, artificial insemination has gained popularity among goat breeders, as it allows for rapid improvement because of breeder 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 Goats quadruplet, quintuplet, and even sextuplet kids. Birthing, known as kidding, generally occurs uneventfully with few complications. The mother often eats the placenta, which, with its oxytocin, gives her much needed nutrients, helps staunch her bleeding, and is believed by some to reduce the lure of the birth scent to 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.

Feeding goats
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. 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 toxic or detrimental to cattle and sheep. This makes them valuable for controlling noxious weeds and clearing brush and undergrowth. They will seldom eat soiled food or 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 actually consume garbage, tin cans, or clothing, although they will occasionally eat items made primarily of plant material, which can include wood. Their reputation for doing so is most likely due to their 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 clothes and sometimes washing powder boxes by nibbling at them.

The digestive physiology of a very young kid 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, and as the kid begins to consume solid feed, the rumen increases in size and in its capacity to absorb nutrients.
Goats will consume, on average, 4.5 pounds of dry matter per 100 lb of body weight per day.

Goat uses
A goat is useful both alive and dead, first as a renewable provider of milk and fiber, and then as meat and hide. Some charities provide goats to impoverished people in poor countries, because goats are easier to manage than cattle and have multiple uses.

Meat
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.

Nutritionally, it 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 and liver. The head and legs of the goat are 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 originally identified in Tennessee.

Milk, butter and cheese
Some goats are bred for milk which can be drunk fresh, although pasteurization is recommended to reduce naturally occurring S. aureus and E. coli. Goat milk is commonly processed into cheese, and small commercial operations offer goat butter and ice cream. If the strong-smelling buck is not separated from the does, his scent will affect the milk.

Goats' milk contains less lactose, so is less likely to trigger lactose intolerance. The milk is naturally homogenized since it lacks the protein agglutinin. The curd is much smaller. The milk also has a more similar makeup (percentage of fats, etc.) to human milk than cows milk. For these reasons, goats' milk may be recommended for infants and people who have difficulty digesting cows' milk. On the other hand the UK Department of Health say that, "infant milks based on goats' milk protein are not suitable as a source of nutrition for infants (under 1 year of age)." They also state that, "Formula derived from goats' milk is also unsuitable for babies who are lactose intolerant as it contains similar levels of lactose to cows' milk based infant formulae."

Goats' butter is white (compared to cows' yellow butter) because the goats produce milk with beta-carotene converted to a 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's and sheep's milk.

Fiber
Some 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.

Goats do not have to be slaughtered to harvest the wool, which is instead sheared (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 sometimes is. 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 (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.

Skin
Goat skin is still used today to make gloves, boots, and other products that require a soft hide. Kid gloves, popular in Victorian times, are still made today. The Black Bengal breed, native to Bangladesh, provides high-quality skin. The skin also used in Indonesia as rugs and native instrumental drum skin named bedug.

Other parts of the goat are also equally useful. 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.

Beast of burden
Rarely, goats will be used as light pack animals (in a similar manner to Llamas) or even to draw carts. Usually goats used for such purposes will be wethers.

Brush control
Many farmers use inexpensive (i.e. not purebred) goats for brush control, leading to the use of the term “brush goats”. (Brush goats are not a breed of goat, but rather a functional category.) Because they prefer weeds (e.g. multiflora rose, thorns, small trees) to clover and grass, they are often used to keep fields clear for other animals.
Goats are also being used in urban areas to control weeds and undergrowth in fire prone areas.

Goat breeds

Goat breeds fall into somewhat overlapping, general categories.

Feral

  • Auckland Island Goat (extinct)
  • San Clemente Island goats

Dairy

  • 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
  • Oberhasli
  • Rove
  • Saanen
  • Sable Saanen
  • Stiefelgeiss
  • Toggenburg
  • Kinder
  • Canarian goats: Majorera (Island of Fuerteventura), Palmera (Island of La Palma), etc.

Fiber

  • Angora
  • Australian Cashmere Goat
  • Cashmere
  • Pygora
  • Nigora

Meat

  • Boer
  • Kiko
  • Rove
  • Spanish
  • Stiefelgeiss
  • Fainting
  • Pygmy
  • GeneMaster
  • Kalahari Red
  • Savanna

Companion

  • Pygmy
  • Nigerian Dwarf
  • Australian Miniature Goat

Skin

  • Black Bengal

Wild

  • Cretan kri-kri (Capra aegagrus creticus)
  • Ibex, including the Alpine Ibex, Nubian Ibex and Spanish Ibex
  • Chamois
  • Markhor
  • West Caucasian Tur
  • East Caucasian Tur

Showing
Goat breeders' clubs frequently hold shows, where goats are judged on traits relating to conformation, udder quality, evidence of high production/ longevity, build/muscling (meat goats and pet goats) and fiber production/fiber (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 U.S. The American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) scorecard for an adult doe is as follows:

General Appearance: 35 points (The doe should be strong in the feet, legs, and back, while showing good breed character and appropriate stature for her age and breed.)

Dairy Character: 20 points (The doe should be lean and angular, have ribs which are flexible but strong, and have smooth, pliable skin. These characteristics have been proven to result in high milk production.)

Body Capacity: 10 points (The doe should be large and strong with a wide, deep barrel).

Mammary System: 35 points (The udder should be productive and very well attached so as to be held up high away from possible injury, teats should be of a good size and shape for easy milking).

In all, the perfect dairy goat would score all 100 points, and this is the standard by which the goats are judged. 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) is as follows:

Fleece - 70 points

Completeness of cover and Uniformity: 8 points (fineness, length, type of lock and covering, adequate covering of mohair over the entire body, neither too much nor too little on the face)

Luster and Handle of Fleece: 8 points (good, bright type of mohair, silky feeling)

Density and Yield: 8 points (number of fibers per unit area, determined by the amount of skin exposed when the fleece is parted)

Fineness: 14 points (finer mohair generally is more desirable, uniformity over entire fleece)

Character and Style: 6 points (equivalent to one inch per month or more, uniform over entire body)

Freedom from Kemp: 10 points (Kemp fibers are large, opaque, “hairy” fibers most commonly found at the withers, along the spine and around the tail and britch.)

Body — 50 points

Size and weight for age: 8 points (Minimum weight for yearling bucks-80 lb, yearling does-60 lb.)

Constitution and Vigor: 8 points (width and depth of chest, fullness of heartgirth and spring of ribs)

Conformation: 11 points (width and depth of body, straightness of back, width of loin, straightness of legs)

Amount of bone: 8 points (Indicated by the size of the bone below the knees and hocks. Should be clean and in proportion to the size of the animal. Strength of feet and legs.)

Angora Breed Type: 15 points (Indicated by head, horns, ears and topknot. Horns should be wide set and should spiral out and back. Wattles highly discouraged.)

Physical Disqualifications:

Deformed mouth, broken down pasturns, deformed feet, crooked legs, abnormalities of testicles, missing testicles, more than 3 inch split in scrotum, close set distorted horns, or roached back.

The perfect Angora goat would score a 120 on the total points. For more information visit the CAGBA site: The Colored Angora Goat Breeder's Association.

Anatomy
Goats are ruminants. They have four stomachs consisting of the rumen, the reticulum, the omasum, and the abomasum.

Goats have horizontal slit-shaped pupils, an adaptation which increases peripheral depth perception.

Some breeds of sheep and goats appear superficially similar but goat tails point up, whereas sheep tails hang down (and are therefore often docked).

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