Goat | Description, Breeds, Milk, & Facts (2024)

Angora goat

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What is a goat?

A goat is any ruminant and hollow-horned mammal belonging to the genus Capra. Related to the sheep, the goat is lighter in build and has horns that arch backward, a short tail, and straighter hair.

What do goats eat?

Goats are browsers: they like to keep their heads up to eat available foliage. Goats are especially valued for eating inexpensive nutrient sources, such as woody plants and weeds, that other livestock typically won’t consume. A goat’s food is partially broken down and regurgitated as cud, which the goat chews to absorb the remaining nutrients.

Why do goats’ eyes look like they do?

According to Martin Banks, a professor of optometry at University of California at Berkeley, goats have developed horizontal pupils in order to survive. Goats need to escape predators, and their pupils allow the animal to look for a predator and an escape route simultaneously. Learn more.

When do a goat’s horns stop growing?

If a goat’s horns are not removed, they will continue to grow throughout the goat’s life. Generally, goat horns reach a length of anywhere from 8 to 12 inches, or 20 to 30 centimetres. However, horn size varies significantly depending on species. Markhors, for example, can have horns more than 39 inches, or 100 centimetres, long.

How are a goat’s horns removed?

Goat horns can be removed through disbudding or dehorning. Disbudding involves destroying the corium of the horn bud without causing significant damage to the periosteum. Fourteen days after birth horn tissue starts to form around the horn bud. Amputation of the horns at or after this stage is called dehorning. Both processes destroy growth cells so that horns do not grow back.

goat, any ruminant and hollow-horned mammal belonging to the genus Capra. Related to the sheep, the goat is lighter of build, has horns that arch backward, a short tail, and straighter hair. Male goats, called bucks or billys, usually have a beard. Females are called does or nannys, and immature goats are called kids. Wild goats include the ibex and markhor.

Domesticated goats are descended from the pasang (Capra aegagrus), which is probably native to Asia, the earliest records being Persian. In China, Great Britain, Europe, and North America, the domestic goat is primarily a milk producer, with a large portion of the milk being used to make cheese. One or two goats will supply sufficient milk for a family throughout the year and can be maintained in small quarters, where it would be uneconomical to keep a cow. For large-scale milk production, goats are inferior to cattle in the temperate zone but superior in the torrid and frigid zones. Goat flesh is edible, that from young kids being quite tender and more delicate in flavour than lamb, which it resembles. Some breeds, notably the Angora and Cashmere, are raised for their wool (see also wool; cashmere; Angora goat); young goats are the source of kid leather.

Britannica QuizUnconventional Pets Quiz

Selected breeds of goats are provided in the table.

Selected breeds of goats
name use distribution characteristics comments

Angora wool originally Turkey, now also South Africa, United States small body; thick, flat fleece thrives in temperate regions

Boer meat originally South Africa horned; lop ears extended breeding season

Cashmere wool, milk, and meat originally China, now Asia and Middle East small body; large ears; small horns wool obtained from its undercoat

LaMancha milk originally United States distinct ear types: “gopher ears” (up to one inch in length but preferably nonexistent) or “elf ears” (maximum length 2 inches) hardy

Nubian milk originally North Africa, now also India, Middle East, United Kingdom, United States long legs; long ears; large nose several varieties

Oberhasli milk originally Switzerland medium-sized; chamois in colour with two black stripes on face alert in appearance

Saanen milk originally Saanen Valley, Switzerland white or cream-coloured; short hair consistent milk producer

Toggenburg milk originally Toggenburg valley, Switzerland, now also United Kingdom, United States light to dark brown important dairy goat

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Adam Augustyn.

Goat | Description, Breeds, Milk, & Facts (2024)

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