A prudent man does not make the goat his gardener



The Farmer's Friend

Far from being a poor relation to sheep and cattle, the goat (Capra hircus) was the first herbivore to be domesticated, 10,000 years ago in the mountains of Iran. Without goats, agriculture might never have taken off. The bezoar or wild goat (Capra aegagrus), ancestor of all domestic breeds, seduced the Neolithic nomads with its hardiness, its herd-ability, and its weed-busting diet. Goats, then as now, much prefer thistles, brambles and twigs to plain grass (grass-fed goats suffer badly from worms). It was an unbeatable combination, and as the first farmers radiated outwards from the Middle East the goats followed as a kind of all-terrain convenience store, every bit as revolutionary in their time as seed-drills or combine harvesters.
In developing countries, goats are still the most important economic resource. They produce more milk for their size than cows and some estimates put goat ahead of chicken and pork as the world’s most consumed meat. Even in the US, goat is now the fastest growing livestock sector. The meat is healthy, with much less fat and cholesterol and more iron than lamb or beef. Goat's milk has more protein and calcium, and less lactose than cow's milk. They also make good pets, and are surprisingly fastidious. If another goat’s saliva has touched their food, or if it has even the faintest taint of dirt, they will refuse to eat it.


Without my morning coffee I'm just like a dried up piece of roast goat.

The word ‘tragedy’ comes from an Ancient Greek word meaning ‘goat-song’.

In Sudan in 2006, a man caught having sex with his neighbour’s goat was forced to marry it.

Sorting the Geeps From the Shoats

A 'geep' is a goat/sheep cross. They normally have to be created in a lab as they’re chimera – in other words, they're made up from genetically distinct cells. (The mythical chimera was a monster made of multiple animals). Today, chimeras have three or four parents – they're produced by the combination of two fertilised eggs, or one fertilised egg and one unfertilised egg.
However, there has been one single confirmed case of a natural sheep-goat hybrid, in Botswana. It was intermediate between the two species, with a coarse outer coat, a woolly inner coat, long goat-like legs and a heavy sheep-like body. Although infertile, the ‘Toast of Botswana’ had to be castrated because it continually mounted both sheep and goats and became known as ‘Bemya’ (which means 'rapist'). 

A 'shoat', on the other hand, is an old English word for a newly-weaned pig, still in use in the US. 

There are over 200 breeds of goat. Pygmy goats (from Nigeria and Cameroon) are 17 inches tall.


People should be very free with sex, but they should draw the line at goats.

Goats' eyes have rectangular pupils.

Prickly Tongue

The 'goat's tongue' was a form of torture in Ancient Rome. The victim's legs were tied to a tree, and the soles of their feet were moistened with salt water. A tethered, thirsty goat would then lick their feet – which began as a rather nice tickling sensation, but it wasn't long until the flesh was worn away by the animal's rough tongue. This technique was supposedly used by Vlad the Impaler. 

Tickling was sometimes used against criminals in the stocks; their exposed feet would have been particularly vulnerable. The same punishment is said to have been used during the Han Dynasty, and was supposedly preferred due to the fact that it doesn't leave any marks. 

Charles Dickens' novel The Old Curiosity Shop features a character called Jasper Packlemerton, who killed his fourteen wives by tickling them to death. Dickens could have been inspired by the real-life case reported in the Illustrated Police News of 1869: ‘A Wife Driven Insane by Husband Tickling Her Feet’. A husband had fooled his wife into thinking that being tied to a plank would help her bad back, but once she was secured the husband drove her to insanity with a feather to the feet. 

Fainting Goats

The Fainting, or Myotonic Goat (also known as the Nervous, Stiff-legged, Tennessee or Scare Goat) has a painless congenital muscle condition called myotonia congenita which occurs in several species (including humans), the consequence of which is that it goes stiff as a board and falls over onto its side when frightened. The paralysis lasts for 10 seconds, after which the goat returns to normal, albeit with rather stiff back legs.

Older and more experienced Fainting Goats lean against things to stop themselves falling over. You can tentatively identify them by the fact that their eyeballs bulge out more than other goats, then confirm your prognosis by shouting at them. They are mostly black-and-white, live for 12-15 years and are favoured by small-scale farmers in America because they are small and easy to look after.

The practical argument for keeping a Fainting Goat on the farm is that it can be used to protect sheep: if a predator threatens the flock, the goat unwittingly sacrifices itself by fainting, allowing the rest of the flock time to escape.

Human body odor is irresistible to female goats on heat.