The domestic goat is a domesticated hybrid sub-species between the wild goats of Eastern European and Southwest Asian goats. There are over 300 distinct goat breeds in the world. They are one of the oldest domesticated animal species in the world, and they gained popularity as pets in the 20th century.
Historically, goats have been used for meat, milk, hair, and their skin. Neolithic farmers used them mainly for meat and milk. However, the domesticated goat’s dung was used as fuel, and their sinew, hair, and bones were used for tools, clothing, and building materials. Goat hide was also used to for wine bottles and water bottles when transporting wine for sale or just traveling in general. Goat hide was also used to make parchment.
There is archaeological evidence that domesticated goats were present 10,000 years ago as they were found in Ganj Dareh in Iranian Kurdistan. Their remains have also been found in a few sites such as Jerico, which place the domesticated goats in western Asia between 8000 – 9000 years ago.
Similar to today, domesticated goats were kept in herds and tended by goatherds or shepherds. Goats would wander on hills and other grazing areas.
Goats are famous for their horns. These horns are actually living bone surrounded by keratin and other protein. Horns are used for defense and dominance. They are also known for being ruminant, meaning that they have a 4 chambered stomach. This 4 chambered stomach consists of rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum.
Another thing that goats are well known are for their beards. Both female and male goats have beards, although some goats such as dairy goats have wattles dangling from each side of the neck. This is why goats are commonly referred to as “Billy Goat”.
Goats have a reputation of wanting to eat almost anything. This excludes inedible material such as cardboard boxes and tin cans. However, as opposed to cattle which are grazers, goats are browsing animals so they are naturally curious about almost everything. This is why they will chew and taste pretty much anything that they think may be good to eat, have unusual smells, or contain left over food that may have been thrown away in a box or a can.
Generally, they are particular about what they eat. They prefer to eat the tips of trees and woody shrubs, as well as broad-leaved plants. Their plant diet is varied, and sometimes they will eat toxic plants. They also like to browse on weeds and shrubbery, however goats can be killed by wilted fruit tree leaves and nightshade. Grass showing signs of mold is also toxic for goats. Alfalfa is their favorite kind of hay.
Despite its reputation, they will not eat soiled food or contaminated water unless it is facing starvation. This is why reared goats has a free range, as stall-fed goats are expensive to upkeep and are not commercially viable.