Even goats get itchy sometimes. Itches are scientifically known as pruritus, basically a general neurological response to irritants that come in contact with the skin. Most of the time, itches are just momentary nuisances; however, sometimes an itch is the body’s response to exposure to harmful things like urushiol. Goats are lucky that they do not get the same painful, itchy rash from the urushiol found on poison ivy and other plants. However, goats may get itchy from itch mites and lice, and even excessively dry skin. Horns and hooves make good tools for satisfying the occasional itch, and most of the time an itch is just an itch.
It is getting cold out there, I strongly suggest dressing in layers. Angora goats are known for their distinctive, soft and luxurious coat that is processed to make mohair. Mohair is often a popular choice for winter clothing because it is very easy to dye as it is naturally white or silver. However, in recent years, it has come to light that Angora goats exploited for their wonderful coats are heinously and cruelly abused, leading some major clothing companies to ban mohair altogether. Although mohair knits can be snuggly and warm, there are plenty of perfectly suitable synthetic options that don’t involve cruelty towards the Angora goats.
Aren’t the horns on this goat beautiful? Contrary to popular belief, both male and female goats can have horns. Horns are bony protrusions stemming from the head of goats and other hoofed creatures that are covered in keratin, much like human hair and nails. Goats use their horns in a variety of creative ways, including to fend off potential predators, to communicate with one another and establish dominance in a group, to trim the bark off of trees for food, and even to attract sexual partners. There is a process called disbudding, in which the goats horns are removed shortly after birth, assumably to prevent potential problems like getting stuck in a fence or having a scuffle; however, there is a lot of debate over whether this practice is harmful or beneficial to goats. Sadly, I do not own any goats and by no means am a goat expert, so I really can’t weigh in; however, in general, I think goat horns are pretty amazing.
I am pleased to introduce you to Quincy, who is photographed here proudly showing off his fantastic beard. In general, a feature of being a mammal is having some kind of hair or fur; however, beards are a hirsute feature shared by goats and humans. Facial fair for humans is typically considered a male trait, as higher levels of testosterone in men encourage the growth of thicker and darker hair on the face compared to women. Charles Darwin speculated that beards are an evolutionary adaptation for prehistoric and pre-human males to attract mates. For goats, the beard is not strictly a male trait, but a sex-influenced trait resulting in some female goats having beards of their own. Speculation as to why beards on goats evolved remains an unexplored subject, but most goats tend to go with natural-style beards. Darwin, with his free-style long, white beard, may have been a trendsetter as some have noted that men’s facial hair in Victorian England was particularly fantastic.
I extend many thanks friend Kyla Daniéll who shared this stunning photograph of Quincy with me, taken by Barbara Vandenbussche in Stroe, Netherlands, posted with permission.
One of the most distinctive features of a goat are their horizontal, rectangular pupils. The shape of the goat pupils allows them exceptional peripheral vision, approximately 320 degrees, very helpful for detecting predators. Some have theorized that pupil shape and size is related to whether or not a creature is predator or prey. For example, cats have vertical shaped pupils while sheep and goats have horizontal ones. Humans have round pupils, perhaps because other attributes of ours help us avoid prey and/or because humans can be predators. Goats can also see quite well in the night, and can even rotate their eyes over fifty degrees perhaps to keep an eye out for hunters when they are grazing! That is pretty amazing. Excellent peripheral vision, good night vision, and the ability to rotate the eyes to a high degree must give our caprine friends and interesting perspective on the world. Some say goat eyes are creepy; however, I think they are just totally fascinating. It’s good to have an expanded perspective, whether it is from the actual geometry of your pupils to keeping an open mind.