Goats are wonderful feral creatures. Spread far and wide throughout New Zealand on both public and private wildlands, they are intelligent, playful, curious, and highly social wild animals.
One of the first domesticated animals in the history of humankind, goats have been farmed and herded by humans for more than 10,000 years.
Neolithic farmers of the Mesopotamian Fertile Crescent were responsible for this domestication and they spread their species and technological innovation globally to create the modern world in which we inhabit today. Descended originally from wild bezoar ibex native to the mountains of Western Asia, there are about 300 recognised breeds of goat worldwide.
Goat jokes aside, goats have served mankind well over millennia, providing milk, meat, dung for fuel, fibre, hair, bone, skin, and sinew. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation there were more than 924 million live goats around the globe in 2011.
Goats are individuals, much like humans, and describing a typical goat is challenging. They come big and small, virtually every colour, but most have two horns, a beard, and a short tail. Being ruminants with a four-chambered stomach, goats are browsing animals that can eat virtually any vegetation, and survive in harsh arid environments in which most other animals would perish.
They are also very agile animals that are equally at home on rugged sea cliffs, high alpine valleys, or in dense rainforest. Goats even regularly climb trees to reach choice morsels and often reach the ripe old age of fifteen to eighteen years old. Highly fertile, there is nothing as randy as an old billy goat, with female nanny goats regularly giving birth to twins and triplets.
To many people the most offensive trait of goats can be the strong scent emanated by the mature males or bucks. During the rut, mature billy goats will urinate on their forelegs and face to enhance their attractiveness to females. Sebaceous glands at the base of the horns also add to the male goat’s odour. Actually I don’t mind the distinctive goat smell, which can be pretty exciting when you are stalking in close from downwind with rifle in hand.
Feral goats have been part of the New Zealand landscape ever since Europeans first arrived on these shaky isles. Captain James Cook released a pair of goats into the Marlborough Sounds in 1773, and since that time, whalers, sealers, mariners, explorers, and goldminers have released goats all over NZ, and even many offshore islands as food for castaways. read more…