A few years ago we wrote a blog about “The Naming of Goats.” Then, just recently, while shopping on Etsy, we ran across a store selling name tags for goats. And that got us to thinking: Why would a goat need a name tag at all?
Goats are quite amazing creatures in numerous ways. One way, of course, is their remarkable eating habits. The ultimate omnivores, they are known to chomp on everything even vaguely edible—or inedible, for that matter—from grass to tree bark to toxic plants, including poison oak and knapweed. They even have a documented appetite for litter when left unchaperoned. Indeed, that is the theme of the American folk song “Bill Grogan’s Goat”:
One day that goat felt frisk and fine—
Ate three red shirts right off the line.
Oh gentle friend, I know not what
Your age may be,
But of my years I’d give the lot
Yet left to me,
To chew a thistle and not choke,
But bright of eye
Gaze at the old world-weary bloke
Who hobbles by. •
Alas! though bards make verse sublime,
And lines to quote,
It takes a fool like me to rhyme
About a goat. •
— Robert William Service, “The Goat and I”
For thousands of years humans around the world have kept domesticated goats as livestock for many practical uses, primarily for their meat, milk, wool, and hides. We typically think of them strictly as farm creatures, best suited for animal husbandry and agricultural production. In developed countries like the United States, however, there is a growing trend among non-farmers to keep goats as family pets.
This concept is not as crazy as it sounds. Keeping a pet goat has often been compared to having a dog. And while it is true that goats are fun, funny, affectionate, highly intelligent, and even trainable to leash—not to mention possessing distinct and appealing personalities—there are a number of major differences to consider before taking the leap and purchasing a goat as a pet.