Goats are herbivorous artiodactyls-eventoed
ungulates-of the family Bovidae, genus
Capra, which usually have hooves and hollow
horns. They are also ruminants, chewing and
swallowing food, regurgitating it, and chewing
and swallowing it again. This cud chewing allows
them to get the most nutrients possible from the
low-quality foods they eat.
Wild goats are mountain dwellers, adept at
leaping between rocks, sure-footed due to their
hoofs. The hoofs have a hard outer layer and a
softer, inner layer that wears away quickly and
leaves hard edges useful for climbing. Domesticated
goats, raised for milk, meat, and leather,
retain many of these characteristics. Swiss goats,
the most common domesticated variety, have
pointy ears and horns, while Nubians are hornless.
Physical Characteristics of Goats
Most adult goats weigh up to 125 pounds. They are not as large as sheep, which they resemble. Their horns are twisted flat and turn backward. Their hoofs are divided in two (cloven). Males are called rams or billies, while females are called does or nannies. Males emit strong odors during mating season. Males and most females have chin beards, leading to the name "goatee" for the similar style of facial hair in men. Goats are normally covered with straight hair, but some grow wool, such as angora goats. Their coats are red, brown, tan, or white. Goats find enough to eat on poor, dry land where horses, cows, and sheep would starve. Adult female goats reach lengths of 2.5 to 3.5 feet and are approximately 4 feet at the shoulder; they weigh between 100 and 120 pounds. Males are 20 percent larger and heavier than females and have longer horns. Domesticated goats derive from ten wild goat species. They live on hills and mountains and are either goat antelope or true goats. All except the Rocky Mountain goat inhabit Europe and the Asian Himalayas. Rocky Mountain goats and chamois are goat antelope, having physical characteristics of both goats and antelope.
Types of Goats
Rocky Mountain goats are goat antelope inhabiting mountains from the American Northwest to Alaska. They live in snowy, craggy habitats and are excellent climbers, due to hoofs having soft pads with hard rims that work well on snow, ice, or rock. Rocky Mountain goats are about three feet tall at the shoulder, with black horns, white, shaggy pelage, and goatees. They eat any plants available and are solitary, except during mating. Chamois goat antelope have light brown pelage in the summer, which turns dark in winter. The males' deadly curved horns are eight inches long. Chamois are about the same size as Rocky Mountain goats and have similar hoofs. They live above mountain tree lines in Europe, Asia, and New Zealand and prefer eating grass and lichens. During winter, they eat pine needles and bark. Females form herds of up to one hundred, while males live alone except to mate. Chamois battle for mates, and defeated males often die after their belly and throat are ripped open by the victor's horns. Angora goats, true goats, have body shapes like domesticated Swiss goats. They inhabit Turkey, South Africa, the United States, Argentina, Australia, andNewZealand. Horned and bearded, their long, thick, hair is used in mohair cloth. Angora goats grow approximately 80 percent of the size of Rocky Mountain goats. They live on hillsides, eating woody vegetation and grass. Nubian goats, hornless true goats, have short hair and droopy ears, and the males have goatees. Adult males weigh up to 180 pounds, while females weigh up to 140 pounds. Males are about five feet tall at the shoulder. Their coats are black, tan, or red, sometimes with white spots. They eat briars, thistles, and brambles, as needed, with their tough mouths and teeth. Their splayed hooves aid climbing hills. Nubians live in large herds and males fight for mates.
Goats prefer eating leaves and grass, but can eat thistles, briars, and brambles with their tough mouths and teeth. Thus, they can survive where soft vegetation is scarce and other herbivores starve. Goats are sociable and live in groups of from a dozen to thousands of individuals. In the wild, males fight for mates and may die in such battles. Mating usually occurs in the spring among domesticated goats, while wild goats generally mate in the fall. The goat gestation period is about 5.5 months and yields one to four young, nursed for six months. Young goats are born with hair, eyes open, and can run and jump within twelve hours of birth. Goats can live for fourteen to twenty years. A number of goat breeds are raised for meat, milk, leather. Goats are fine milk producers, and the milk is often used to make cheese. Their milk is sweet, nourishing, and easy to digest. It also has more fat and protein than cow milk and is helpful to persons with digestive troubles. More people throughout the world use goat milk than cow milk. Toggenburg and Saanen Swiss goat imports are popular milk goats in the United States. Toggenburgs are brown, with light side stripes, while Saanens are short-haired and white or cream-colored; both breeds produce around five quarts of milk per day. Goatskins also make high-grade leather; for instance, "Morocco leather" is chamois skin. Angora and cashmere goats are raised for their coats, which are used to make wool.
Tribes: Rupicaprini (four genera, five species); Ovibonini (two genera, two species); Caprini (five genera, seventeen species)
Geographical location: Asia, Europe, North America, Africa, New Zealand, Australia
Habitat: Dry mountains or hills
Gestational period: Around 5.5 months
Life span: Fourteen to twenty years
Special anatomy: Permanent, hollow horns, ruminant stomach, very tough hooves
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