10:37 p.m. - 2006-10-10
How are you all? Tell me about your recent animal encounters!
It's been a while since I've written, and I wish I could tell you I've been in Tahiti, or riding my bike across Minnesota or something, but really I've just been working 45+ hour weeks. R and I DID traipse from Minneapolis to St. Paul Oct. 1st in the Twin Cities Ten Mile! We reached our slow but steady goal. And last weekend we went camping at this State Park! Did we see critters? Oh yes! Did we take pictures? Indeed!
All right, let's learn about goats, finally! My obsession started at the MN State Fair (an obsession in itself), which we visited twice in one weekend.
Both times our posse visited the goat barn. Now, in my nearly two months of marriage, R has proven himself as an excellent partner, supporter, provider of snuggling, etc etc, but he has fallen short in one regard. For at the fair I told him, "R, I need one of those Nigerian Pygmy Goats."
And he has not provided one.
Goats have a fantastic and ancient history! They are one of the first domesticated animals, with evidence found at the ancient city of Jericho, dating 6,000 to 7,000 years ago! Goats (along with cats) are also the domesticated animals that most easily revert back to wild behavior!
Most domesticated goats are ancestors of the Middle Eastern bezoar goat, (Capra aegagrus). Here's a photo from www.blueplanetbiomes.com :
Goats are from the great Bovinae family, which includes cattle and antelope. The subfamily Caprinae encompasses both goats and sheep, the latter of which has their own genus, Ovis, within Caprinae. So really, sheep are goats! It seems goats "took the high road", surviving in very harsh environments, while sheep stayed low and flocked together in herds for grazing. Following is a picture of the noble sheep ancestor, the mouflon: (www.eurohunters.com)
Goats are extremely useful creatures! They provide dairy, fiber, meat, skin and serve as pets, as well as appearing in the wild. A dairy goat can produce over six pounds of milk daily. (Compared to 38 pounds for a cow.) Thank you for feta cheese, O goaters! (And so many other cheeses....) The Black Bengal goat of Bangladesh is considered the species with the finest skins. (Shout out to the Bangla-American family Z!) The fanciest goats in the world are the cashmere fellas from the Himalayas! Here's a pic from www.old.co.uk:
These fuzzies have a much greater quantity of cashmere, or the soft inner coat, than most goats. The outer goatcoat is usually quite rough, with the exception of angora goats. Here's a photo from www.ansi.okstate.edu:
These curly-heads produce fiber that is turned into mohair. It's a bit confusing, because there is angora fiber too, which comes from angora rabbits. OMG FUZZINESS ALERT! (Courtesy of www.petplanet.co.uk:)
So, angora goat = mohair, angora rabbit = angora. Can you tell the difference between the goat and rabbit?!? (Obviously I need them both as pets!)
While goats have a reputation for eating anything, this actually isn't true. However, they do use their sensitive mouths to explore their environment! Caprines do ingest all plant material, which makes them great for eating up plants other grazers avoid.
So, back to pygmy goats. Apparently both pygmy and dwarf goat species came from Africa. Pygmy goats are prized for their stocky, heavy boned "beer keg" appearance, while dwarf goats are proportioned like a full-sized caprine, but smaller. Pygmies weigh about 30 to 60 pounds, with dwarves being a bit heavier at 75 lbs. or so. Here's a dwarf goat picture from www.juliesjingle.com:
Both of these little varieties make wonderful pets! Apparently it's fun to breed them as there is no way to predetermine the color of the kids! Dwarf and pygmy goat kids weigh about 2 lbs. at birth, and mix well with full-size caprines.
Romantic love between goats is pretty kinky! About every 21 days the does go into heat. At this time the nearby buck goats will stop eating to prepare for nooky. When a doe seems ready, the male will proceed to urinate on himself. The ladygoat will then "flag" her tail up and down, and the buck approaches. She begins urinating, and the buck places his nose in her urine stream, to make sure she is indeed in heat. Then the doe begins leading the male around. This love process takes several hours and is very exhausting for the goats! In hot climates goats usually mate at night.
In five months, the kids are born (usually twins). The mama proceeds to eat her placenta, which provides her with nutrients and removes the bloody organ as a possible predator attractor. In a day or two, the kids are able to hide away, only to come out when their mother calls for them! So cute.
Fun goat facts!
A "bezoar" is a mineral deposit that forms in goat stomachs. These pebble-like objects used to be considered a remedy for poisoning.
Finally, there is a black goat here at the animal clinic. Today I petted his forehead! Don't tell anyone. But (as you probably suspect) I can understand animals thoughts. This little guy was nice enough to offer to come to my department and eat all the paper I wanted to get rid of! So nice of him.
Well, I hope you've enjoyed learning about our fuzzy, hungry, useful friend, the goat!