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A few message threads down I was discussing with Helene about goats and their behavior. I figured this would be as good a time as any to start a new message about this. Feel free to jump in to the discussion.
One of my favorite goats is a red nubian doe named Pepper. She is one of the nicest behaved goats we have and has a real funny way of jumping up on a wooden wire spool and waiting for me to feed. I even go out at non-feeding times and there she is, atop that spool looking at me. She is one goat who I can call her name and she will look. For the most part, the rest of our goats won't do that as often.
Then there is our black and brown doe nubian Megan. We got her as a gift last year from some friends up the road. It was more that they were going out of town and thought she might kid while they were gone - to our house she came. She's the goat that ended up in my bathroom with a bale of hay. For the most part, every time I go into the goat pen, she has to be right next to me, rubbing her head on me and looking up at me. Her kids are exactly like her temperament wise. They are nubian/boer mixes and the little doe especially is just like her mom.
Now we get into the "problem child" goats. We have a white Saanen named Mary (sorry to the real Mary on this list - no ill-spirited intentions meant). I don't care what kind of fence you build - 12 strings of electric wire, hog panels, etc., Mary will try and find a way through it (and usually does). She's the traveling ring leader for the other goats - once she breaks free, the rest are sure to follow. She's lovable enough for the most part but not easy to just stand there and pet.
"Steve V. P." (named after one of my guitar students) is a registered fainter buck. Looks like a little Holstein cow actually with his black and white coloration. Actually, every time I look at him I think of Santa Claus though. We got him as an 8 week old kid and have never been able to get withing ten feet of him. A jet will do a fly-over and he stiffens up (faints). I carry a piece of plywood (or large object such as a cattle panel and he faints. He's quite a goat but I wish he had a more lovable personality.
"Nova" is the offspring of Mary - a Saanen/Spanish cross. We have raised her from a newborn (not bottle fed) and she is almost exactly like her mother except that she is not as bent on escaping. She will for the most part let us get near her but still has that wild side that says it's all a game to her.
Last but not least for this message is Fawn - an Alpine/Nubian doe. Fawn is very lovable but has a mind of her own like most goats do. You can get next to her, pet her, lead her anywhere but try and milk her and forget it. She will put up a real good fight. Last year she wasn't so good of a nanny either - stepped on her kids and made a shanbles of the kidding pen. Fawn is the recognized herd queen over all our goats. I've seen some of the other, bigger and supposedly meaner goats succumb to her actions.
So what's this all have to a goats behavior? Well, for one thing, Nova is the only one in the list above that we have raised from a kid to a year and a half old. Yet she is still reticient to let us have completely full contact with her at all times. On the other hand, some of the other goats such as Pepper and Megan, whom we received well after they were kids are very sweet and lovable. So it goes to show you that when you get a new goat, some of them will be lovable, some of them won't be lovable. It may or may not have anything to do with your intervention in their life as kids.
Of course alot of the goats people buy come from an unknown history. I've known people that will chase down goats by waving their hands wildly, yelling, even throwing stuff at the goat to get it to do or go where they want it to go. I think these loud and sudden movements influence a goats behavior a great deal. Some goats if left in the wild will quickly return to their feral ways. Certainly most of us don't want goats that come from this environment, especially if you are wanting a goat as a pet that you can get close to.
I'd have to say that goats are pretty smart as well. Maybe even ranking with a dog in overall intelligence. The two are no where comparable though behaviorally. Goats have a very independent nature whereas "most" dogs have a nature of loyalty. I've heard many people say "stupid goat" simply because the goat won't do any tricks, fetch the paper, or come when called. Their intelligence should not be measured as such. I've heard just as many people say "stupid dog" because it won't perform upon call.
As you might imagine, just because of my association with GoatWorld, I get alot of email and phone calls from "soon to be" or "would be" goat owners asking me about goats as pets. I think that is primarily what originally did spark my interest in goat behavior.
There are really a few "known" factors that each and every one of us can attribute to goats: we can predict that they will come within a close proximity if we have a can of feed or bale of hay with us. We can predict that even if the pasture is in is full of a virtual smorgasbord of browse, they will long for the browse on the other side of the fence. We can predict that they will do the unpredictable. Perhaps that is what fascinates each of us to keep goats!
Oh, something I forgot to add is that most goats will alert you (through a different series of bleats), the goat keeper that something is wrong or out of place. Even though goats are independent creatures from other lifeforms, they seem to sense that you are their master and have a certain control of their fate (most likely they view us as a food source only). They have telling signs to warn you when something is not right - either with them or their environment. So I feel it is real important to always pay heed to their behavior.
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