Do Female Goats Have Horns? Busting 7 Goat-Keeping Myths
Does Goat Milk Taste Bad? Will Goats Eat Anything?
Reading Time: 5 minutes
Do female goats have horns? And does all goat milk taste bad? To those inexperienced with the animal, goats can be shrouded in mystery. Or rather, the classic portrayal of them may not be quite true once the animal is in your yard and under your care. We’ve all seen the cartoon goat chewing on a tin can or heard that goats smell. Do they? Is the world ready to discover the truth about our capra friends? I believe so. The more educated people become about the myths and truths of goats, the more we can all love these animals and their antics.
Alright, so on to Myth #1: Goats stink, right? Well, sometimes. Depending on the time of year and which way the wind is blowing. And hopefully, it’s not blowing in your direction.
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Female goats never stink, nor do banded males. The only goats that truly smell are bucks when they are in rut. An intact male goat goes into rut when it is breeding season. His only desire during this time of year is to let all the lady goats know he is around and ready to fulfill their procreative wishes. Essentially, you’ll have an incredibly lovable goat smelling of musky, unwashed gym socks that got wet.
How does a buck do this? Prepare for gross amazement and a dash of repulsiveness. Bucks spray urine over their chests, legs, and head, then wipe it on their sides as well. I know, I know: thank goodness humans use cologne. However, in the goat world, that buck now smells oh so pretty to all the ladies. Delightful.
I promise that should you get it on you and go to work, your coworkers will become profoundly disturbed. Luckily, rutting season is only a few months of the year and that “pretty boy” smell only affects owners if they wish to keep intact males around. Otherwise, no, goats do not smell bad.
Myth #2: Only male goats have horns.
Wrong! Female goats do have horns too, although they are generally smaller than the male’s horns. Using the presence or absence of horns on a goat is not a reliable way to determine gender. Horns vary by the breed, and some breeds or genetic lines are naturally polled, meaning they do not have horns at all. On the opposite side of the spectrum, a rare occurrence can happen in which the goat is polycerate, meaning they have more than the typical two horns. Speaking as someone with a new, matching set of bruises from an accidental poke to the thigh, two horns are more than enough to bargain with.
Additionally, just because a goat doesn’t have horns, that doesn’t mean it never did. Some owners choose to dehorn their goats for a variety of personal reasons, and some choose to keep them intact. Anyone who has spent five minutes on a goat forum knows the debate about this choice is intense.
Myth #3: Goat meat and goat milk taste bad.
Obviously, this is a matter of opinion, and mine is that goat milk and meat are delicious. Goat breeds with a higher butterfat content will produce creamier milk. I love goat milk and I have yet to find the sample to change my mind. I may just be a sucker for fresh milk, something that my ladies provide in abundance.
Goat meat is similar to lamb or veal. The term “mutton” is used for both goat and sheep meat in many parts of the world. I find the meat of a goat to be on the gamey side, but not bad. Some owners are moving toward keeping meat and dairy mixes to get a good “dual purpose” type goat. It makes it simple to milk the females and eat the males. Milk or meat, this is something everyone will have to decide on their own. Try it with an open mind and be surprised.
Myth #4: Goats eat anything.
Okay, this is fairly true, but paradoxically also false. Goats can be the pickiest of eaters when they want to be. By this I mean they will turn their noses up at high-quality feed but find a cardboard box in the recycling and tear it to bits like it’s a prized snack. Goats eat a lot of things that would come as a surprise. Things they maybe shouldn’t. My herd murdered a 30-year-old Russian Olive tree, in cold blood, by eating all the bark off the base. They also did this to an apple tree. Bonus myth: Goats are rude. It’s true.
Myth #5: Goats aren’t really good for anything.
This is so wrong yet somehow I find myself answering this question often. Many non-goat people don’t realize how universally versatile goats truly are. They are great for dairy products, meat, fiber, packing loads, pulling carts, manure for gardens, weed control, entertainment, as companion animals, and as pets. They can do so much and bring so much value to a homestead, farm, or working family. It’s phenomenal that one animal can provide so many services in a small affordable package. They are really the ideal livestock, especially for owners who are going to use them to the fullest. They make up for their usefulness by being rude. (I can’t compliment them too much, it goes straight to their heads.)
Myth #6: Goats are mean.
I imagine everyone has heard certain horror stories concerning folks being rammed by a goat. This is another cliché myth about goats that is seen in cartoons or folklore. In reality, goats are some of the kindest farm animals out there. I’ve built some beautiful relationships with my goats. There is something so peaceful and trusting about resting your head on the side of a doe, at the end of a long day, while milking her. Being that close to an animal, listening to the farm settle down, and finishing the chores of the day is almost meditative. The girls will patiently wait or eat their milking bribe and get scratches and pet. It’s a camaraderie, an enchanting reverie that can only be had by caring for a goat soul day after day and building that relationship and being in the midst of never-ending work together. Goats can be a lot like dogs, and I truly treasure the bonds I have with my favorite herd members.
Myth #7: Goats are escape artists.
This is not a myth. This is not a drill.
Goats are too smart for their own good, and a bored goat will find a way out. Okay, technically I know people keep goats in. But it sounds fake. I repair and replace fencing as needed, and every now and then I still get to witness the goat parade of celebration when they find a way out. This is helped by ensuring your goats have enough living space, giving them play areas and things to do, and frequently assessing your fencing. Don’t feel bad if they still escape. One of the biggest factors in ensuring your goats stay home is having the correct fencing. There are goat-specific panels that work wonders, but they can be expensive.
The art of raising goats comes with many lessons and busted myths. Have you heard one that we haven’t? We’d love to hear your stories! Reach out to Goat Journal with your best myths!
4 thoughts on “Do Female Goats Have Horns? Busting 7 Goat-Keeping Myths”
I love this article. I have answered all those questions myself. I especially relate to leaning my head on Bessie or Gladys while I milk, listening to the rumen, I feel the pure relaxation and connection to life during those quiet moments. Goats are my sanity, not sure I can live without them.
I was telling someone how goats can eat poison ivy. They asked if you could then get poison ivy rash from drinking the milk. My guess was, “no,” but I don’t raise goats, (yet 🙂 ). Can you answer this?
Also, I’ve heard that goats and chickens are good companions. Is this true?
Hi Lee, great questions! As Lacey pointed out in this story, many people assume “goats can eat anything,” when it is quite the opposite. I advise all goat owners to check the toxicity of any plant they wish their goats to eat, and to do it with a valid resource such as a veterinarian or university ag extension. Thankfully, goats have been used historically to control poison oak, ivy, and sumac, and the urushiol oil doesn’t affect animals the way it does humans. Initial trials from the University of California indicated we don’t need to worry about urushiol transfer in the milk, either. However, anyone who is new to goats should be aware that suddenly introducing them to large amounts of ANY new food, even the healthiest, can kill a goat, because it upsets bacterial balances in the rumens and allows toxin-creating Clostridium bacteria to grow.
Now regarding your other question: Yes and no. For the most part, they can share the same foraging area such as a pasture, but goats should never be allowed to eat chicken feed, because the extra calcium in laying feed can create painful and deadly calcium issues within the goats, and grower feed is way too many calories of the wrong kind. Also, if the goat owner tests their goats for Johne’s disease, they should be aware that, if their chickens contract the avian version of Mycobacterium and pass it to the goats, it won’t make the goats sick but will show up on a blood test as a positive result for Johne’s disease and may mean the owner cannot sell that goat.
– Marissa Ames, editor of Goat Journal magazine.
What an awesome post. I love goats… don’t own any unfortunately….and this info just reinforces my opinion goats are the best animals apart from dogs that is