Meet Billy Gotti

The Goat Who is Stealing the Internet

Meet Billy Gotti

Reading Time: 4 minutes

If you haven’t heard of Billy Gotti yet, well, you have been missing out. He is a sweeping internet sensation that just keeps getting better. However, before you can get to know Billy, you need to meet his mother, Jo’lee.

Jo’lee was feeling particularly lonely just over a year ago, especially because she does not have any biological children. Feeling depressed, she had a random thought of perhaps getting a goat. As she was looking at Craigslist one day, she saw a listing for a male miniature goat. No other breed or parent information was given. He was only a few days old and needed to be bottle-fed to survive. Jo’lee immediately snatched him up, named him Billy Gotti, and dubbed him as her son. Because she had no child, in her words, she “made me a child.” I asked her why she chose a goat, out of all the domestic creatures out there, she responded, “Well, why not? There’s no real difference between a dog, cat, bird, or goat.” Jo’lee also wasn’t exactly inept when it came to caring for a goat; after all, she was raised as a farm girl. Her family had raised pigs, cattle, and chickens primarily for food. Even so, she admits that he sort of scared her a little at first. Although Jo’lee was bullied sometimes as a child, she now embraces being different and loving a different style of life. She has always loved animals, and now she has one as her son.

Photo by Jo’lee Shine.

From the beginning, Billy went nearly everywhere that Jo’lee went. If it’s a place that other people would take a child, then Jo’lee took Billy. While he is not welcomed in most restaurants, those with outside patios are sometimes lenient and allow him to stay for a meal. He even got to eat at a Popeye’s once. Jo’lee places Billy Gotti in a baby carrier to go to her local store. He snuggles up against her with his head in, and no one can tell that it isn’t a human baby inside. When I say that Billy goes nearly everywhere that Jo’lee goes, I mean it. He has even gone with her to the club. As long as he is with Jo’lee, Billy is very calm with loud crowds of people. Billy is not toilet/house trained, so he does wear diapers. Jo’lee may attempt to house train him in the future.

One of Jo’lee and Billy’s favorite activities is to visit assisted living centers. Billy gets dressed up with a shirt, shorts, and sunglasses before each visit. He actually dresses up much of the time. When Billy Gotti enters the facility, he typically stops in every room without prompting. When picked up, Billy offers kisses and cuddles. He is very gentle and friendly with the residents. Jo’lee gets so much joy from having Billy in her life that she is eager to share him and that joy with others.

Photo by Ronka Sowell.

While Billy is always gentle at the nursing homes, he often has an attitude with his mom. When he gets mad, Billy has a tendency to “pass out” and play dead for a minute. Of course, that’s when he isn’t biting his grandmother. It sounds like he might have some myotonic or “fainting goat” genes in his mix. According to Jo’lee, he doesn’t even know that he is a goat. He can see other goats outside the car window and have no understanding that he is actually one of them. When at home, he sleeps in the bed with Jo’lee. If he’s not allowed in the bed, he will sit and cry.

Although Billy recently celebrated turning one year old, he is not very big. Jo’lee says that he is a little smaller than a poodle. Billy and Jo’lee have recently experienced the heartache of losing Billy’s younger sister, Bonnie Bunz. She was a surprise to both of them, and Billy really wasn’t sure that he wanted to be a big brother. However, just when Billy was getting used to her, Bonnie succumbed to floppy kid syndrome at just a few weeks old. Jo’lee consulted with the vet and did everything she could and was supposed to do, but it isn’t always possible to save a kid.

Photo by Jo’lee Shine.

Jo’lee says that if you are considering getting an animal, just do it because they will love you forever. They may get attitude just like kids, but “It’ll be the best thing you have ever done.”

While Jo’lee never meant to make Billy famous, it just seemed to happen. When she posted her first picture with him drinking from a bottle, her friends and family shared the post to the point that it took off. People love the goat that thinks he is human and dresses like a human. They have been featured in several local news clips plus The Maury Show and have over 150,000 likes on Facebook. They even have their own merchandise that you can purchase. You can follow Billy Gotti on Facebook and Instagram @realbillygotti.

Jo’lee and Billy. Photo by Ronka Sowell.

Originally published in the May/June 2020 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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