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The domestic goat (capra aegagrus hircus) is a sub-species of goat domesticated from the wild goat of South West Asia and Eastern Europe. The goat is a member of the Bovidae family and is closely related to the sheep, both being in the goat antilope sub-family Caprinae.
Domestic goats are one of the oldest domesticated species. For thousands of years, goats have been used for their milk, meat, hair and skins over much of the world. In the last century they have also gained some popularity as pets.
Female goats are referred to as “does” or “nannies”, intact males as “bucks” or “billies”; their offspring are “kids”. Castrated males are “wethers”.
Goats are ruminents. They have a four-chambered stomach consisting of the rumen, the reticulum, the omasum, and the abomasums.
Goats have horizontal slit –shaped pupils, an adaption which increases peripheral depth perception. Because goats’ irises are usually pale, the pupils are much more visible than in animals with horizontal pupils but very dark irises, such as sheep, cattle and most horses.
Some breeds of sheep and goats appear superficially similar, but goat tails are short and point up, whereas sheep tails hang down and are usually longer.
Gestation period for does is approximately 150 days. Twins are the usual result. Birthing, known as “kidding”, generally occurs uneventfully.
Goats are reputed to be willing to eat almost anything. The digestive systems of a goat allow nearly any organic substance to be broken down and used as nutrients. Contrary to this reputation, they are quite fastidious in their habits, preferring to browse on the tips of woody shrubs and trees, as well as the occasional broad leaved plant.
Some goats are bred for milk, but goat milk is commonly processed into cheese. Goat’s milk contains less lactose than cow’s milk.
Golden Guernsey goats are smaller than the British dairy breeds, fine boned, and are generally quiet and docile. In many respects they are ideal “household” goats.