1902 Encyclopedia > Goat


GOAT. All the species of the genus Capra may be divided into two classes, the one being represented by the ibex (see IBEX) and the other the goat. The latter class is subdivided into the regagrus or wild goat (Capra cegagrus) and the domestic goat (Capra Jiircus), of which there are many varieties.

The Wild Goat, or Paseng of the Persians (Capra cegagrus, Pall.), is an inhabitant of the mountainous regions of Central Asia from the Caucasus to the Himalayas, and is occasionally met with in troops at great elevations. It stands somewhat higher than any of the domesticated varieties of the goat, from which it further differs in its stouter limbs and more slender body. Its neck is short, and is thus fitted to bear the enormous horns, which in the male are larger proportionally than in any other ruminant animal. These measure nearly three feet in length, are obscurely triangular in form, transversely ridged, and are bent backward as in the domestic varieties. The wild goat of the Himalayas, according to Darwin, when it happens to fall accidentally from a height, makes use of its massive horns by bending forward its head and alighting on them, thus breaking the shock. In the female the horns are exceedingly diminutive, or are altogether award-ing. The fur, which over the greater part of the body is short, is of a greyish-brown colour, with a black line running along the entire length of the back ; the short tail and the muzzle are also black, while the under surface of the neck, and the beard, which is present in both sexes, are of a brown colour. The paseng is exceedingly wary of the approach of man, and as its agility is no less remarkable there has been little opportunity of studying it closely. The concretions known as bezoar-stones, which were for-merly much used in medicine and as antidotes of poison, are believed to have been originally obtained from the intestines of this species.

Considerable diversity of opinion has been expressed by naturalists as to the original stock of the domestic goat, which is met with in nearly every quarter of the globe,— the now prevalent and the most probable opinion being that the various domestic breeds are severally descended from wild stock now extinct. Beth the ibex and the segagrus interbreed freely with the common goat, though the produce is not always fertile. Instances of this are not unusual in the Alps and Pyrenees, where goats abound in a semi-domesticated state. Hybrids between the goat and the sheep are also known to have occurred, but are rare.

The following are the chief domestic breeds, possessing distinct characteristics :—the Common Goat, the Maltese, the Syrian, the Angora, the Cashmere, the Nubian or Egyptian, and the Dwarf Goat of Guinea.

The Common Goat.—This has many varieties which differ from each other in length of hair, in colour, and slightly in the configuration of the horns. The ears are more or less upright, sometimes horizontal, but never actually pendent, as in some Asiatic breeds. The horns are rather flat at the base and not unfrequently corrugated; they rise vertically from the head, curving to the rear, and are more or less laterally inclined. The colour varies from a dirty white to a dark-brown, but never black, which indicates Eastern blood. Most of the European countries possess more than one description of the common goat. In the British Isles there are two distinct types, one short and the other long haired. In the former case the hair is thick and close, with frequently an undercoat resembling wool. The horns are large in the male, and of moderate size in the female, flat at the base and inclining outwards. The head is short and tapering, the forehead flat and wide, and the nose small; the legs strong, thick, and well covered with hair. The colour varies from white or grey to black, but is frequently fawn, with a dark line down the spine and across the shoulders. The other variety owns a shaggy coat, gene-rally of a reddish-black hue, though sometimes grey or pied and occasionally white. The head is long, heavy, and ugly, the nose coarse and prominent, the horns are situated close together, and often continue parallel almost to the extremi-ties, being also large, corrugated, and pointed. The legs are long, and the sides flat, the animal itself being generally gaunt and thin. This breed is peculiar to Ireland, the Welsh being of a similar description, but more often white. The short-haired goat is the English goat proper. From the constant crossing however that takes place between these native breeds and imported foreign specimens, one meets in England with animals possessing very great diver-sity of form. Both the British breeds and those from abroad are frequently ornamented with two peculiar tassel-like appendages, which hang near together under the throat. It is supposed by many that these ornaments are traceable to some foreign origin ; but although there are foreign breeds that possess them, they appear to pertain quite as much to the English native breeds as to those of distant countries, and indeed the peculiarity referred to is mentioned in very old works that describe the goats of the British Islands. The milk produce in the common goat as well as other kinds varies very greatly with individuals. Irish goats often yield a quantity of milk, but the quality is compara-tively poor. The goats of France are very similar to those of Britain, varying in length of hair, colour, and character of horns. A French writer describes them as possessing " a particularly neat and compact head, small mouth, horns cor-rugated, and inclining upwards and outwards, a thin neck, narrow chest, and long body, long but muscular legs, and in colour white, black, fawn, or pied." The Norway breed is frequently pure white with long hair ; it is rather small in size, with small bones, a short rounded body, head small with a prominent forehead, and short, straight, corrugated horns. The facial line is concave. The horns of the male are very large, and curl round after the manner of the wild goat, with a tuft of hair between and in front.

The Maltese Goat has its ears long and wide and per-fectly pendulous, hanging down below the jaw. The hair is long and cream-coloured. Specimens of this kind are usually hornless, which is perhaps the cause of it having been called the " Hornless Variety." It would appear, however, that the absence of these appendages is simply a freak of nature, and not the peculiar characteristic of a particular species.

The Syrian Goat. —This breed is met with in various parts of the East, in Lower Egypt, on the shores of the Indian Ocean, and in the island of Madagascar. Both its hair and ears are excessively long, the latter so much so that they are sometimes dipt to prevent their being torn by stones or thorny shrubs. Its horns are somewhat erect and spiral, with an outward bend.

The Angora Goatia often confounded with the Cashmere, but is in reality quite distinct from it. The principal feature of this breed, of which there are two or three varieties, is the length and quantity of its hair, which has a particularly soft and silky texture, covering the whole body and a great part of the legs with close matted ringlets. The horns of the male differ from those of the female, being directed vertically and in shape spiral, whilst in the female they have a horizontal tendency, somewhat like those of a ram. The face has a sheepish expression. The coat is com-posed of two kinds of hair, the one short and coarse and of the character of hair, which lies close to the skin, the other long and curly and of the nature of wool, forming the outer covering. Both are used by the manufacturer, but the ex-terior portion, which makes up by far the greater bulk, is much the more valuable. The process of shearing takes

place in early spring, and is conducted with the utmost care; the average amount of wool yielded by each animal is about 2J lb. The best quality comes from castrated males, the females producing the next best. The annual ex-port of wool from Angora is estimated at about 2,000,000 lb, and its value at £200,000. Large herds are shipped at Constantinople and sent to Cape Colony, where this breed thrives well and is largely propagated, the climate being specially suitable to the perfect development of the wool. A very valuable consignment of these animals arrived in London in May 1879 for transshipment to the Cape, having been procured from different parts of Asia Minor, by means of great personal exertion, by Mr J. B. Evans, a South-African goat farmer. The wool, or mohair, as it is technically termed, of these goats was remarkably long, fine, and heavy, the average weight of the produce of the herd being reckoned at 6 lb per head. So highly is this breed
between half to three quarters of a rupee. It is sold by the "turruk" of 12 fi>. This is the material of which the far-famed and costly shawls are made, which at one time had such a demand that, it is stated, " 16,000 looms were kept in constant work at Cashmere in their manufacture." Those goats having a short, neat head, very long, thin ears, a delicate skin, small bones, and a long heavy coat, are for this purpose deemed the best. There are several varieties possessing this valuable quality, but those of Cashmere, Thibet, and Mongolia are the most esteemed. About the year 1816 a small herd of Cashmeres was intro-duced into France with a view to acclimatize and breed them for the sake of their wool, but the enterprise failed. A few were purchased and brought over to England by Mr C. T. Tower, who, by careful treatment, so far succeeded with them that, in course of time, he had a shawl made from their fleece, which turned out to be of good quality. At the death of the owner some years later, the herd, which had then deteriorated through in-breeding, was presented to the Queen and placed in Windsor Park.

The Nubian Goat, which is met with in Nubia, Upper Egypt, and Abyssinia, differs greatly in appearance from all those previously described. The coat is in the female extremely short, almost like that of a race-horse, and the legs are very long. This breed therefore stands considerably higher than the common goat. One of its peculiarities is the strongly convex shape of the face, the forehead being very prominent and the nostrils sunk in, the nose itself extremely small, and the lower lip projecting from the upper. The ears are long, broad, and thin, and hang down by the side of the head like a " double lop " rabbit. The horns are quite black, slightly twisted, and very short, flat at the base, pointed at the tips, and recumbent on the head. But esteemed by the Turkish farmers that it was with the greatest reluctance they were induced to sell them, and then only at exorbitant prices, some of the males costing £250 and females £150. £50 and £60 are common prices for these goats at Angora. Fig. 1 is from a photo-graph of the finest male of the flock, the fleece of which was estimated to weigh when shorn full 15 lb. The breed was introduced at the Cape about 1864. In 1878, according to the customs returns, 1,300,585 lb weight of mohair was exported, of the value of £105,313. The Angora is a bad milker and an indifferent mother, but its flesh is better eating than that of any other breed, and in its native country is preferred to mutton. The kids are born very small, but grow fast, and arrive early at maturity. This variety of the goat approaches nearest in its nature, form, and habits to the sheep, even the voice having a strong resemblance.

The Cashmere Goat.—This animal has a delicate head, with semi-pendulous ears, which are both long and wide. The hair varies in length, and is coarse and of different colours according to the individual. The horns are very erect, and sometimes slightly spiral, inclining inwards and to such an extent in some cases as to cross. The coat is composed, as in the Angora, of two materials; but in this breed it is the under coat that partakes of the nature of wool and is valued as an article of commerce. This under-growth, which is of a uniform greyish-white tint, whatever the colour of the hair may be, is beautifully soft and silky, and of a fluffy description resembling down. It makes its appearance in the autumn, and continues to grow until the following spring, when if not removed, it falls off naturally; its collection then commences, occupying from eight to ten days. The animal undergoes during that time a process of combing by which all the wool and a portion of the hair, which of necessity comes with it, is removed. The latter is afterwards carefully separated, when the fleece in a good specimen weighs about half a pound, being worth little was known of this breed in Europe—in the West at least—until some ten or twelve years ago, when some were imported into France by the Société d'Acclimatation of Paris, who found its milking qualities to surpass those of all other breeds. Among the goats that are met with in England a good many show unmistakable signs of a more or less remote cross with this breed, derived probably from specimens brought from the East on board ships for supply-ing milk during the voyage. It is no doubt on this account that they often go by the name of " Indian " goats.

The Nepaul Goat appears to be a variety of the last breed, it having the same arched facial line, pendulous ears, and long legs. The horns, however, are more spiral. The colour of the hair, which is longer than in the Nubian, is black, grey, or white, with black blotches.

The Guinea Goat is a dwarf species originally from the coast whence its name is derived. There are three varieties. Besides the commonest (Oapra recurva, Linn.), there is a rarer breed (Copra depressa, Linn.), inhabiting the Mauritius and the islands of Bourbon and Madagascar. The other variety is met with along the White Nile, in Lower Egypt, and at various points on the African coast of the Mediterranean. Some of these dwarf goats may be seen at the Jardin d'Acclimatation in Paris.

Habits and Management.—The milch goat has been aptly described as the " poor man's cow "—a designation it well merits, for with a couple of these animals the cottager may at an almost nominal expense enjoy the same advantages in a domestic point of view as the rich man with his " Alderney." Comparatively few are kept in England, because the advantages of goat-keeping are but very im-'perfectly known, and also on account of the large propor-tion of land under cultivation. The goat in a state of nature frequents hills and mountainous places, and in a domesticated condition it generally gives preference to elevated situations ; but it is a mistake to suppose that it will not thrive on low ground. Being naturally adapted to rocks and dry soils, however, it should not be exposed in marshy places, as this brings on disease of the feet and general ill health ; otherwise there is no animal more uni-formly hardy. The common varieties will stand heat and cold equally well, but have a decided objection to storms of wind and rain ; when they are left to roam loose, therefore, a rough shed should be erected to shelter them from the weather. Under this arrangement a goat may be left out day and night the whole year round; but, if it is kept for the sake of its milk, the yield is greater and it thrives better if housed during winter. Owing to the troublesome propensity of these animals to bark trees and destroy shrubs by nipping off all young and tender shoots, they should not be allowed to roam loose—except on a common—unless proper protection is afforded by wire netting or some such arrangement.

The goat breeds, generally speaking, but once a year. If well housed and under liberal treatment, it will bring forth young twice in twelve months; but this is not advisable. As a rule, at the first birth one kid only is produced, but afterwards two and sometimes three. One has been known for three consecutive years to drop four at a birth; but this is rare and by no means desirable, as the progeny are sure to be small and thrive badly,—the dam in most cases having insufficient milk for so large a family.

The goat propagates at a very early period of its life. The male is generally capable of engendering at seven months; and, in the case just referred to of four at a birth, the father on one occasion was barely six months old. One is sufficient for a hundred females. The latter bring forth at twelve months, and sometimes earlier. For the sake of the future growth and productiveness of the animal, however, it is unwise to permit intercourse between the sexes earlier than at eighteen or at least sixteen months. It is owing to the baneful practice of letting them breed as soon as they will, under the mistaken idea that a more rapid return is obtained, that so many diminutive specimens are met with, both dam and progeny being spoiled in consequence.

The best kind for milch purposes are those with long and deep bodies, not necessarily so broad at the chest as about the haunches, the belly ample, and the legs tolerably short; head fine and tapering, with prominent eyes, ears long, thin, wide, and inclining horizontally, horns short and not corrugated, neck thick, and coat close and short. The udder above all must be not only large but soft and elastic, with nice pointed teats. Hornless specimens are often the best milkers.

The goat has 32 teeth, and by these the age up to five years may be pretty accurately ascertained. The lower jaw possesses 12 molars and 8 incisors, and the upper 12 molars alone. The kid at its birth has 6 molars but no incisors; the latter, however, are generally all cut in about three weeks, the first cut molar being visible at three months. At a year or fifteen months old the two front " milk teeth," as the first set of incisors are called, fall, and are replaced by permanent ones; the next two at from two years to thirty months, the third pair from two and a half to three and a half years, and the fourth and last at from three and a half to four and a half years. When all are changed the mouth is said to be " full."

Half-bred Nubian and Native.
Milk. 3-57 litres. 3 42 „ 335 „ 3 62 ., 3-69 .,
Cream. o22 litres. o21 „ _20 „ o23 „ '24 „

Between two and five years old the she-goat gives the best return in milk, continuing productive often for eight or nine years ; its length of life is on an average from ten to fifteen. These animals vary very greatly in the quan-tity of milk they yield. An ordinary specimen gives from 2 to 3 pints, a superior one 2 quarts, and occasionally first-rate individuals are found supplying 3 quarts a day. The Nubian breed surpasses the common goat in this respect, as the following table from the French work of M. du Plessis will show, in which the yield of a Nubian is compared with that of a half-bred, itself a superior milker.

== TABLE ==

The litre being as near as possible If pints, the return in English measure is accordingly—from the half-bred 31 pints, or an average per day of 3 quarts, and from the pure Nubian 4-0 pints, or nearly 4 quarts daily, the rich-ness of the quality being proportionately greater.

Milking should be performed at regular hours, morning and night; but with heavy milkers three times daily is better for the first two or three months, as the oftener the udder is emptied when once full the quicker it is replen-ished, a sufficient supply of food being of course provided. It is a good plan to accustom the animal to jump on a plat-form whilst being milked ; the teats are thus more easily manipulated, and more command is obtained over the goat and the pail. Feeding and milking should always be carried on at the same time.

Many persons are under the wrong impression that the milk of the she-goat,—which by the way has no strong hircine scent attaching to her like the male, another common error,—possesses a flavour peculiar to itself; but this is quite a mistake. Out of dozens kept by the present writer, only one has been found to yield milk differing from that of the cow in taste. The peculiarity in this case seemed natural to the animal, and the milk was decidedly unpalatable.

The flesh of the common goat, although quite eatable, is not to be recommended in comparison with mutton, being rather hard and indigestible. Kid, however, is a great delicacy, and tastes like lamb or veal, according to the manner of dressing. It is preferable cooked like veal, with layers of bacon tied round and stuffed, for with the exception of the suet there is very little fat. A good rich gravy should accompany the joint when served, and there should be no lack of cooking. Hot or cold it is then equally acceptable. Suckling kids are the best eating, as they have then their milk flesh, and are nice and plump. The skins dressed and sewed together make handsome rugs. For food and other remarks on goat-keeping see AGRICULTURE, vol. i. p. 399. (S. H. P.)

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