Who among us is not charmed by goats? From gruff billy goats in fairy tales to regimental mascots, goats have been closely associated with mankind since hunter-gathering ceased to be the primary mode of life for humans. Goats have provided companionship, milk, meat, wool, leather and yeoman service as a beast of burden. In the process they have enchanted us throughout history and continue to do so to this day.
This captivating, beautifully illustrated book, covers every aspect of goat life from anatomy and biology to domestication and association with human society, even as the sacrificial animal of choice for several major religions, where incredibly, a blood sacrifice is still required to honour or appease the god of choice.
Goats are used for brush control and even as a substitute for the lawn mower in some places. Well known for their omnivorous diet and voracious appetites, they are not immune to the toxic effects of certain plants, however, and the author is at pains to point out the flowers and shrubs that have injurious consequences for goats. Who would have thought that Lupines, Daffodills and Foxgloves pose such a threat? The book is filled with fascinating insights into goat behaviour and we learn that a team of ten goats can clear an acre in one month. Feral goats are a serious threat to native vegetation and endemic wildlife in regions where they have been introduced by humans, and in order to protect and restore ecosystem integrity, eradication programmes have been implemented. If ten goats can clear an acre in a month it is sobering to contemplate what thousands of feral animals can do to a fragile ecosystem in short order.
We are all familiar with domestic goats, but many wild species still exist in their ancestral territories, especially in mountainous areas difficult of access to humans. These creatures are magnificent wild animals and evoke awe from all who see them. To encounter a Mountain Goat in the western ranges of North America is an experience not soon forgotten.
There is little about goats, if anything at all, that you will not find in this book, and the photographs are at once delightful and a perfect accompaniment to a lively, well-written text.
The final chapter A Directory of Goat Breeds is quite outstanding, with fabulous pictures of the various breeds, concise information and a range map. This is followed by a glossary, a very useful and often overlooked tool.
Let me leave you with this manifestation of goat affection toward humans, a cautionary note from page 114, perhaps.
Goats show affection by gazing into the faces of humans they like. All goats have scent glands in close approximation to their horns, or where their horns would be, so they rub their foreheads on people they care for to distribute their scent (which only goats can smell). Some friendly bucks will also attempt to urinate on humans to show affection as they would a doe - and, even worse, this often happens during rut, when lots of pheromones are present.
Don't claim we didn't warn you!
The Goat - A Natural & Cultural History
US$27.95 - £22.00 - ISBN: 9780691191331 - 224 pages - 250 coloured illustrations - 7.75 in. x 9.25 in.
Publications date: 13 October 2020