Goat, West African Pygmy


Capra hircus hircus


Adult pygmy goats are 18-20 inches tall. Their color is gray, black, white, or any combination of these colors. The hair is smooth and short. Both sexes have horns; the female’s horns are generally short and straight while the male’s horns are longer and either scimitar-shaped or spiraling; the scimitar shape apparently is the original condition.

Family

Bovidae

Order

Artiodactyla

Class

Mammalia

Range

Widely distributed throughout much of Africa

Habitat

Grasslands and semi desert areas

Life Expectancy

The normal life span is 8-12 years

Sexual Maturity

As early as 6 months

Diet

In the wild, they feed on available plant material. In the Zoo, they are fed goat chow, grain and hay

Status

Not listed

Behaviors

African pygmy goats are choosy animals that are clean and prefer tasty, but not rich food which fills the rumen or forestomach. They are cud-chewers regurgitating once swallowed food to rechew it thoroughly before it passes into the rest of the digestive tract. Normally, two kids are produced after a gestation period of 21-22 weeks. In rare cases, triplets are produced, too. In temperate zones, goats are seasonal breeders. Breeding season usually occurs in the fall and will last for five months.

Adaptions

Goats are agile climbers due in part to the hair, which grows between their hooves and gives them traction on smooth surfaces. The hoof is also hard on the outside and softer, almost spongy, underneath, much like a tennis shoe tread.

Special Interests

Standard size goats are raised for their milk, fine leather and meat. Goat’s milk has approximately the same water and protein content as cow’s milk; however, goat’s milk is lower in lactose and higher in fat content. Many diary products such as cheese, butter and ice cream can be made from goat’s milk. Present evidence seems to indicate that the earliest domestication of goats occurred in the open forest hills of southwestern Asia some eight to nine thousand years ago. Since then, goats have developed into animals that do well in areas where cows and sheep could not survive. In Africa, these goats are kept for their meat and milk production. Herds may be driven over long distances because of scarce pastures. If separated from the herd, goats may fall victim to leopards. Male goats are called bucks, and females are called does. Castrated males are called wethers. Both sexes may or may not have horns. Similar in appearance to sheep, goats have beards while sheep do not. Male goats have strong odors whereas male sheep do not. Goats lack scent glands between their toes and have convex foreheads whereas sheep have concave foreheads. During the 1930’s, goats were called the “poor man’s cows.” During the Depression, goats played an important role in Central Europe. A record yield for milk production from a goat is over 4400 lbs. of milk in a year. Sometimes, paired fleshy appendages, called waddles, may be evident on the neck just under the jaw. The purpose of waddles is not completely understood. Some speculate that waddles may be the last remnants of gills, a tie to water bound ancestor long since vanished.

Folklore

The Devil was believed to be able to transform into a goat at will and has long been portrayed in paintings and folklore to have cloven hoofs and horns just like a goat. In taking this form he was able to move freely. Goats were thought to meet regularly with the Devil and in rural parts were thought to have daily meetings, hence why at times when a goat could not be found it was thought to be serving darker forces. The hair and hoof of a goat were once thought to provide protection against seeing the Devil, warning him that this is what would happen to him if ventured further to test the faith of the farmer or goat owner. Therefore, goats were usually lovingly cared for in response to such beliefs to serve as mutual protection against any negative events happening. The hair or a hoof was thought to act as a form of talisman, a protection, and a warning sign. Sailors once strongly believed that a goatskin on board the ship would ensure a calm sea if hung from the main mast. To cure illness in a house, people in certain parts of Europe and America once believed that if a goat could be encouraged to munch its way through the grass on the property where the sick person lived the munching would eventually lead to the illness being taken away. The nearer the goat could feed to the house the better. The goat in Greek and Roman mythology has varied folklore. The goat was always associated with the cult of Hera. In the cult of Athena, the goat was prohibited but was sacrificed once a year on the Athenian Acropolis. Aphrodite rode a goat, and the animal was sacred to her. In Greek mythology, satyrs were mythical creatures that had certain characteristics of goats. Pan, the Greek god of pastures, flocks and shepherds, had the legs, horns and beard of a goat. The wild goat was important to the Roman deities of Artemis and Dionysis. In South Africa, goats were considered bringers of fertility and were connected with marriage. In Bulgaria, goats were given as bridal gifts. In Burma, it was believed that goats caused eclipses by eating the sun of the moon. Because goats are so adept at climbing steep, rocky paths, men who dreamed of mountain goats were thought to be able to easily climb up and down cliffs, and the earth would close up behind them, leaving no tracks.

Conservation

Not endangered

Jacksonville Zoo History

This species has been part of the animal collection as early as July 1965, and maybe even earlier. It has successfully reproduced here.

Exhibit

Play Park Exhibit Area