What Is Normal Goat Behavior?

Many people are choosing to raise goats as part of a sustainable lifestyle. If you're new to raising goats, understanding goat behavior will help you keep your herd healthy and happy. Goat herds are hierarchical. Might rules, but so does nepotism. Sometimes you may feel inclined to intervene in your goats' bad behavior, but don't do it unless someone is getting hurt.

Here are some key players in a goat herd:

  • Herd queen: Every goat herd has a dominant female. She usually leads the way and decides when to go out to pasture. She gets the best sleeping spot, the primo spot in front of the feeder and, if she is a dairy goat, she gets to be milked first. If another goat tries to change things, beware! The herd queen won't like it.

    The herd queen's kids are royalty by birth. The herd queen lets them share in the best eating spot next to her. She will defend them if any other goats try to get them out of the way.

    The herd queen is responsible for testing new plants to determine whether they're edible and she also stands off predators. She usually retains her position until she dies or until she becomes old and infirm and another doe fights and wins the position.

  • Head buck: He is usually the biggest and strongest (and often the oldest) buck. Bucks also fight for the top position but, like the herd queen, a buck retains his position as head buck until he dies or a younger, more dominant buck challenges him and wins.

Here are some goat behaviors you should understand:

  • Biting: Goats sometimes communicate by biting. Some don't bite at all and others bite a lot.

  • Butting: Like biting, butting serves a role in the goat world. Goats butt to bully others out of their way, to establish their place in the herd, as a form of play, or to fight, often during rut.

    Butting is one reason that keeping horned and dehorned goats together is unwise. The dehorned goats are at a distinct disadvantage and can be seriously injured.

    The most common reason for butting and biting is to establish a place (as high as possible) in the herd. When you introduce a new goat to the herd, the lower-status goats are usually the first to fight. They want to maintain or raise their position in the herd.

  • Mounting: Goat kids start mounting each other even when they're only a few days old. They are practicing to be grownup goats, but they're also attempting to establish dominance. As they get a little older, the mounting takes on a sexual connotation.

Watch bucks during rut to ensure that they're safe from each other and to separate them when they aren't. You also need to make sure not to turn your back on a buck during this time because they also can be aggressive toward humans.

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