Goats were the first livestock species to be domesticated, about 10,000 years ago. Scientists believe that dogs and cats can connect with humans because of changes in their brains over thousands of years of domestication and companionship with humans. Did goats experience the same brain evolution as dogs and cats? Researchers from Queen Mary University in London have studied goats and believe the answer is yes.
This research has shown that goats are quite intelligent (unlike sheep) and they interact with humans in similar ways as our domesticated house pets, such as cats and dogs. There is also strong evidence that goats are capable of complex communications with humans.
There is a classic experiment that separates wolves (non-domesticated) from dogs (domesticated). This experiment was done with goats and they reacted like the dogs, not the wolves. The subject animals were all trained to open a box in order to receive a treat. Then the researchers made the box impossible to open and watched what the animals did. The wolves just kept trying to do what had opened the box before. But the dogs and goats both stopped fairly quickly and looked over to their owners in a pleading manner – asking their humans for help in getting the treat.
Dogs and goats also gazed longer at the person doing the experiment when that person was looking at them because they understood that they had the human’s attention. That is clear evidence of communication and emotional connection between the species.
Goats have also proved their superior intelligence by figuring out how to break into a sealed box using levers and the goats can even remember this skill four years later! This is a test used by researchers to gauge the intelligence of apes.
I’ve seen videos online of goats brought up from birth as house pets and I must say, they look adorable. They are smart and affectionate but are also very curious and mischievous. They can become clever escape artists and can do damage to a house. Not a pet for everyone. But I know dogs who are extremely difficult and destructive, so how much worse can a goat be?
Apparently, goats eat and evacuate throughout the day, so the best you can hope for in housebreaking a goat is to train him to go in a specific place, like a kitty litter box. It’s been suggested that the best way to keep a pet goat is to have an outdoor structure for him to live in part of the time and only stay in the house when the temperature is extreme outside and/or when the goat can be supervised indoors.
Throughout my long life with pets, I have become attached to birds, frogs, turtles, snakes, hamsters, and rabbits as well as cats and dogs. So I can definitely see falling in love with an interactive and intelligent animal like a goat.
I don’t plan to goat proof my house any time soon, but I like the idea of bringing unusual pets into the family.