15 Amazing Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Goats

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Goats and humans have a long and productive history together. Over the millennia, we’ve found a range of interesting uses for these incredible animals—which are also capable of some unbelievable feats of their own.

1. Goats were one of—if not the—first animals to be domesticated.

The great goat domestication took place about 11,000 years ago in the Near East. The event was a pivotal moment in human history that represented a key shift of mankind from hunter-gatherers to agriculture-based societies.

2. Goats were among the first animals to be brought to America.

The earliest European settlers of America brought goats over on the Mayflower. By 1630, a Jamestown census listed goats as one of that colony’s most valuable possessions.

3. Goat popularity surged following the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.

The fair was host to the first dairy goat show in America as well as an exhibit featuring 300 Angora goats, the most ever shown at one time. With their heavy coats of curly mohair, the Angoras drew swarms of fans to the Louisiana Purchase Exposition and increased national recognition for the breed.

4. Giving birth is called “kidding.”

You may know that a baby goat is called a kid, but did you know that, because of that, a goat giving birth is said to be “kidding”? We’re not… joking.

5. Goats don’t have teeth on their upper jaw.

Instead, they just have a strong dental pad. They do, however, have an incredibly mobile upper lip that helps them to sort through spiny, thorny twigs to find plants’ tender leaves.

6. Goats have rectangular pupils.

This unusual shape, shared by sheep and several other ungulates, gives them a fuller range of vision than humans and other animals with round pupils. Goats can see 320-340 degrees in their periphery—everything except for what’s directly behind them—which is useful in avoiding predators. The drawback to the flattened pupil is that goats are unable to look up or down without moving their heads.

7. Goats have four stomachs.

The four-chambered stomach helps goats digest tough roughage like grass and hay. Food enters the rumen first and then passes to the honeycombed reticulum where non-digestible objects are separated out. In the omasum chamber, water is removed from the food before it finally enters the “true” stomach, the abomasums.

8. Goat’s milk is the most popular kind of milk, worldwide.

Even though we drink almost exclusively cow’s milk here in the States, around the globe more people eat and drink meat and milk from goats than any other animal.

9. There’s good reason to drink goat’s milk, too.

It’s naturally homogenized (meaning it doesn’t separate out into layers in its original state) and is easier to digest than cow’s milk, even by people who are lactose intolerant. It’s also higher in calcium and vitamin A.

10. “Fainting” goats don’t really faint, but they sure look like they do.

One of the more remarkable species of goats is the myotonic goat, better known as the fainting goat. Because of a genetic quirk, when they get excited or startled, myotonic goats’ muscles freeze up, causing them to topple over. They’re not actually fainting—they remain totally conscious and their muscles return to normal within minutes or seconds—but the notable behavior has made them Internet favorites.

11. Lincoln loved goats.

Among the many pets that populated the White House during Abraham Lincoln’s time in office were two goats, Nanny and Nanko. They were particularly beloved by Lincoln’s son, Tad, who even used them for chariot rides around the White House.

12. Cashmere comes from goats.

The incredibly soft and expensive cashmere is made of the downy winter undercoat produced by certain goats. The price of cashmere is so high because the hand-wrought process of separating the silky material from the goat’s wiry outer coat is incredibly time-consuming. And, it takes at least two goats to make every sweater.

13. According to legend, goats discovered coffee.

According to an Ethiopian legend, the stimulating properties of coffee were discovered when a goat herder found his flock frolicking with extra verve after consuming the red berries of the coffee shrub. The plant had the same energizing effect on the herder himself—and with that, the tradition of drinking coffee was (supposedly) born.

14. Goats have incredible agility and balance.

Not only can they survive in precarious rocky habitats, they can even climb trees.

15. Goats have accents.

Just as human voices will vary in cadence and inflection by geographical region, a particular goat’s bleat will sound different from that of a goat in a different country.

Meet Gracie: The Resident 'Bark Ranger' at Montana's Glacier National Park

NPS/A.W. Biel
NPS/A.W. Biel

Gracie isn't like the other park rangers at Glacier National Park in Montana: She’s not afraid to run after bighorn sheep and mountain goats in order to keep them at a safe distance from visitors. And while she doesn’t earn a salary, she’s content to work for belly rubs.

That’s because Gracie is a trained border collie who became the first employee-owned dog to become a “bark ranger” at a U.S. national park. She was accepted into Glacier’s wildlife shepherding program in July 2016 and has been protecting both humans and wildlife alike ever since.

One of Gracie's main duties is to keep sheep and goats away from areas with high foot traffic, like the Logan Pass parking lot. Through habituation, many of the park’s native species have begun to feel comfortable around humans, and sometimes even approach them. This is problematic for a couple of reasons.

“When closely approached or provided with human food, bighorn sheep and mountain goats can become aggressive; each has the ability to kick, bite, gore, or trample when feeling threatened,” the National Park Service (NPS) writes on its website. “This can cause injury—or in rare cases, death—to people and can cause the animal to be lethally removed from the population.”

In the winter, Gracie also helps shepherd deer out of highly populated areas in an effort to keep predators—namely mountain lions—away from people. Gracie completed a 10-week training program in Florence, Montana, where she learned how to control her direction and speed. She also knows when to retreat at the command of her owner, Mark Biel, who works as the park's natural resources program manager.

Gracie’s hard work has not gone unnoticed either. Her Instagram account, which chronicles the life of a #WorkingDog, has more than 17,000 followers. Check out some of the photos and videos below to see this very good girl in action.

Every time Gracie moves wildlife, Ranger Mark records how many animals were moved, how long it took to move them, where they went, and how long they stayed out of the area. This helps us evaluate the effectiveness of the program and learn about wildlife habits. The data show that in the park headquarters area, the deer have four established “escape routes” they favor when heading into the woods. Watch as this deer stops to decide which way to go, then heads to the left, toward the woods and one of those routes. Turning to the right would have taken it away from Gracie, but further into the housing area. This is an example of the program working as it’s intended. When pressured from a distance, the deer decides that the more comfortable place to be is in the woods, instead of further inside the populated area. 🐾🦌 #parkscience #barkrangergracie #barkranger #whitetail #keepwildlifewild​ @glaciernps @glacierconservancy @wind_river_bear_institute #workingbordercollie #workingdogsofig #glaciernationalpark #glacier

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What's the Difference Between a Rabbit and a Hare?

iStock.com/Carmen Romero
iStock.com/Carmen Romero

Hippity, hoppity, Easter's on its way—and so is the eponymous Easter bunny. But aside from being a magical, candy-carrying creature, what exactly is Peter Cottontail: bunny, rabbit, or hare? Or are they all just synonyms for the same adorable animal?

In case you've been getting your fluffy, long-eared mammals mixed up, we've traveled down the rabbit hole to set the record straight. Although rabbits and hares belong to the same grass-munching family—called Leporidae—they're entirely different species with unique characteristics. It would be like comparing sheep and goats, geneticist Steven Lukefahr of Texas A&M University told National Geographic.

If you aren't sure which animal has been hopping around and helping themselves to the goodies in your vegetable garden, take a closer look at their ears. In general, hares have longer ears and larger bodies than rabbits. Rabbits also tend to be more social creatures, while hares prefer to keep to themselves.

As for the baby animals, they go by different names as well. Baby hares are called leverets, while newborn rabbits are called kittens or kits. So where exactly do bunnies fit into this narrative? Originally, the word bunny was used as a term of endearment for a young girl, but its meaning has evolved over time. Bunny is now a cutesy, childlike way to refer to both rabbits and hares—although it's more commonly associated with rabbits these days. With that said, the Easter bunny is usually depicted as a rabbit, but the tradition is thought to have originated with German immigrants who brought their legend of an egg-laying hare called "Osterhase" to America.

In other ambiguous animal news, the case of Bugs Bunny is a little more complicated. According to scientist and YouTuber Nick Uhas, the character's long ears, fast speed, and solitary nature seem to suggest he's a hare. However, in the cartoon, Bugs is shown burrowing underground, which doesn't jive with the fact that hares—unlike most rabbits—live aboveground. "We can draw the conclusion that Bugs may be a rabbit with hare-like behavior or a hare with rabbit nesting habits," Uhas says.

The conversation gets even more confusing when you throw jackrabbits into the mix, which aren't actually rabbits at all. Jackrabbits are various species of large hare that are native to western North America; the name itself is a shortened version of "jackass rabbit," which refers to the fact that the animal's ears look a little like a donkey's.

A jackrabbit
Connor Mah, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

As Mark Twain once famously wrote about the creature, "He is just like any other rabbit, except that he is from one-third to twice as large, has longer legs in proportion to his size, and has the most preposterous ears that ever were mounted on any creature but the jackass." (Fun fact: Black-tailed jackrabbits' extra-long ears actually help them stay cool in the desert. The blood vessels in their ears enlarge when it gets hot, causing blood to flow to their ears and ridding their bodies of excess heat.)

Rabbits, hares, and jackrabbits all have one thing in common, though: They love a good salad. So if you happen across one of these hopping creatures, give them some grass or weeds—and skip the carrots. Bugs Bunny may have loved the orange vegetable, but most hares and rabbits would prefer leafy greens.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, send it to bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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