“A goat? What’s so Special about A Goat?”

                                                                                    Goats have many adaptations that

                                                                      allow them to live and prosper in

                                                                      their grazing lifestyle. For example,

                                                                      Capra hircus has a four-chambered

                                                                      stomach that gives it multiple

                                                                      advantages. First, this stomach

                                                                      contains bacteria that breaks

                                                                      down cellulose in the grasses and

                                                                      leaves that the goat consumes. This

                                                                      allows the goat to gain energy from

                                                                      plants that many other animals


In addition, the first chamber of the stomach, the rumen, has an extremely large capacity of 10 ½ quarts. This allows the goat to consume very large amounts of food in a small amount of time, without taking time to chew it. Later, the goat will regurgitate a small portion of it and chew it again. While this process is not the most pleasant to think about, it permits the goat to minimize the time that it is grazing in the field with its attention diverted from its surroundings.  While eating, goats are extremely vulnerable to predation. This process allows them to decrease that vulnerable period and later re-chew when they are safe from harm.

The extent of the goats digestive system also allows them to utilize food sources that even other ruminates (animals with a rumen) cannot. Goats have been known to eat anything from plants, to tree bark, to garbage, to tin cans, and due to their digestive system they can. While some sources, such as the tin cans, supply them with little to no energy, others provide a means for them to live. Because of Capra hircus’s wide range of food sources, the species can exploit areas of very sparse vegetation.

    For more information about goat digestion and the four-chambered stomach, see Nutrition.

Another adaptation of the goat is found in

its pupil. While some organisms have

circular or vertically slit pupils, Capra

hircus has horizontal slits. This orientation

allows goats to have greater peripheral

vision. This peripheral vision is especially

important for goats because its helps

them to have a greater sense of awareness

of their surroundings and detect predators

more easily.

    For more information about predation,

        see Interactions with Other Species.

                                                        Last, goats show adaptation in their

                                                        reproductive cycle. A female Capra hircus

                                                        begins its estrus cycle in the fall and winter

                                                        using signals of decreasing sunlight as a

                                                        starting cue. As the gestation cycle of a goat

                                                        lasts around 150 days, this practice ensures

                                                        that young will be born in the spring and

                                                        summer. Spring and summer breeding would

                                                        lead to late fall and winter births. Young goats

                                                        born in winter have a very low survival rate.

                                                            For more information about goat reproduction,

                                                                           see Life History and Reproduction.

To learn about goat nutrition, click here.

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A close up shows the horizontally slit pupils of the goat.

Photo by David Reece

A goat grazing in the field.

Photo by palestrina55

Baby goats play a few days after their birth.

Photo by ynskjen