“What Exactly is a Goat?”

Domain: Eukarya

The goat is classified as Eukarya because it has

linear DNA enclosed in membrane-bound nuclei

within its cells.

Kingdom: Animalia

The goat is classified as Animalia because it is a

multicellular heterotroph with true tissues. In

addition, its cells have no cell wall.

Phylum: Chordata

The goat is classified as Chordata for many reasons.

It is triploblastic, meaning that it develops from three

germ layers, and has a coelom. In addition, it exhibits bilateral body symmetry and has a segmented body, a complete digestive system, and an endoskeleton. Lastly, during its development, the goat possesses a notochord, a dorsal nerve cord, pharyngeal gill slits, an endostyle, and a post-anal tail (which it keeps into its adult life).

Subphylum: Vertebrata

The goat is classified as Vertebrata because it has a vertebral column, or a backbone.

Class: Mammalia

The goat is classified as Mammalia because its body is covered in hair, it possesses glands, and it is homeothermic (self-regulates its body temperature).

Order: Artiodactylia

The goat is classified as Artiodactylia because it is paraxonic. In other words, it has an even number of toes and the plane of symmetry in its foot passes between its third and fourth digits.

Family: Bovidae

The goat is classified as Bovidae because it has horns on its frontals (the anterior portion of the skull) and is unguligrade, or has hoofs. In addition, the goat is an herbivore and has a four-chambered stomach.

                                                                     Genus: Capra

                                                                      The Latin name Capra means “she-

                                                                      goat”. All members of this genus

                                                                      are different species of goats and

                                                                      ibexes. Characteristics of this

                                                                      genus include calloused knees,

                                                                      long, pointed ears, and flat,

                                                                      upward-turning tails. Goats are

                                                                      sexually dimorphic, so males also

                                                                      have chin beards, a rank odor, and

                                                                      horns that increase in length and weight with age, and lack a preorbital gland.

Species: Capra hircus

The Latin name hircus means goat.  Capra hircus therefore means “she-goat goat”.  As this redundant name suggests, this is the member of the genus Capra that most people associate with the name goat. Capra hircus refers to what is commonly known as the domestic goat, or goat, and can also be used in reference to the feral or wild goat.

This phylogenetic tree shows the evolutionary relationship between some common members of the Bovidae family. The relationships are based on molecular differences found in the 5’ UTR segment of the SRY region on the Y chromosome through DNA sequencing. The length of the segments horizontally represents the amount of time since the evolutionary divergence of the organisms. As shown, the goat is more closely related to the domestic sheep than any of the other Bovidae.

Capra hircus.

Photo by Tambako the Jaguar

A herd of Capra hircus.

Photo by Malingering

This phylogenetic tree is not based upon evolutionary history, but rather shows the classification of organisms to families, subfamilies, genera and species. These classifications are made by comparing morphological traits. This tree does not include all groups, but shows how Capra hircus relates to other commonly known mammals.

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