close-up goat eye with horizontal pupil.

Why Goats Have Strange Eyes and 15 Other Facts

Have you ever met a goat look you straight in the eye, wink once or twice, and tell you exactly how they felt? “BAAAD.”

Wait. That eye.

Goat eyes are unlike most other mammals, and one glance will let you know something seems off. Their pupil looks like a horizontal candy bar. It's unexpected and lets you know something is exceptional about the goat.

This elongated pupil lets the goat – or other grazing animals like sheep and horses – maintain a wide field of view. It's somewhat like a vehicle’s lane-keeping assist that monitors the vehicle's surroundings. The eyes of a goat are always on the lookout for danger, giving them more time to respond to threats approaching from all directions.

Now that you know, let’s explore 15 more goat facts…with something extra special goat fact at the end.

1. Bill the Goat – the U.S. Naval Academy Mascot

Bill the Goat waves to fans at at Navy football game.
Photo Credit: U.S. Navy Journalist 2nd Class Zack Baddorf, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Goats have been a part of naval lore since the 19th century and made such an impact on the Navy, that they claimed Bill the Goat as their own.

Travel back in time when food storage at sea was a much bigger problem than today. Goats provide milk, which in turn creates cheese and butter, providing sustenance for sailors. Goats also seem to eat anything and everything, making meal clean-up a breeze, all reasons that the Navy honors the goat. (Source: NavyOnline)

2. Goats Can Feel Sad

Goat looking through zoo bars.
Photo credit: Depositphotos

Goats are social animals, but not flock animals. Like many of us, they prefer the company of a small group of friends and family. When they are alone for too long, according to researchers, goats experience emotions including sadness.

3. The World's Oldest Goat

Old horned bearded white goat looks at the camera, in meadow, rural landscape, nature background.
Photo credit: Depositphotos

Most goats live between 8 and 14 years. But the world's oldest goat on record, McGinty, lived until the grand old age of 22 years 5 months. She was owned by Doris C. Long of Hayling Island, Hampshire, UK. McGinty the goat died in November 2003.

(Source: Guinness World Records)

4. We Know Billy

Baby goat in a meadow.
Photo credit: Depositphotos

Male goats are called Billy Goats. Female goats are called Nanny Goats, and young goats are called Kids. When do kids become Billies and Nannies? At the ripe old age of 12 months.

5. Goats Can Learn Tricks

Funny trained goat standing on hind legs.
Photo credit: Depositphotos

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But you can teach a goat new tricks using hand signs and cues. Goats are intelligent creatures that can learn to sit, shake hands, and walk on a beam. 

6. Goats Are Naturally Curious.

Bearded goat looking through a wooden fence boards.
Photo credit: Depositphotos

Unlike sheep that stick together and follow each other to the ends of the earth, goats are lone wanderers. They are naturally curious and always looking for a way to escape their pens and pastures. This curiosity is often seen as mischief by frustrated farmers and homesteaders, much like that shown by our own toddlers. 

7. Walk to Bleat of a Different…Goat

Bleating goat.
Photo credit: Depositphotos

Researchers discovered that goats can develop accents. Just like humans who develop different sounding ways of speaking depending on who they're surrounded by, goats have unique bleats (vocalizations) that adapt depending on their social environment. Even baby goats have unique voices that their mothers can recognize as their own offspring. 

8. There Are More Than 200 Breeds

adult goat with baby goat. Both have horns. Baby goat is white. Mama goat is brown.
Photo credit: Depositphotos

Goats were the second animal to be domesticated. The first was the dog – no surprise there. Domestication has contributed to the development of multiple breeds. Today we have at least 210 different goat breeds, according to the Alberta Goat Association. 

9. Goats Have a Unique Set of Teeth

Close up of goat mouth behind a fence with goat teeth sticking out of it's mouth.
Photo credit: Depositphotos

Goats are born without teeth, much to the joy of their nursing mothers. Over time, teeth grow, and over the course of their life, goats have two sets of teeth. However, instead of front upper teeth, goats have a thick “dental pad” that serves as a large single tooth.

10. Goat Milk vs Cow Milk

Hand holding a bucket to catch milk while other hand milks a goat.
Photo credit: Depositphotos

Worldwide, 65% of the population consumes goat milk over cow milk. A single goat can produce a gallon and a half of milk and take up far less room than a cow, making it more suitable for families to raise goats for their milk and related products. (Source: Food Beast)

11. The Famous Goat Race Festival

People race goats at Buccoo Goat Race Festival.
Photo Credit: Grueslayer via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 4.0

Dating back to 1925, the Buccoo Goat Race started in Tobago as the “poor man’s equivalent to the horse races.” Races were first held on village streets, but once paving began and the area was developed, the races moved to a series of venues over the next several years. Today, the race takes place in the village of Mt. Pleasent.

12. Can Goats Climb Trees?

Marruecos pas del norte de Africa. Goats stand in a tree.
Photo credit: Depositphotos

Some can. At least in Morocco. Visitors and residents alike may look up into the argan trees and find goats staring back at them. Argan trees grow a bitter fruit that holds a pulp and nut inside that the goats crave. The goats digest the pulp, but the nut is later excreted and harvested by humans to make a coveted argan oil used in expensive cosmetics or food.

13. One Country, 55 Breeds

Grazing sheep and goats in a rocky plain with mountain in the background.
Photo credit: Depositphotos

Not typically known around the globe as a goat hotspot, there are 55 indigenous goat breeds in China. Goats are a vital agricultural source providing milk, skins, and fibers. According to Science Direct, native goats to China are best adapted to the environment, which increases their overall value and contribution to science and the economy. 

14. Firefighting Goats

Goats and herons grazing in an Olive grove in the Andalucian countryside.
Photo credit: Depositphotos

Shepherds in southern Spain have been patrolling and fighting wildfires with their goats for thousands of years. Goats are known for their ability to clear underbrush, providing a vital tool in fire mitigation as they “create fire breaks at a low cost” without damaging the environment.

15. Goats Are Incredibly Versatile

Different cheese products next to a basket.
Photo credit: Depositphotos

From milk to meat, goats are known to be a versatile farm animal. But they provide so much more: goat milk soap is great for acne treatment, cheese as a food source, fibers for clothing, manure for fertilizer, pack animals when traveling in the backcountry, and even their dung can be used for fire fuel if needed.

16. Bonus: For Fun…and a Change of Pace…Who Is the NBA Goat?

white goat with horns aainst a blue sky.
Photo credit: Depositphotos

Michael Jordan is the NBA’s Greatest of All-Time, winning three NBA championships, before playing baseball and then returning to win three more championships in addition to multiple titles and records.

Author: Todd Rowley

Title: Copywriter

Expertise: social services, transportation, mental health

Todd Rowley is a copywriter and content writer. He’s an unabashed introvert, an only child with a curious spirit, and a lover of the Oxford comma. Originally educated as a Child and Youth Worker - spending more than 25 years in the field - he also dabbled in Religious Education and Communications Studies.