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Goats

( Originally Published 1936 )

Goats are distinguished from sheep by the curving or spiral horns rising upwards, instead of curving over the sides of the head. The males possess a scent-gland which emits an offensive odour, and the hair is generally coarser and less woolly than in sheep. The common Goat has long been domesticated for its flesh, its fleece, and its milk, and is generally white or brown, with long, erect horns curving backwards, longer or shorter hair or wool, and a large beard under the chin. They are sure-footed mountain animals like the sheep, and although they will feed on grass or hay, they are extremely fond of bark, and are destructive to all kinds of trees.

Since the introduction of Goats into the island of St. Helena, the original forests, which drooped even into the sea when it was discovered by Europeans, have entirely disappeared, and many of the most interesting and characteristic of the native plants have vanished.

Instead of figuring the common Goat, we have preferred to depict two of the domesticated races which yield the finest wool—the Cashmir Goat, from the wool of which the famous Cashmir shawls are made, and the Angora Goat of Asia Minor, which yields extremely long and fine wool of great commercial importance. See Plate 28, Fig. 141 and Plate 29, Fig. 125.

Ibex (Capra ibex)

The Ibex is the wild goat of the Alps, but is now very scarce, though strictly protected, and is found only in the lofty and almost inaccessible mountains between Piedmont and Savoy, where it is met with in small bands of from five to fifteen individuals. The coat is thick, reddish-grey in summer, but more yellowish in winter, and the males have a slight beard in winter only. They measure four feet, or more, in length, and the males have very large, deeply ridged horns, set close at the base, and rising in a graceful curve over the back, the tips bending downwards. See Plate 28, Fig. 123. Those of the female are much smaller and more goat-like in character. The animal is very shy and wary, and is as active and difficult to stalk as the chamois, which it much resembles in habits.

Persian Wild Goat (Capra oegagrus)

By some naturalists this animal is called the Bezoar Goat, from a substance called bezoar sometimes found in the stomach and formerly much used in medicine, especially as an antidote to poisons. It inhabits the mountains of the Caucasus, Asia Minor, and Persia, and eastward to the Indus. The Persian Wild Goat much resembles the ibex, but the largest males exceed five feet in length, and the horns are considerably larger, with deep cross ridges. It is reddish or brownish-grey above, and paler beneath, with the face, beard, chest, front of legs, stripe on the back, and the tail, black or dark brown. See Plate 29, Fig. 126. By some writers it is thought to be the original species from which domesticated goats are descended.

Markhor (Capra Falconeri)

This wild goat is found in the mountains of North-western India and neighbouring regions. It varies considerably in size, and also in the shape of the great twisted horns, which are often three feet and upwards in length. The coarse, bristly hair is reddish-brown or grey above and paler beneath, and the beard, which is very large in old males, is black, but varies according to age, sex, and season of the year. See Plate 30, Fig. 130.

Rocky Mountain Goat (Oreamnos montanus)

This animal seems to represent an intermediate link between the sheep and the antelopes, and is the only species of the genus Haplocerus. It is found in the western parts of the United States and Canada, high up on the sides of mountains, and in general appearance is goat-like. The hair is long and pure white in colour and hangs in a beard at the throat. The hoofs and horns are black, the horns being smooth, insignificant in size, but little more than eight inches in length in large specimens, and perhaps an inch in diameter at the base, and rise abruptly from the forehead and curve sharply backwards for a short distance at the tips. See Plate 27, Fig. 120. Old males of this species have a large hump on the shoulders, and are said to be fierce and aggressive in disposition. Owing to their white coat, these animals are quite conspicuous in summer, but in the winter, on snow-covered cliffs, they are, of course, invisible.

In certain parts of the high mountains of Thibet and in the Himalayas are other forms resembling the Rocky Mountain Goat in character, though not in colour.



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