Goats were one of the first animals to be domesticated, along with dogs, and the first nonhuman milk came from them (Kessler, 39). As to where this happened is debatable. Archeologists have found evidence of the relationship between goats and humans in caves in Turkey and Greece, but the same evidence has also been found in Northern Africa around the same time, roughly 11,000 years ago (Hinchman, 127). It’s really not hard to see why goats were domesticated, with their curious personalities, it was most likely very easy for humans to interact with their wild ancestors. Today domesticated goat’s DNA can be traced back to 5 maternal lines that were brought from the Near East and Central Asia, to southern Europe, around 5000 BC (Kessler, 40).
As a child growing up in the big city I have interacted with a lot of people that sometimes forget, or don’t realize how important animals are to people, and how at one point we were completely reliant on them for food, clothing, transportation, and wealth. Since goats where the first hooved animals to be domesticated it’s not hard to deduce that besides milk and meat, goats would have also been used to pack and carry goods. Goats can carry up to 25% of their body weight which can be about 35-60 pounds depending on the size of the goat.
Once oxen and horses became domesticated, humans could carry more and travel farther, so using goats as pack animals diminished but was not completely forgotten. It has been difficult to find written history about the use of goats in draft power, since that purpose is ancient, but there is quite a bit of photographic evidence showing goats pulling small carts with children in them. And today you can even find fancy goat carts at fairs being pulled by teams.
It is these images that have gotten me thinking about Summer’s role on the farm, and as part of my Senior project, He can’t have a baby, and he can’t make any, so where does he fit? He is primarily Nymeria’s companion because goats don’t like to be alone. He’s really sweet so I love him, but being lovable and cute doesn’t pay for hay.
I found some great blog posts, websites, and videos that teach how to train a cart goat, but not really anything about the actual history of goats as draft animals.
The photos in this video show that goats were used for many activities that might have been too small for a horse or oxen to maneuver. Some people (like myself) might not be able to afford to feed a large draft animal or have the room for one. Like most people who raise goats, you end up with a boy or two, and because goats can be so charismatic it can be hard to see them all as just an animal that can provide meat. So because Summer weaseled his way into my heart, he gets a job, and in the past week or so he’s been learning to do it. The plan is to teach Summer to pull, so he can eventually be a functional part of the homestead. He can be trained to pull small logs, firewood, compost and more. By training Summer to pull, he will be an integral part of a homestead along with Nymeria. Even though I will never know exactly what it’s like to live a pastoral life and be completely and utterly dependent on my goats, I hope that with this project I can understand just a little bit the symbiotic relationship that our ancestors shared with goats.
Kessler, Brad, Goat Song, New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Inc, 20009.
Mionczynski, John, The Pack Goat, Reavis, 2004.