Have you ever noticed that whatever livestock you raise that you tend to take on some
of their behaviors? Itís like youíve been around them so much that you can almost get
inside their little brains, no matter how crowded it is, and almost guess correctly how
they are going to react to a situation.
Take for instance the horse. How many of you have been around horses? One of the
spookiest creatures God has ever created. What you have is a thousand pound animal
that is paranoid about everything. Heaven help us if elephants are the same way. The
horse can spot a leaf on a tree half a mile away that is turned the wrong way and
swear up and down that if he goes under that tree he is going to die.
Ever been riding a horse, happily going one direction, he spots a flower that wasnít
there yesterday and you find that your horse has somehow switched ends on you and
is stampeding off in the other direction? For years I rode horses and I got so I could be
walking on my own, without benefit of a horse, spot a particularly white rock and find
myself shying away. Itís especially embarrassing to do this in public where people see
you. I have to get a grip on myself and force myself to walk on down the road, in
spite of that particularly suspicious white rock. I could be driving in the car and find
myself shuddering driving close to a flapping flag on a street corner. Youíve been
around that animal so much and you automatically react the way he would in certain
I finally gave up horses and went to raising goats. Having a thousand pound horse
treat you either as "mommy" and try to leap in your lap when itís scared, or charge
away with you either on itís back or holding onto it with a rope was taking itís toll on
me. Goats, I figured, were safe. How could those cute little twenty pound babies and
those two hundred pound adults hurt you? They are all so precious. Thus began my
education on goat behavior.
When a goat snorts real loud, itís highly suspicious of something. This snort can send
babies running, though they donít really know which direction to run. If there is a
snort and the tail curls tightly over the back, that means, "Take off, guys, weíre about
to be ate!" The first time I encountered this was when I had just received a new perm
and in all my stinky new style went out to visit the goats. One whiff of me and a
glance at my new look and snorts bounced off the hills, tails curled so tight that a
corkscrew was needed later, and a stampede to compete with all stampedes followed.
Later my husband was able to entice them back home with a bucket of grain and the
promise I would stay hid.
The bucket of grain behavior was the next one I learned. Did you know that you could
be walking innocently along with a bucket of grain and one small goat can quickly
duck itís head in that bucket and itís like the head has been super glued in the bucket.
You can swing the bucket, shake the bucket, drop the bucket and that head goes with
it, doesnít move an inch. You start thinking of surgical removal when suddenly the
goat has cleaned up all the grain meant for the whole herd and trots happily off, with
absolutely no problems removing its head from the bucket.
Another bucket behavior is naively walking into a field of twenty to one hundred goats
with a bucket of grain. Itís like a tidal wave moving towards you. You know that if
you canít out run these goats you are in some serious trouble. I have been known to
throw the bucket up into the air and make an Olympic dash for the gate. Sometimes I
forget to throw the bucket and have been drowned in a wave of goats, my arms and
legs thrashing as I try to swim back up for air. Now I look at any bucket and realize
how truly dangerous it is and find myself snorting.
Wisely understanding the effects of the bucket on the adult goat, I assumed the
weaned babies would be innocent to the bucket. Not only do the baby goats come at
you like a mini tidal wave, but they leap at you, little hoofed feet striking you in the
thigh, stomach, rear, theyíre everywhere! A neighbor once told my husband that he
thought it was cute the way I went out and played with the baby goats, rolling around
on the ground. But, why was I always throwing the bucket up in the air? The babies
stopped playing with me too quickly that way, he said.
Unfortunately the goats can learn your behaviors, too. If you sidle into the barn while
holding something behind your back, they suspiciously watch you, snort, curl the tail
tight, and explode out of the barn. So, you have to act nonchalantly, walk normally
out to the barn, carrying the drench gun in plain sight like it was something you picked
up along the way. Go shake some hay out (for heaven sakes, donít carry the bucket!)
to get their attention on that and then quietly nab one after the other to worm them.
Now thatís learning goat behavior.
You soon learn to spot what the goats like to eat out in the field. You find yourself
driving down the road and almost irresistibly drawn to that patch of multiflora rose.
There you go, you are picking up goat behavior. And, ÖÖ wait a minute. Is that a
succulent young patch of honey suckle I see out the window? The tender leaves gently
waving in the warm breeze. The sparkling white flowers sending out a delicious
fragrance. Be back in a minute.