Goats are herbivorous artiodactyls-eventoed ungulates-of the family Bovidae, genus Capra, which usually have hooves and hollow horns. They are also ruminants, chewing and swallowing food, regurgitating it, and chewing and swallowing it again. This cud chewing allows them to get the most nutrients possible from the low-quality foods they eat. Wild goats are mountain dwellers, adept at leaping between rocks, sure-footed due to their hoofs. The hoofs have a hard outer layer and a softer, inner layer that wears away quickly and leaves hard edges useful for climbing. Domesticated goats, raised for milk, meat, and leather, retain many of these characteristics. Swiss goats, the most common domesticated variety, have pointy ears and horns, while Nubians are hornless.
Physical Characteristics of Goats
Most adult goats weigh up to 125 pounds. They are not as large as sheep, which they resemble. Their horns are twisted flat and turn backward. Their hoofs are divided in two (cloven). Males are called rams or billies, while females are called does or nannies. Males emit strong odors during mating season. Males and most females have chin beards, leading to the name "goatee" for the similar style of facial hair in men. Goats are normally covered with straight hair, but some grow wool, such as angora goats. Their coats are red, brown, tan, or white. Goats find enough to eat on poor, dry land where horses, cows, and sheep would starve. Adult female goats reach lengths of 2.5 to 3.5 feet and are approximately 4 feet at the shoulder; they weigh between 100 and 120 pounds. Males are 20 percent larger and heavier than females and have longer horns. Domesticated goats derive from ten wild goat species. They live on hills and mountains and are either goat antelope or true goats. All except the Rocky Mountain goat inhabit Europe and the Asian Himalayas. Rocky Mountain goats and chamois are goat antelope, having physical characteristics of both goats and antelope.
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