Pygmy Goat

Children's Zoo

18-20 inches
18-20 inches
About 40 inches
About 40 inches
100 pounds
100 pounds

5 months
1 year

Geographic Range

Originally came from the Cameroon region of West Africa. Now found as domesticated pets in many places.

Scientific Information

Scientific Name:
Capra hircus

Lifestyle and Lifespan

Activity Time Frame:
Sexual Dimorphism:
21-22 weeks
Lifespan in the Wild:
15-18 years
Lifespan in Captivity:
15-18 years




Adult pygmy goats are 18-20" tall. They have large ears, eyes with square pupils and cloven hooves. Their color is grey, black, white or any combination of these colors. The hair is smooth and short. Both sexes have horns; the female's generally short and straight while the male's are longer and either scimitar-shaped or spiraling; apparently the scimitar shape is the original condition.

Species Specifics

Sexual Dimorphism. Males have a beard, horns, a rank odor and are generally larger than the females. (The odor stems from the male goat's sex glands.)

Physical Characteristics

Goats are agile climbers due in large part to the hair which grows between their hooves and gives them traction on smooth surfaces, Their 2-toed hooves also help them to climb and grip. Goats, like most other ungulates such as horses and hippopotamuses, have rectangular pupils. This unique shape helps goats see 280 degrees around their bodies, but their horizontal pupil shapes make it difficult for them to see much within their vertical field of vision. (This eye shape is more common in herbivores, whereas vertically slit pupils are the norm for predatory animals.) Sheep, goats, octopuses and toads have rectangular pupils. Typically classified as prey, these animals need to have a defense both day and night. But they don't have vertical slits due to their need to survey their surroundings more accurately. The narrower the pupil in relation to the horizon, the greater the accuracy of depth perception is in the peripheral vision of the animal. The perception of depth must be considered with these animals who spend their time evading predators in a rugged terrain. 4-chambered stomach. This stomach contains bacteria that breaks down cellulose in the grasses and leaves that goats eat. This allows the goat to gain energy from plants that many other animals cannot. In addition, the first chamber of the stomach, the rumen, has an extremely large capacity of 10.5 quarts. This allows goats to consume very large amounts of food in a small amount of time, with taking time to chew it. Later, the goat will regurgitate a small portion of it and chew it again. While this process might sound a little gross, it allows the goat to minimize the time that it is grazing in the field with its attention diverted from its surroundings. While eating, goats are extremely vulnerable to predation. This process allows them to decrease that vulnerable period and later re-chew when they are safe from harm.Goats have been known to eat anything from plants, to tree bark, to garbage, to tin cans and due to their digestive system they can. While some sources, such as tin cans, supply them with little to no energy, other provide a means for them to live. Because of Capra hircus's wide range of food sources, the species can exploit areas of very little vegetation.



Domesticated animal, has been raised in many types of habitats. Goats do require grass for grazing, but can thrive in areas of little growth that would not support other grazing animals, such as sheep or cows.


Pygmy goats originally came from the mountainous Cameroon region of West Africa, grazing on hillsides and plains. Now found as pets in many places.


Herbivore. Goats are known for their ability to prosper on poor pasture. They are vegetarians that prefer browse to pasture. To reach high branches, they stand on their hind legs.

Ecological Web

Primary consumer. Because goats are a domestic species and non-native throughout most of their current range, their grazing can pose a threat to natural ecosystems. Goat overgrazing can cause erosion, spread of deserts and the disappearance of natural wildlife. This ecological trend was documented in New Zealand, where scientists believe grazing by goats prevented revegetation. (However, please note that in some managed ecosystems, goats have been used to prevent the spread of introduced non-native weeds.)

Activity and Behavior

Activity Pattern

Diurnal. Goats are diurnal and spend most of the day grazing.


Goats can develop accents in their calls when they move to different goat groups.

Social Behavior

Social. Domestic goats are social animals and prefer to be in the presence of other goats. The size of captive herds is controlled by humans. Herd sizes in the wild tend to be 5 to 20 members, but can be as high as 100! There is a rank structure in herds. The males butt heads for hierarchical dominance status. (Goats are social animals, however please note that unlike sheep, who they are closely related to, they are not flock-oriented.) Like human kids, goats kids also like to snuggle! The "kid pile" is a common sign in the barn nursery, as they curl up with each other for company and warmth

Reproductive Behavior

Baby goats are born precocious, and are able to walk and follow their mother mere hours after they're born! (Goat "kids" normally arrive as twins, after a gestation period of 21-22 weeks.) About 10 months following their birth, the young goats are weaned from their mother's milk and are able to graze independently. (However, goats can be sexually mature as early as 6 months old.) Females goats use a fascinating adaptation in their reproductive cycle. A female Capra hircus begins its estrous cycle in the fall and winter using signals of decreasing sunlight as a starting cue. As the gestation cycle of a goat lasts around 150 days, this practice ensures that young will be born in the spring and summer. Spring and summer breeding would lead to late fall and winter births. Young goats born in winter have a very low survival rate.


An average of 2 kids in a "litter."



Not endangered. Maintained only in the domesticated state.


Goats were domesticated by humans before 7500 B.C. They have developed into animals that do well in areas where cows and sheep could not survive. Standard size goats are raised for their milk and meat. Pygmy goats are hardy and friendly which makes them ideal for display in the Children's Zoo.

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Fascinating Facts

Goats don't shed their horns, so a goat's age can be determined by counting the annual growth rings, (very similar to a tree!)

For centuries, a goat's offspring have been called kids. It wasn't until the 1800's that the word kid was extended to children.

Goats were one of - if not the - first animals to be domesticated. The great goat domestication took place about 11,000 years ago in the Near East. The event was a pivotal moment in human history that represented a key shift of humans from hunter-gatherers to agriculture-based societies.

Goats don't have teeth on their upper jaw. Instead, they just have a strong dental pad. They do, however, have an incredible mobile upper lip that helps them to sort through spiny, thorny twigs to find plants' tender leaves.

"Fainting" goats don't really faint! One of the more remarkable species of goats in the myotonic goat, also known as the 'fainting goat.' Because of a genetic quirk, when they get excited or startled, myotonic goats' muscles freeze up, causing them to topple over. They're not actually fainting - they remain totally conscious and their muscles return to normal within minutes or seconds - but the notable behavior has made them very popular on the Internet.