Goats have been used for centuries to carry loads starting in rugged and mountainous places like Iran and Tibet. Goats like to travel in herds and will quickly let you become part of their specific “herd.”
Why Pack Goats?
Loyal, Easy to Handle: Goats are ideal companions for seniors who can no longer carry a backpack, for families with small children, or people with limiting health conditions. Goats are personable, properly trained they prefer being with people. Goats can be easily led by children. They are easy to pack for ALL ages, as you need not lift the load very high. Goats, like dogs, bond with humans at a young age and will follow anywhere. In areas not requiring tying, your goats will willingly follow along the trail, browse for his own food and sleep next to your tent.
Go Anywhere: Goats can utilize areas that are inaccessible to horses, relieving congestion on crowded trails. They can travel over a wide variety of terrain, including hardened lava, packed snow, downed logs and rock. Anything short of a cliff, if you can get there, so can the goats.
Leave No Trace Camping (LNT), Environmentally Friendly: A goat’s impact on the land is minimal. Goats forage and browse for wide variety of food, so there is no need to pack food for them. Goats do not dig holes, or even leave a print at all. Their droppings are not smelly. Goats fit the “leave no trace camping” or “LNT” ethic very well.
How much can one carry?
Goats can easily carry 10%- 20% of their total body weight. Fully conditioned packers can reach up to 25%-30%. A large fully grown wether can easily carry 25 to 50 pounds of gear. That’s a lot of stuff, and if you need more you can just add another goat! Good rule of thumb is: The more rugged the terrain, the lighter you pack the goat.
Carry all sorts of gear, greatly reducing the amount of gear you have to carry. Goats can easily carry 20% – 30% of their body weight in saddles and gear (a 200 lbs. goat can readily carry 50 lbs. all day)
Goats handle rougher terrain better than other pack animals.
Goats have zero to minimal impact on the environment if managed properly.
Goats don’t need large quantities of feed, they can browse on the trail: This is GREAT for reducing invasive species. Easily controlled on a lead in areas with native and/or endangered species.
Goats do not need water every day, if forage is good. (three days is not uncommon)
Goats are relatively easy to train and easily handled by people of all ages and abilities.
Goats will haul in a small trailer or a pickup with or without a canopy.
Goats are pleasant animals who will stay with the herd and not stray from the group.
Goats do not need to be tied up at night if properly bonded to humans.
Goats do not need to be lead, they follow naturally.
Goats are well suited to No Trace Camping practices.
Less expensive to own and operate than other pack animals.
Goats travel less distance per day than other pack animals. (stop and smell the flowers)
Goats carry less weight than other pack animals. (get more)
As with any animal, a certain amount of daily care and attention is required to keep goats. (get disciplined)
Initial start-up expenses may be quite high. (but not as high as with other pack animals)
The goats first three years are used to grow and develop. These are the bonding years that make or break a good pack goat. They should be learning “manners” rather than “how to” pack. How to behave on a leash, in camp, on the trail, when to eat, or not eat, when to rest, how to follow, how to cross water. It is more important they learn these manners, the “packing” will come naturally if they have the behavior basics.
What about Goat Horns?
Horns vs No Horns Horns on a pack goat function as a cooling system – they each have a large blood vessel running through them. This allows the animal to cool itself as the blood circulates through the horn. The heat dissipates to the surface of the horn. Horns are also good for protection against dogs and predators.
If a goat is bottle raised (and no one played with its horns as they grew), they generally do not use their horns on humans unless GREATLY provoked. Grabbing their horns tells the goat you are willing to challenge for the dominant place in the herd. People must assume the dominant role in relationships with working animals, therefore, must not challenge nor allow challenge for their place in the herd.
PLEASE NEVER TOUCH OR HANDLE A GOAT BY THE HORNS
History of Pack Goats in The U.S.
Goat packing was popularized in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s by John Mionczynski of Atlantic City, Wyoming. He developed a herd of large, mixed-breed goats and used them as early as the 1970s to pack supplies for scientists working in the mountains and later to carry food and gear for tourists on hiking trips. He designed and built customized pack saddles and saddlebags and, with illustrator Hannah Hinchman, published a book, The Pack Goat, in 1992.
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