Goats can swim, but domesticated goats generally hate water just as much as—if not more than—domestic cats. Domesticated goats will generally run for cover at the threat of getting wet, and should a bath be necessary, they will hate every second of it.
Why Do Goats Hate Water?
Dairy goats, especially, hate water with a passion. No matter where the water comes from, they want nothing to do with it. This is a self-preservation instinct since wrong footing can cause a goat to slip and fall, and a goat who can’t walk is more susceptible to being hunted.
Bulkier, more muscular goats will generally not react negatively to the rain as more miniature and dairy goats because they aren’t as naturally susceptible to predators. However, they still aren’t fond of water and probably won’t want to swim in your pool with you.
The good news for anyone who wants to go swimming with their goats is that you can help your goats become more comfortable with water. They do know how to swim if necessary and can doggy paddle quite effectively. This knowledge likely harkens back to their wild ancestors, who would swim from one landmass to another to populate new lands.
Domestic goats protected from predators by their owners can unlearn their hatred of water over time if they are introduced to water slowly and can even learn to enjoy swimming. However, special precautions must be taken if you intend to swim with your goats.
Swimming with Goats Safely
There are several factors goat parents will need to consider if they want to swim with their goats safely. Goats are terrestrial animals; they aren’t meant for the water even if they can learn to love it. Since they have no functional need to swim, they don’t have the same natural protection that animals who swim for their livelihoods do. Here are some things you want to make sure you think about before you let your goats swim with you.
Chlorine overexposure isn’t suitable for people, and goats aren’t so different from people that they won’t be affected. Goats also can’t necessarily be told not to drink pool water the way children can. So, you’ll want to make sure that if you have a goat who likes the swimming pool that you ensure their diet has enough liver support to offset the pool water they’re inevitably going to ingest.
As previously stated, goats are terrestrial creatures. They aren’t blessed with thick coats for winter swimming, so make sure that it’s nice and warm out if your goat is getting wet. Any temperature below 50 degrees Fahrenheit is too low, and goats that want to swim should be kept away from any swimming holes in these temperatures.
In temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, it takes just 30 minutes for a goat to become hypothermic. As a rule, you shouldn’t get your goat wet if the temperature is below 75 degrees Fahrenheit on average. Do not allow your goat to be damp overnight if the nighttime temperature averages below that. If your goat gets wet accidentally in the cold, make sure you take the goat indoors and dry them off thoroughly before you allow them back outside.
Goats can sometimes necessitate baths, but unless necessary, goats should not be bathed if it’s cold out. If your goat needs to be cleaned for a show or simply because they’ve gotten grimy, bring them indoors for the night and dry them with a towel and give them a blanket to help them stay warm overnight.
Slip and Fall Safety
Goats can also slip and fall when they’re wet, just like people. If you want to have a pond or a pool that your goats have access to, you’ll want to make sure that the footing is stable and level. It would help if you scanned for any hazards that might snag a leg or cause them to have more difficult balancing as well.
Goats will generally avoid places that they feel are hazardous to them, and they’ll especially avoid a place where they’ve already eaten the dirt. So if your goat won’t go near a pond or pool that you’ve set up for them, there’s probably a reason, and you should look around to see what they might be afraid of.
Water, especially still water, is a breeding ground for pathogens. Flies, mosquitoes, and other pests may also be drawn to a pond if you build one for your goats. They will annoy the goats, and the goats may not go near the pond if you do.
Parasites also breed quickly in standing water. Standing water can lead to parasite outbreaks in barns, so you’ll want to ensure the water is always clean and preferably has some pump and filtration system to prevent any pathogens from living in it.
Even if you have no standing water on your property, storms can create standing water where there was previously land. If you are prone to flooding, you’ll want to have a plan in place for getting your goats to higher ground when a storm is brewing.
Even if your goats are inside the barn, the winds of a storm can blow the rain sideways and into the barn. Stormwater that blows in can also leave standing puddles inside the barn, a breeding ground for pathogens.
Water puddles can form in your pens as well, leaving your goats without a place to graze safely. Standing in pools of water or mud can cause bacterial infections in your goats’ feet and, if not caught early, can lead to amputations and loss of mobility.
Goats may be able to swim, but water doesn’t seem like the best place for them. While their ancestors may have needed to swim to find food and shelter, domestic goats are past the need to do so, and forcing them probably isn’t worth the potential hazards of having a wet goat.
While some amount of water reaching your goat will be inevitable, minimizing the amount that gets on your goat is best for their health and safety. Our domestic animals, farm animals, included, rely on ourselves to make decisions in their best interest, and swimming isn’t in a goat’s best interest.
Featured Image Credit: AjazKh, Shutterstock