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What Do Goats Eat in the Wild and as Pets?

Quincy Miller

Although it may not seem like it to city-dwellers, goats are one of the most popular pets in the world. They’re pretty fantastic animals, when you think about it: They make milk and cheese, they’re friendly, and they’ll even mow your lawn for you.

Goats have a reputation for eating anything and everything that they come across, including tin cans. But is that really true? To find out, we look at what goats eat, both in the wild and in captivity.

goat divider

Where Do Goats Live?

Generally speaking, there are two types of goats: domestic goats and wild goats. Wild goats include species like mountain goats and ibexes.

Wild goats generally live in mountainous areas, although they’ve been known to inhabit grasslands and at the edges of forests as well.

The areas in which they live are usually quite inhospitable to most forms of life, vegetation included, so the animals have to take their meals where they can get them. This may be the reason that they’ve developed a reputation for eating anything that they can get their teeth on.

When raised domestically, though, they can live in just about any sort of place. All they really need is enough to eat and a clean shelter with plenty of ventilation.

The fact that they’re so easy to raise may be due to the fact that they’re one of the oldest domesticated animals on the planet.

goats in the wild
Image Credit: Artur Pawlak, Pixabay

What Do Goats Eat in the Wild?

This is a fairly complex question because there are quite a few different species of wild goats. What’s more, each species lives in dramatically different parts of the world, with different types of foliage available to them.

Goats are total herbivores, and they have four stomach chambers like cows. This allows them to take the necessary time to really break down plant matter and extract all the available nutrients from it.

Their preferred food is grass, and they’re not necessarily particular about which kind of grass. They may eat mosses, shrubs, and other plants that they can find.

Technically speaking, there are two types of herbivorous animals: browsers and grazers. Browsers typically eat shoots and leaves rather than grasses, while grazers almost exclusively eat grass.

Goats fall somewhere in between. They’ll eat grass if it’s available, but due to the areas in which they live, it’s often not. As a result, they’ll eat any vegetation that they can find. They’re “samplers,” in that they’ll taste anything that even remotely looks like food, although they’re fairly picky about what they’ll actually consume.

What Is the Wild Goat’s Role in Its Ecosystem?

Surprisingly, there hasn’t been a ton of research devoted to the role of the wild goat in their ecosystem. This is due in large part to the fact that the places that these goats live are typically rugged and hard to reach and are of little value for human purposes.

If anything, goats seem to have a damaging impact on their environment, at least as far as plant growth is concerned. They can absolutely devastate vegetation, leading in turn to soil erosion, making the area inhospitable to future growth.

However, their ability (and inclination) to eat weeds can allow native grasses and shrubs to flourish. What’s more, any plant that isn’t palatable to the goat will have an excellent chance of flourishing, as the goat will likely eliminate all of its natural competition.

goat
Image Credit: Artur Pawlak, Pixabay

What Eats Wild Goats?

Part of the reason goats seem to prefer mountainous regions that are otherwise inhospitable is that it protects them from predators.

They don’t have any defense mechanisms that could protect them from larger carnivores, so they can be (and often are) easy meals for bears, wolves, and other predators.

However, the goat does have one adaptation that can make them tough prey: their ability to navigate steep, rocky terrain. They can often outrun other animals on mountain slopes, allowing them to escape with ease.

Domesticated goats are also easy pickings for predators, most notably coyotes, but they’re usually well-protected by ranchers and/or dogs, so they don’t have to handle all their defense duties themselves.

What Do Goats Eat as Pets?

For the purposes of this question, we’re considering any domesticated goat to be a pet, even if it more closely fits the definition of livestock.

Domesticated goats usually eat grasses, grains, or hay. They eat them in massive quantities, usually to the tune of 2 to 4 pounds per day.

While they’ll taste just about anything (including garbage, cardboard, and yes, tin cans), they’re picky about what they’ll actually eat. In fact, they’ll often refuse to eat grass or hay that’s fallen on the floor.

If the goats are being used to clear land, giving them additional food may not be necessary because they can get all the nutrition that they need from the grasses and weeds they eat. In fact, in some cities, it’s even possible to rent a goat to clear out weeds and shrubs from your property!

However, goats usually don’t get enough nutrition from grasses and hay, so it may be necessary to add protein, minerals, and extra fiber to their diets.

Goat eating
Image Credit: qimono, Pixabay

Can You Out-Eat a Goat?

Goats are fun animals, but they can be expensive dates because they can pack away a tremendous amount of food. Despite that, they’re surprisingly picky eaters, but when they find something that they like, they can really go to town on it.


Featured Image Credit: FitMum, Pixabay

Quincy Miller

Quincy has been around mutts his entire life and has been writing about them for the past nine years and now consists of sharing a house with three spoiled pups who couldn’t hold down a job to save their lives. Quincy never intended to be a cat person. When his wife brought home a kitten one day, he told her she had one week to find it a new home. That week turned into 10 years (his wife moves very slowly), and that kitten turned into three (they got two more, the kitten didn't self-replicate). After a decade of sharing his home with the dogs and three cats, one horrifying realization finally set in: oh God, he's a cat person now too, isn't he???