Goats have been domesticated for thousands of years and are a common sight in rural areas. Contrary to some popular beliefs, hand raised goats are friendly and enjoy human company. They are loyal and hard working, making them an ideal pack animal.
Goats were born for the back country. They are sure footed and have a low impact on the environment. Even their droppings and tracks resemble native wildlife. Goats are browsers, which means they prefer to eat brush and weeds. They take a nibble here and there, leaving little sign that they ever passed by. They survive extremely well on common back country forage, which means no more packing feed. Due to high desert ancestry, goats can go up to three days with no water, which is good news for the dry camps occasionally found on backpack trips.
The goats most commonly used for packing are wethers (castrated males), from the larger dairy breeds. A good sized wether is 36″ tall at the shoulder and weighs 200 pounds. A goat in good condition can carry 25% of its body weight or approximately 50 pounds and can travel 5-12 miles per day depending on terrain.
Pack goats are bonded to people at a young age by the breeder and follow along like the family dog, with no lead rope necessary unless specifically required in certain areas. Most goats seem to enjoy hiking and accept their pack with little training. Once in camp, the goats can be left loose to eat near by, often sleeping beside your tent. Goats naturally have calm dispositions and are not easily spooked. Other wildlife seem curious about the goats and sometimes let you approach closer than usual.
Using goats as pack animals is gaining in popularity by leaps and bounds as more people discover these personable and affordable animals. Anyone with a small lot can keep a goat, which is easily hauled to the trail head in a pickup truck or small trailer.
Senior citizens or people with injuries that prevent them from carrying a pack, can once again enjoy the outdoors. Families with young children benefit, as well as those of us smart enough to let a willing goat carry our gear.
If you would like more information about pack goats, we recommend one of the books, found in Our Store, as an excellent place to start. Specific questions can be addressed to us via our Contact Us page.