It all began 10,000 years ago with the wild bezoar goat up in the mountain regions between Iran and Iraq. This sociable goat often sought the company of man, and gradually joined him in on the migratory routes towards Europe. The goat wandered steadily northward until it finally reached Norway.
During Viking times goats were kept on board the longships headed for the islands to the west, and in Norse mythology Heidrun the goat lived on the roof of the great hall of the gods. From her udders flowed a constant stream of mead which quenched the thirst of gods and warriors.
Busy cultural landscape architects
Goats are unique in that they provide us with milk, meat, hide and company. They have the capacity to exploit natural resources more than almost any other animal. Goats are said to eat just about anything; a generalisation which is not that far from the truth. Thanks to a digestive system that can break down almost all types of organic material and an intensely inquisitive nature, the goat would have to be in dire straits before it ever died from starvation.
In outfields the goat will feed on protein and mineral-rich plants, and the varied summer pastures help to keep them in good health. Goats prefer a varied diet, and grass accounts for less than half of their food intake. Goats eat everything nature has to offer: heather, plant buds, leaves, bark and herbs. This also means that they contribute to maintaining the biological diversity of their environment
The good life
The animals are kept on the summer pastures from mid-June until mid-September. For the rest of the year they are kept in their barns in the lowlands, in the villages. When the weather is mild with no snow they are left out to graze on home pastures, sometimes right up until the month of December. Many goat farms have large, modern barns with plenty of room for the goats to leap around and apparatus to meet their need for constant activity. All the same, nothing can compare with life in the summer pastures.
Acrobat and charmer
The goat can perform the most amazing acrobatic feats if it finds something tasty to eat, whether it be on a mountain precipice or at the top of a tree. They can go just about anywhere – which is why it is so difficult to fence them in. Because the goats are so active, they do not get the chance to become fat. Neither goat’s milk nor goat’s cheese has a particularly high fat content.
Goats are independent and obstinate creatures, and can sometimes just – well – get your goat! But they also have one redeeming characteristic; their charm. A more human-friendly, playful and social animal is hard to find.
“The relationship between man and goat on the summer pastures is special. It cannot be compared to that between man and other domestic animals”
Be in no doubt; goats are smart creatures!
“The relationship between man and goat on the summer pastures is special. It cannot be compared to that between man and other domestic animals,” says goat farmers. And that claim was actually confirmed by American researchers a few years ago when they ascertained that the goat was, indeed, “man’s best friend.”
Looks the goats straight in the eye
The goat is a sensitive animal that requires a lot of looking after. The milkmaids on the summer farms and the workers tending the goats in the barns during the winter months soon realise that each goat has a personality all of its own. Their inquisitive and social nature demands a lot of attention. And they get it. With so many different personalities to deal with, it is important to have the time to observe the goats closely, and to take a few minutes every day to look them straight in the eye. This is also a good way of detecting sickness.