Goat, any individual or species of Capra, a genus of hollow-horned ruminants, almost exclusively confined to the rugged and mountainous parts of the Palaearctic region, outside which only two species (one in Abyssinia and one in southern India) are found. Goats are closely allied to sheep, and the two groups have so many characters in common that it is difficult to frame definitions that shall mark them off clearly. The chief distinguishing marks of the goats are the laterally-flattened horns, keeled or with transverse ridges rising from the top of the head and curving backwards, the absence of tear-pits, the presence of a beard, and a peculiarly strong odour, especially in the males. To these must be added what Hodgson calls the "moral" distinctions: the "curious, capricious, and confident" nature of the goats, as contrasted with the "incurious, staid, send timid" disposition of the sheep. Not only do sheep and goats produce hybrids, but these hybrids are capable of perpetuating the mixed breed.
The domestic goat (C. hircus), with its numerous breeds, is probably derived from (C. agagrus) the Bezoar goat, ranging from the Grecian Archipelago, where it is called the Ibex, to Persia, where its name is Paseng. It is of a greyish hue, shaded with reddish-brown, and has a dark dorsal stripe. The male stands about 33 inches at the withers, and the horns, which bear protuberances in front, may measure as much as 4 feet along the curve. The female is smaller, and has the horns less developed. It is said of this animal and of the Alpine Ibex that when accidentally falling they occasionally use their horns to break the shock.
Goats are hardy creatures, and will pick up a subsistence where sheep would starve; but they browse on shoots, twigs, and bark, and if kept near plantations will do a great deal of damage therein. A good she-goat will yield about two quarts of milk daily. The milk is made into butter and cheese, especially in mountainous countries and in the East. The flesh of young goats, or kids, is eaten; goat-skins make excellent rugs, and when dressed as leather are used for making gloves and boots; the horns are utilised for handles for cutlery; and from the fat excellent tallow is produced. Judges' and barristers' wigs are made of goats' hair, and from it ropes are spun that resist the effect of water. The Angora goat - a variety from Asia Minor - has long silky hair, from which camlets are made. The Cashmere goat, another variety, is a native of Tibet and Bokhara, and owes its popular name to the fact that its long hair is sent to Cashmere to be made into the celebrated Cashmere shawls. From these two varieties a third has been produced by crossing which yields longer and finer wool than the Angora or the Cashmere. The Syrian goat - a common Eastern form - isnoticeable for its very long ears. The Markhore (C. megaceros) a wild goat from Cashmere and North-East India, is bluish-grey, with a long beard and mane, and immense spirally-twisted horns. It is popularly said to kill and eat serpents. The Tahr (C. jemlaica), from the Himalayas, is a fawn-brown, with long hair on the neck, chest, and shoulders. The horns are only about a foot long.
The Ibexes from the mountains of Europe and Western Asia are sometimes made a separate genus, from the fact that the horns are not keeled as in the true goats but have a series of transverse ridges in front: They are sometimes marked off into species, according as they are found in the Alps (C. ibex), the Pyrenees ( C. pyrenaica), the Sierra Nevada ( C. hispania), or the Caucasus (C. caucasica), but the first-named and the Paseng (C. wgagrus) are probably the only good species. [Rocky Mountain Goat.]