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What is a Pack Goat?

By J.M. Densing
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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A pack goat is a companion animal used to carry loads for humans; they are often used to transport gear on wilderness trips. Castrated males from the larger breeds are typically ideal for this purpose. A healthy pack goat can carry about 25 percent of its own weight and has a low impact on the environment as it travels through. Pack goats are inexpensive to care for and easy to train as long as they are exposed to humans from a young age.

Animals have been used as beasts of burden throughout history, and goats have been domesticated by humans for thousands of years. Goats are said to be ideal pack animals because they are friendly, hard working, loyal, and they enjoy human companionship. Since many breeds are native to mountainous areas, they are adapted to rough terrain, making them well suited to navigating wilderness. They are nimble, sure footed, and able to carry a moderate load, thereby allowing their human companions to travel more easily.

When selecting a pack goat, a castrated male, also known as a wether, from a large dairy breed is often the best choice. A female can also make a good pack goat; since females are usually smaller, they can't carry as much weight as a male, however. Some owners feel that a female's ability to provide fresh milk on the trail makes up for the smaller load-carrying ability. It is also extremely important for the goat to be friendly and alert with a good disposition.

A typical adult pack goat can carry at least 25 percent of its own weight. Once they have been trained and conditioned, many pack goats can carry as much as 35 percent of their own body weight without a problem. Loads are carried in special packs strapped to the goat's back that are designed to distribute the weight evenly. Pack goats tend to graze and nibble vegetation as they travel, minimizing the impact on the environment since they don't take a lot of food from any one spot. Another benefit of their eating habits is that it is unnecessary to pack and carry food for them.

According to pack goat enthusiasts, the goats cost very little to maintain, needing only a modest shelter, water, food, and companionship. It is recommended to own at least two goats since they are very social animals and need company. They should be exposed to human contact from birth, also called imprinting, so they are able to bond well with their owners. Owners should spend a lot of time with their pack goats, thereby ensuring that they are well trained before taking them out into the wilderness.

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