Goats are one of the oldest domesticated species. For thousands of years, goats have been used for their milk, meat, hair, and skins over much of the world. In the twentieth century they also gained in popularity as pets. Neolithic farmers began to keep goats for easy access to milk and meat. Historically, goat hide has been used for water and wine bottles in both traveling and transporting wine for sale. It has also been used to produce parchment. Domestic goats were generally kept in herds that wandered on hills or other grazing areas, often tended by goatherds who were frequently children or adolescents. These methods of herding are still used today.
They are reputed to be willing to eat almost anything. The digestive systems of a goat allow nearly any organic substance to be broken down and used as nutrients. Contrary to this reputation, they are quite fastidious in their habits, preferring to browse on the tips of woody shrubs and trees, as well as the occasional broad leaved plant. Their plant diet is extremely varied and includes some species which are otherwise toxic. They will seldom consume soiled food or contaminated water unless facing starvation.
Goats are extremely curious and intelligent. They are easily housebroken and trained to pull carts and walk on leads. They are also known for escaping their pens. Goats will test fences, either intentionally or simply because they are handy to climb on. If any of the fencing can be spread, pushed over or down, or otherwise be overcome, the goats will escape. Being very intelligent, once a weakness in the fence has been exploited, it will be repeatedly exploited until they determine it can no longer be overcome. Goats are very coordinated and can climb and hold their balance in precarious places. Goats are also widely known for their ability to climb trees, although the tree generally has to be on somewhat of an angle.
Goats will explore anything new or unfamiliar in their surroundings. They do so primarily with their prehensile upper lip and tongue. This is why they investigate items such as buttons, camera cases or clothing by nibbling at them, occasionally even eating them. They have horizontal slit-shaped pupils, an adaptation which increases peripheral depth perception.
A fainting goat is a breed of domestic goat whose muscles freeze for roughly 10 seconds when the goat is startled. Though painless, this generally results in the animal collapsing on its side. The characteristic is caused by a hereditary genetic disorder. When startled, younger goats will stiffen and fall over. Older goats learn to spread their legs or lean against something when startled, and often they continue to run about in an awkward, stiff-legged shuffle.
According to Norse mythology, Thor, the god of thunder, has a chariot that is pulled by goats. At night when he sets up camp, Thor eats the meat of the goats, but take care that all bones remain whole. Then he wraps the remains up, and in the morning, the goats always come back to life to pull the chariot.
The goat has had a lingering connection with Satanism and pagan religions, even into modern times. The pentagram, a symbol used in Satanism, is said to be shaped like a goat’s head. In 2009, a car thief was accused of turning into a goat in Nigeria.