Goats are curious farm creatures that love exploration and mischief. If you’ve been lucky enough to know a goat or two, you might have trouble deciphering the differences between the genders. Or maybe you’re just trying to figure out what to expect from kids as they mature.
Luckily, it’s not too hard—and horns or lack thereof are not always a telltale sign. Male and female goats can have horns, but both genders can also be hornless. Let’s explain in further detail!
A Little About Goats
Goats are originally from parts of Asia, but they have dominated the world since their domestication. You can find goats of all sorts of species just about anywhere on the map—serving on farms as terrific milk and meat producers.
Female goats are called “nannies” or “does” while males are called “bucks” or “billies.” Regardless of gender, these guys have a life expectancy of 10 to 15 years.
There are several goat species—some of which naturally have horns and some that do not.
Distinguishable Differences Between Male and Female Goats
Male and female goats are quite distinguishable just by the lift of a tail. Also, male goats have beards, though females can also have some tufts of hair under the chin.
Horns or Lack Thereof
Horned goats can be male or female. Hornless goats are called polled goats—lacking them altogether. If you want your goats born polled, you can breed two polled goats to produce kids.
However, the unfortunate fact is that most polled kids are unable to reproduce themselves. So, they usually need one polled and one horned parent if you plan to breed the babies.
Gender & Size of Horns
However, if you have two goats of the same breed side by side, another telltale way to check it is to compare horn sizes.
Females have less prominent horns than their male counterparts.
Horns & Body Language
Female goats use horns for self-regulating temperature, but they also have another purpose. Depending on the situation, many goats butt, ram, and rub heads for both affection and aggression.
Horns & Age
One awesome thing about goats is that their horns never stop growing—just like a human’s ears and nose.
You can actually tell how old a goat is by how large its horns are. In the first 2 years, horns grow substantially, curving in a spiral formation. Afterwards, horns typically just grow thicker and more robust.
How Do Horns Help Goats?
What is so interesting about goat horns is that their main purpose is not for head butting or spearing—like it might seem. Instead, their horns serve as a cooling agent to regulate their body temperature.
Dehorning goats is a questionable but common practice that reduces property destruction and potentially lengthens their lifespan. But hairier goats, or those that live in hot climates, might overheat without them.
Can Goats Regrow Horns?
Horns cannot regrow in the actual sense of totally reforming. If horns are removed young, there is a chance small buds might still form. However, goats cannot regrow full horns. And in most cases, they will not reform at all.
How Strong Are Goat Horns?
Goat horns are made of bone and have a keratin sheath over top for extra protection. They have blood vessels in their horns, including the main artery. If they break, there can be significant bleeding and blood loss.
Horns can chip, break, crack, and wear down. Also, goat horn injuries can be life-threatening if they are severe enough or not treated quickly.
Should You Disbud Female Goat Horns?
Many recommend disbudding for your goat’s safety. Goats can get their horns caught on objects and fencing, which can shorten their lives or injure them—not to mention the expenses incurred from damage repair.
Many experts recommend refraining from disbudding goats such as the Angora since they will have trouble regulating body temperature afterward. Ultimately, it depends on the breed and the size of the horns as adults.
Goats with larger horns usually benefit from disbudding. Dairy goats can usually get along fine because their horns are relatively small.
Age to Disbud Goats
Since goat horns grow stronger with age, you should disbud babies before they reach one month old—but ideally by 10 days. Disbudding involves using a hot iron to kill the horn, preventing further growth.
While some owners have experience doing this at home, it’s best to have a licensed professional perform the task.
So, now you know that males and females can have horns with no discrimination to gender. Male horns are usually bigger than females of that given breed. In any case, either gender can be born without horns, known as polled goats.
If you plan to disbud your goats for any reason, it’s always best to leave it to a professional.
Featured Image Credit: Artur Pawlak, Pixabay