A herd of one-hundred-plus goats have become nationwide celebrities after what started as a bold mass escape from a corral in northwest Boise culminated with a lazy grazing session on a front lawn just blocks away. Apparently, a lush patch of grass is too good to pass up.
As reported by the Idaho Statesman, the goats are actually working professionals; they are the boots on the ground (hooves on the ground?) part of a business that offers eco-friendly weed and brush clearing services for private and public land. The brains behind the operation, aptly named We Rent Goats, are owners Matt and Kim Gabica.
“Goats are great escape artists, and I guess they decided to go on an adventure today,” Kim told the newspaper. “It’s rare that this many would get out, but they would definitely follow each other.”
On the day in question, August 3, a group of 118 of the Gabica's 500 goats were on a job at a county retention pond located in a suburban part of town. Though it remains unclear who the instigator was, at some point during that morning one of the goats got bored of trimming the vegetation on the pond lot and broke several slots of the wooden fence containing them. From this gap, the whole group must have snuck out one by one, pouring out into the surrounding neighborhood.
The police were notified at 7am, and by 9am, all 118 had been loaded back into their trailer. The round-up process was easier than the Gabicas had expected, according to the article, because the goats had all gathered on or around one home’s front yard, about 0.1 miles away.
The episode adds another chapter to the impressive legacy of goat escapes that likely goes all the way back to their domestication. For example, there are dozens of stories of wily goats freeing themselves from farms, zoos, and even slaughterhouses in the past couple of years in the US alone – and these are only the events that make the news. Imagine how many times this has occurred all over the world.
Many of us may not think of domestic goats as particularly intelligent, but research has shown that these animals are capable of quickly learning new abilities and integrating what they learn into their long-term memory. Curiously, unlike many social animals, goats do not appear to pick up new skills or behaviors faster if they observe another individual doing it.
Zoologists propose that goat’s impressive cognitive faculties evolved in response to the challenge of trying to survive as a foraging herbivore in harsh environments. This theory could explain why the ruminants are so good at colonizing new environments, and perhaps, why they are so adept at solving the problem of escaping from an enclosure.