Sheep or Goat?

Sheep or Goat?

If, like me, you shop eBay for goat and sheep memorabilia, you know that sellers often mistake sheep for goats and vice versa. They look a lot alike in many ways but there are obvious differences too.

A black goat sticks his head inside a roll of woven wire fence to see what's inside.
Goats’ tails stick up unless the goat is sick or frightened, then they hang down.

Goats’ tails stick up unless they’re sick or frightened. Goat tails are naturally short, with a cute fringe of longer hair at the sides. Sheep’s tails hang down, always. Most breeds of wool sheep are born with long, woolly tails that are docked (shortened) when they’re young lambs to help prevent flystrike, a nasty condition whereby blowflies lay their eggs in the wool on a sheep’s manure-encrusted tail. When the eggs hatch into hungry maggots,

A white lamb with a long tail.
Unless they’ve been docked (their tails shortened for hygienic reasons), sheep have long, woolly tails like this lamb

the maggots secrete enzymes that liquefy their host’s flesh and create an open wound. Nasty! However, hair sheep like Katahdins, Dorpers, St. Croix, and Barbados Blackbellies have hair instead of wool on their tails. Wool sheep from the Northern European short-tail group like Icelandics, Finnsheep, Romanovs, Soay, and Shetlands have short fluke-shaped tails, broad at the base and tapering to a hair-covered tip. None of these sheep breeds are traditionally docked but their tails hang straight down and can’t be mistaken for the tails of goats. Continue reading “Sheep or Goat?”