When my mother was a child, she ambled outside to play. Unexpectedly, the family’s polled billy goat rammed her and sent her somersaulting through the air.
As a goat keeper, you don’t want this scenario to happen. You want to train endearing, trustworthy goats, even when your back is turned. If your goat keeps hitting you with its horns, and charges you with its head-headbutting- it’s dangerous.
Table of Contents:
- Why Do Goats Headbutt Humans? Because We “Train” Them to!
- Goat Headbutting Humans FAQs
Why is my goat headbutting me? Goats headbutt humans with the main reason of defending itself. Headbutting is natural, normal behavior goats use to play with each other and establish their place in the herd.
However, when they feel threatened, a goat may charge at you for no reason (or that’s what you think). The goat’s headbutt force is 60 times more powerful than a human’s.
A billy’s ram is usually stronger and more aggressive than a does. It is critical to train your goats not to headbutt you. Never pet goats on the head.
This may go against your instincts because goats are great pets. But, petting them on the head communicates a challenge to your goats.
If your goats try to headbutt you, your children, or other animals, they can cause serious injury. Fortunately, in almost all cases, you can prevent headbutting before it happens.
It’s also possible to stop it through operant conditioning.
The behavior in this video should NEVER be allowed. In this article- I’ll show you how to train a got not to headbutt people, even kids.
You may also want to check out these tips on how to deal with headbutting goats.
Why Do Goats Headbutt Humans? Because We “Train” Them to!
As compassionate, intelligent goat keepers, we can step back from the situation to identify why they’re behaving a particular way.
Too often, people teach goats to ram by how they interact with them. That’s often because of misinterpreting how a goat thinks.
With a keen knowledge of general and individual goat behavior, we’re better equipped to find solutions and prevention measures.
Goats headbutt people for several reasons, such as:
- To play or show affection
- To show dominance
- To express stress or irritation
- To defend itself
Goats Headbutting Behavior Begins At Young Age
Since goats are capricious, playful animals, headbutting each other is a common thing that happens to them. Goat butting starts early as kids play with each other.
This is entirely normal and acceptable. My goats displayed this as kids, and they still use headbutting to play with each other seven years later.
At the same time, goats headbutt their owners to catch their attention or show affection.
Dominant Goat Tend to Headbutt More Often
Headbutting establishes or maintains dominance in the herd’s hierarchy. This is the most popular reason. As goats are first introduced to each other, they sort out the ranks with headbutting.
Whoever submits is the less dominant goat. Once our herd determined the queen, they all settled into their roles peaceably.
Usually, goats will sort the headbutting out, especially if they have enough space, but if it continues, you’ll have to separate the goats. Over time you may be able to reintroduce the goat into the herd. Ensure this is done gradually rather than instantly.
Headbutting As A Stress Response
When goats are disgruntled or startled, they react instinctively by headbutting. For example, my typically laid-back goats raise their hackles when our obnoxious border collie barks around them.
This is a case of irritation, not aggression, and it’s easily remedied by not allowing the dog inside the pen.
Your Goat Headbutts You to Protect Itself
Goats will headbutt as a defense mechanism, although they’re much more likely to flee in case of trouble. When a goat sees someone unfamiliar, this can trigger the goat’s fight or flight response, resulting in headbutting.
If you see this behavior, remain calm and don’t show fear towards your goats. Simply stand your ground, and shout ‘No!’
Ultimately, ramming is a natural goat behavior developed to protect themselves, display dominance, and play. But it’s disconcerting when a beloved goat begins to headbutt you. Nip the behavior in the bud before it cements itself.
Goats Headbutt Other Things, Also!
Goats also hit other things, aside from humans, you will find them hitting tree stumps, bushes, and any object that stands in their way.
Goats will headbutt things because of frustration.
They will begin to hit their heads on objects if they get bored. Also, keeping them locked up for a long will increase their frustration, and they will start slamming on fences. Keep them well-fed and socialize them to reduce their frustrations.
Goats Headbutt Trees
Goats headbutt trees because they are lonely. Goats love to play with other goats, but if they are alone, they get so much energy pent up that they need to release it.
They only know how to release this energy by headbutting a tree. Your goat may get hurt if caught in the branches, so you need to watch out for this.
Goats Headbutt Dogs
Goats make dogs nervous, so they will headbutt the dog for self-defense. Your dog may get injured and can get killed in the process, especially when a horned goat headbutts it. A horned goat can hook and disembowel the goat. Immediately separate the dog from the goat.
Goats belong in their own exclusive outdoor pen, not sharing a backyard fence with pet dogs.
Goats have strong skulls that can withstand more than 60 times a human skull can. This, reinforcement causes goats to absorb more pressure from the impact than the cow.
Here, it is not the size of the dog in the fight but rather the size of the fight in the dog. Goats are also more used to headbutting than cows, making their headbutting unsafe for cows and other farm animals.
Mama goat headbutting her baby is not normal behavior. Kids hit the mamas udders to make it release more milk.
Stop a Goat From Headbutting You
You can read my full article on how to train a goat to stop headbutting people here. Yet, here are several important aspects of how to stop headbutting. A goat should NEVER be allowed to headbutt a person.
- Positive Reinforcement: Reward calm behavior with treats, praise, or petting to encourage gentleness and discourage headbutting.
- Gentle Correction: Use subtle physical cues or verbal commands to redirect the goat’s behavior when it shows signs of aggression or headbutting.
- Consistent Training: Maintain a consistent training routine to reinforce desired behavior and minimize confusion.
- Early Socialization: Start training goats when they are young to establish good behavior patterns from the beginning.
- Respect Boundaries: Ensure you and others maintain a respectful distance and avoid sudden movements when interacting with goats to reduce the likelihood of headbutting.
Goat Headbutting Humans FAQs
It is uncommon for a goat to headbutt a human who feeds and takes care of it. Often the goat will be friendly to its owners and attack strangers.
However, there are times when a goat will headbutt its owner. Here are frequently asked questions on why a goat will headbutt humans.
Do female goats or baby goats headbutt?
Goats of all ages and sex headbutt, so female and baby goats headbutt. The reason why baby goats and female goats headbutt varies.
Younger goats often ram during play.
Female goats will often headbutt to assert dominance, relieve stress and expend excess energy. Female goats will also headbutt when they are playing.
What if the goat headbutts my child?
Teach young children not to enter the goat’s pen without supervision. Children often run toward cute animals, startling goats into headbutting.
Teach children to respect the animal’s space. Older children can be taught to train goats, not headbutt with a spray bottle.
What if another goat is being headbutted?
Usually, they’ll sort it out, especially if they have enough space, but if it continues, you’ll have to separate the goats. Over time you may be able to reintroduce the goat into the herd.
Ensure this is done gradually rather than instantly.
Will a disbudded or polled goat headbutt?
Yes, even a goat without horns will headbutt. The only difference is that the damage inflicted is minimized when a hornless goat headbutts.
Disbudding isn’t a guaranteed method of preventing headbutting.
A goat will ram you to assert itself, display dominance or as a way of showing affection to you. While headbutting behavior is normal for goats, it is uncomfortable and you may get seriously injured.
Understanding why a goat headbutts you is important in establishing boundaries and setting preventative measures.
The article has provided useful examples; you can use them to create a safe and peaceful environment for you and your goats.
My Essential Goat Supplies
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A sturdy dog collar is essential. Don’t do rope (they’ll break and tangle) or chain (injury!).
A Black Water Tub is way nicer than buckets that tip over. I like to get a 20 or 30-gallon in each pen so my goats have plenty of water, but you can get 100-gallons if you have a lot of sheep in one pen.
Loose minerals in a small bag or a Purina 50 lb bag, and a mineral feeder for free-choice is the best option. One side holds minerals, and the other holds baking soda. Don’t feed sheep goat minerals because it usually contains copper- something that is fatal to sheep.
Hoof trimmers are a necessity because you’ll need to trim your sheep’s hooves every few months. These are nice for the price.
Don’t make the mistake I made by waiting to order a drench gun before you need it. I was surprised by how often I use it. It helps with bloating, dehydration, and other ailments. Here’s a good drench, but you can also drench a bloat solution or water if dehydrated.
Digital Thermometor for when your lambs act sick. You’ll need to know if their temps are too low or too high so you can accurately diagnose the issues.
Vetericyn for wound care. It makes a big difference in a speedy recovery.
Check out this list of goat milk supplies you need if you have milk goats.