Friday, February 20, 2015

Happy Year of the Sheep! The Bezoar Goat.

Happy Chinese New Year, everybody! What better way to start off the Year of the Goat…Sheep…Geep? with a goat? Just look at this thing: 


That goat is called a bezoar goat/ibex (Capra aegagrus aegagrus), and it is the stuff Gogoats (it's year of the Wood Goat, by the by) are made of. It's native to the Middle East, including Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan - all those fun places! There are a few places where it's been introduced, but what you really need to know is that this: 

…came from this: 


Although nobody's really sure how much the bezoar goat contributed to the domestic goat gene pool, it's either a direct descendant or a hefty percentage. Along with making them smaller and tame, bezoar goats lost their razor-sharp horns, gained curly tails, and now, some breeds have floppy ears. Also, some of them have been bred to faint, but that's not the fault of a goat with razor horns. Yeah, goat horns used to have a sharp, inner edge like a badass sword. 

Bezoar goats are very well adapted to mountainous, sometimes cold regions. At night, the temperature of places like Turkey sometimes drops drastically; wool is a good countermeasure to that. A goat's feet are also spongy and relatively narrow, allowing them to climb around in rocky areas. Have I sung the praises of those beautiful horns enough? No? Well, those are both sexy (to other goats, mind) and a great defense mechanism. 

At this point, some of you are probably wondering: isn't a "bezoar" something out of Harry Potter? Yes, and it does indeed come from a goat…or any other number of things, really. A bezoar is basically a stone of miscellany that didn't get digested, and thus wound up lodged in an animal's digestive tract. Goats are far from the only animals that have them; humans can get bezoars as well. Their poison-curing properties are greatly exaggerated, with only curing arsenic poisoning anywhere near consistently (and only with treatment). 

Oh, right, back on the topic of the wild goat. Another nasty thing that happens with domestication is the relative scarcity of the wild counterpart. The bezoar is technically only "Threatened," and then mostly due to habitat loss. Game hunting of these goats has also increased. Wolves and the aurochs are so very, very jealous right now, regardless.