Goat refers to several species of ruminant, cloven-hoofed mammals of the genus Capra bearing upward-curving horns and a characteristic beard of hair under the chin. Domesticated for centuries, goats are a source for protein-rich milk and fine wool.
Wild goats are usually found in mountain habitats, their agility enabling them to leap from rock to rock, and a subunquis inner layer of the hoof acting as a shock absorber and sure-footed grip on rocky terrain. They are nomadic and gregarious, feeding on shrubs and grassy pastures. Breeding season is in the fall from October to December, and a single young is born after a five-month gestation. The term "billy" and "nanny" are used for adult male and female goats respectively; young goats are called "kids".
Nine species exist in the wild:
- Bezoar, or Wild goat (C. aegagrus), found in the Middle East, and considered the ancestor of the domestic goat.
- Alpine ibex (C. ibex), found in the mountain regions of central Europe.
- Nubian ibex (C. nubiana), found in the hill country of Sudan and Egypt.
- Siberian, or Asiatic, Ibex (C. sibirica) of central Asia.
- Spanish ibex (C. pyrenaicais) of Spain and the Pyrenees on the Franco-Spanish border.
- Ethiopian, or Walia Ibex (C. walie), an endangered species found in the mountainous area of Ethiopia.
- West Caucasian tur (C. caucasica), found only in the western Caucasus Mountains.
- East caucasian tur (C. cylindricornis), found only in the eastern Caucasus Mountains.
- Markhor (C. falconeri), a spiral-horned mammal found in the western Himalaya Mountains, and considered the national animal of Pakistan.
The mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus) of western North America, and the Eurasian chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra) are considered unrelated species despite their similar appearence.
The domestic goat (C. aegagrus hircus), along with sheep, were among the earliest domesticated animals, and their remains have been found at archaeological sites in western Asia, such as Jericho, Choga, Mami, Djeitun and Cayonu, which allows domestication of the goats to be dated at between 6000 and 7000 B.C. Today there are several hundred breeds of goats, being bred specifically for meat, milk, and wool production world-wide. Two breeds, the Angora and Kashmīr, are known for exceptionally-fine wool. The milk produced by goats is as nutritive as cow's milk with the added benefit of easier digestability; it is also used in cheesemaking.
Apart from commercial farming, domestic goats are a favorite animal in children's petting zoos, and their docile nature has made them into agreeable pets as well.
Goats are often found in the Bible and the histories of other religions. A goat is a "clean" animal by Jewish law and was slaughtered for an honored guest. In the New Testament, Jesus told a parable of The Sheep and the Goats. Christianity has associated Satan with imagery of goats, based on the Greed deity Pan.