An Unusual Pack Animal
"I'm coming, this pack is killing me !! I wish we could bring the horses into this area, I hate carrying my own stuff !!"
"We could always ride our goats Ha Ha Ha!!!!!"
"Ha ha ha, ride our goats, ha ha . . . hmmm . . . the goats."
I know, goats as pack animals, how absurd!! However, if you really think about it, goat packing becomes less and less absurd. Now, put on your 65+ pound backpack and try trekking up cliffs, into deep canyons, up steep granite walls, while contemplating the absurdity of goat packing. Have you changed your mind?? We did.
Lisa and I were avid backpackers, and occasional horse packers. The problem was that my knees were getting worse every year, and our horses weren't able to go the places we loved to visit the most. Why not Llamas, you ask? Well, Llamas weren't able to negotiate the kind of terrain we pack in either. We were faced with either carrying our own gear, or putting it on the goats. Not a tough decision.
Why would we think of our goats while we were on the trail? The answer to that is easy . . . because they were there, hiking with us. We took not only our pet dogs, but also our pet goats hiking with us. The goats loved being free on the trail hiking around like nature intended.
So here we were trying to scale down a horse packing saddle to fit the goats, when we decided we needed more goats. We found a woman locally who sold goats, so we went baby goat shopping. When we arrived and told her why we wanted goats, our bubble was burst when she told us of a man in Wyoming (John Mionczynski) who had been goat packing for the last 15 years!! OK, so it wasn't our idea, we were 15 years too late.
I've heard some people say," This makes sense. I have goats and they are sweet, loving and wonderful animals." Or if they have the occasional mean one," Ya, maybe I could lose him on the trail and tell my wife he was eaten by a bear." Well, take it from me, neither of these scenarios are true of goats on the trail.
Remember how you feel when you are in your element doing something you are really good at? That is a goat while on the trail. They are strong, happy, confident and independent. One of the few , the proud, the Pack Goats !!
A full grown pack goat (over three years old) carries between 40-70 pounds easily in the steepest, rockiest terrain. They are natural pack animals. If you can negotiate the terrain, so can a goat. If you are having a problem negotiating the terrain, watch your goat . . . they usually pick the best routes !!
Which brings up another positive aspect of goat packing; there is no need to use a lead on a goat. Not only do goats walk the same pace as their human partners, but they follow behind you in an orderly ( they have their places in the pack string ) single file manner. RULE: Don't disrupt the pack string order. If you somehow get mixed into their string beware of a pair of horns gently nudging you back into YOUR position.
Each position in the pack string has it's own responsibility. The first position belongs to the female goat, the doe. She is the least aggressive goat therefore most protected by the rest of the pack string. Her responsibility is to lead the herd to a safe place, behind you. The rear position belongs to the largest and most aggressive goat. Because most predators attack from the rear, his responsibility is to protect the herd from any threat, . There are baby-sitters, the goat who makes sure everyone is together, criers, the goat always looking for potential problems, and many others.
"OK, so you are cruising along all orderly like and everyone in their positions, when you come across a swollen creek that you need to cross. Then what do you do?"
Goats are just like humans when it comes to freezing water. First they look for a log to cross, then rocks to jump across, and if all else fails, they will hold their breath and forge the creek. Goats are great swimmers even though they hate it.
"Don't they make a mess of the creek banks like horses? What about defecating in the water like Llamas?"
A entire pack string of goats will do just about as much damage as a large herd of deer. The only evidence that goats visited the area is an occasional hoof print in the mud and a few pellets which are similar to that of deer. Water doesn't evoke any involuntary response in goats except thirst.
A goat on the trail is the easiest, most environmental sound animal being used to pack in the back country, however, a goat in camp is a whole different game.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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