Have you ever had a goat headbutt you or knock its horns against something sharply and wondered what they were trying to tell you?
Goats can be quite communicative with their owners, especially through headbutting. Understanding the meaning behind headbutting is essential in knowing how to have a positive experience with your animals while maintaining their health and well-being.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the different meanings behind goat headbutting and provide tips on handling differing circumstances.
Why Do Goats Headbutt?
Headbutting is completely normal behavior, and it actually serves several purposes: play, establish dominance and set ranks within the herd, communicate warnings, and relieve stress.
It’s fun for goats to do and gives them enrichment play. Even if you can’t offer your goats a massive pasture to graze on, they will find ways to entertain themselves, and headbutting one another is just one of the games they like to play. It’s a great boredom buster.
Next, goats headbutt each other as a way to set a pecking order within their herd and establish dominance. Goats have to know who their leaders are, and headbutting is how they choose their highest-ranked goats.
Does It Hurt Goats to Headbutt Each Other?
Headbutting can be damaging to one another, but most of the time it is harmless play.
If you feel that your goats are hurting each other, you may want to reevaluate your goat’s environment (more on that in a moment) or even separate them from one another if it’s severe enough.
Headbutting other goats in the legs, butt, or abdomen can get dangerous quickly. You should intervene and separate them right away for these instances.
When Is Headbutting Bad?
If you’re goats feel overcrowded, they make resort to headbutting each other excessively in an attempt to claim more food and space in their competitions.
They will feel stressed and anxious over their situation too, and headbutting may help alleviate some of their stresses.
If you’re goats headbutt each other excessively, you may want to reevaluate how much space they have and consider expanding your operation or downsizing a few goats.
Is It Okay to Play Headbutt With My Goats?
Goats can absorb sixty times greater impact to their skull than humans can.
It’s absolutely not wise to headbutt goats for that exact reason.
Many new goat keepers don’t know this, but it’s also not a good idea to put goats right on the head.
Even though they love it when you scratch between their horns and behind their ears, this can gesture to them that you want to headbutt.
If you insist on playing like a goat, wear a good helmet, and pay attention that you aren’t stressing out or upsetting your goats.
Of course, make sure you don’t let yourself get hurt, either. It’s hard to tend to goats when you’ve got a concussion to tend to!
Keep in mind that headbutting is a very dangerous game to play with goats.
Once they learn that it’s okay to hit you, they may start making contact at inopportune times, putting you in a dangerous and vulnerable situation.
If you can’t keep your headbutting goat, it’s best to cull it because it’s probably not safe for other goat keepers to have either.
You should always closely monitor your goats around children, too; a kid who is headbutted can be seriously injured or killed– and it can happen heart-wrenchingly fast.
If a goat tries to headbutt a newcomer on your farm, that is likely because he or she feels threatened by them or feels the need to establish dominance right off the bat. This is not inherently bad. If your goat never offers to headbutt you, all is good.
Don’t let your new visitors in the same pen as your goats as a way to ensure their safety.
How To Reduce Goat Headbutting Behaviors
Goats often have to express themselves by headbutting, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work on reducing it.
Careful feed management and creating a safe, stress-free environment are key. Your goats should have ample space to run, jump, climb, and play.
Plus, it’s a good idea to remove the more aggressive goats from the herd if you have some overbearing bullies that are making life difficult for your other goats. You can keep the meaner goats in separate enclosures, rehome them, or put them in your freezer if they act out too much.
Additionally, identify any sources of emotional strain among your goats so those can be taken care of proactively!
How To Stop Goats From Headbutting You
While all goats are capable (and often willing) to headbutt humans, the worst and most dangerous offenders are uncastrated (intact) billy goats. These goats are remarkably strong and can be incredibly dangerous to people.
If you have a goat that likes to headbutt you, you need to quickly figure out how much effort you’re willing to put in to stop this behavior while also being brutally honest with yourself about your own abilities and overall health. If you struggle to move around, it would be best for you to cull your dangerous goats as soon as they show signs of aggression.
If you’re capable and willing, though, here are a few tips and tricks you can use to stop your goats from hitting you.
- Spray the goats with a high-powered water gun.
- Use an air horn to stop the goat in his tracks.
- Consider finding ways to feed and care for this animal without getting in the pen with them.
- Cull or rehome the goat.
It’s not always an easy decision, but that’s an unfortunate part of owning livestock. What are your opinions and experiences with headbutting goats?
If you have any special tips or tricks to stop a destructive or dangerous goat, we would love to hear from you!