BASIC INFO: Goats have been used for centuries, to carry loads, starting in places like Iran and Tibet. Goats like to travel in herds and will quickly let you become part of their specific "herd."
    Goats also cost less and are less costly to maintain in the non-camping months. Two goats will live on a 1/4 acre. Two is the minimum recommended number of goats as they need companionship, although they will attach themselves to other species, including you, if they have no other goats around.
    A healthy, packgoat quality, imprinted kid starts at $150. You can maintain two for about $30 per month. They require shelter, but it doesn't have to be fancy, just dry and windproof. They do well in cattle panel fencing, or field fence with hot wire top and bottom.
    If you've heard old wives' tales about goats, including the one that all goats smell bad, well, that's only the bucks and they're not usually used for packing. And as far as goats having nasty dispositions, not the one's that are properly raised. Goats are similar to a good dog in temperament , if raised correctly.
    Goats are ecologically sound, easy to train, and love the contact with humans associated with packing. They are really useful and fun animals to work with.
    The goats first three years are used to grow and develop. These are the bonding years that make or break a good pack goat. They should be learning manners rather then "how to" pack. How to behave on a leash, in camp, on the trail, when to eat, then not eat, when to rest, how to follow, how to cross water. It is more important they learn these manners, the "packing" will come naturally if they have the behavior basics.
How much can one carry? Goats can easily carry 1/4 of their total body weight. Fully conditioned packers can reach up to 1/3. A large fully grown wether can easily carry 40 to 60 pounds of gear. That's a lot of stuff, and if you need more you can just add another goat! 
When can they pack?  Too young?DO NOT PACK YOUR GOATS UNTIL THEIR 4TH YEAR! They  do not need "soft pack" training and it can actually harm the goat.
 To old?  Healthy, well cared for and conditioned goats can pack for many years. We have heard of some that are 15 years plus.
Goat in full loaded Pack
Why Pack Goats?
Loyal, Easy to Handle: Goats are ideal companions for seniors who can no longer carry a backpack and for families with small children. Goats are personable, properly trained they prefer being with people. Goats are easily led by children and are easy to pack for ALL ages, as you need not lift the load very high. Goats, like dogs, bond with humans at a young age and will follow anywhere. In areas not requiring tying, your goats will willingly follow along the trail, browse for his own food and sleep next to your tent or rainfly.
Go Anywhere: Goats can utilize areas that are inaccessible to horses, relieving congestion on crowded trails. They can travel over a wide variety of terrain, including packed snow, downed logs and rock. Anything short of a cliff, if you can get there, so can your goats. Probably with a silly face watching you catch up.
No Trace Camping, Environmentally Friendly: A goat's impact on the land is minimal. Goats eat like deer. They forage and browse for wide variety of food, so there is no need to pack food for them. Goats do not dig holes, or even leave much a a print at all. And there droppings are not smelly. In fact, to the untrained a goats droppings and hoof prints would appear to be those of a deer. Goats require very little extra food to be transported for them, unlike llamas and horses. Goats are also less likely to leave behind reminders of their presence in the wilderness. No large manure piles, broken limbs, and pawed out areas. Goats fit the "leave no trace camping" ethic very well.
Advantages vs Disadvantages
  • Carry all sorts of gear, greatly reducing the amount of gear you have to carry. Goats can easily carry 20% - 30% of their body weight in saddles and gear  (a 200 lbs. goat can readily carry 50 lbs. all day)
  • Goats handle rougher terrain than other pack animals
  • Goats have minimal impact on the environment
  • Goats don't need large quantities of feed, they can browse on the trail
  • Goats do not have to have water every day, if forage is good. (three days is not uncommon)
  • Goats are relatively easy to train and easily handled by people of all ages and abilities 
  • Goats will haul in a small trailer or a pickup with or without a canopy
  • Goats are pleasant animals who will stay with the herd and not stray from the group
  • Goats do not need to be tied up at night if properly bonded to humans
  • Goats do not need to be lead, they follow naturally
  • Goats are well suited to No Trace Camping practices 
  • Less expensive to own and operate than other pack animals
  • Goats travel less distance per day than other pack animals (smell the flowers)
  • Goats carry less weight than other pack animals (get more)
  • As with any animal, a certain amount of daily care and attention is required to keep goats (get disciplined)
  • Initial start-up expenses may be quite high (but not as high as with other pack animals) 
  • Zoning regulations may limit your ability to keep goats in your backyard (move, or rent from us)
Packing in the gear. 1999
Do I want Horns on my goats?
This is a hot issue and ultimately comes downs to personal preference. We chose to have horns on our goats. We like the look of horned goats. We live in semi arid conditions where the horns DO help disperse heat. And we are rural enough the roaming domestic dogs are a problem. Most have learned to respect our boys ability to defend their turf.  On the converse side, we have had bruised ribs, torn shirts and one split lip from dealing with horned packers (totally accidental on the goat's part). And we still want horns. But all of our family and their friends that visit know that grabbing the horns is a total no no as this single action encourages them to butt people.
Horns vs No Horns Horns on a pack goat function as a cooling system - they each have a large blood vessel running through them. This allows the animal to cool itself as the blood circulates through the horn. The heat dissipates to the surface of the horn. Horns are also good for protection against dogs and predators. If a goat is bottle raised (and no one played with its horns), it should not drop its horns to people. For people that have shown dairy goats, the 4H and the American Dairy Goat Association rules are "no horned animals". This is for safety simply because many people do not hand raise their goats, and some breeds of goats tend to be more aggressive than others. If one chooses not to keep the horns, the best time to disbud (destroy the horn buds) is when the goat kid is ten days to two weeks of age. Our experience indicates that disbudding is best done with the use of a hot iron, as pastes and castrator bands do not work well with goats. Whichever you chose, be consistent.It is not reccomented to mix horned and no horns in the same herd. It can work but the horned have an advantage over the unhorned.

So how do you get pack goats to the trailhead?
Goats are also easier to transport than larger pack animals. Three will fit nicely into a small pickup with  a canopy. In a home made animal box two will even fit in a SUV or Mini Van. Full sided pickups with simple wood sides can hold several.

What's Paco doing in the front?
I have Shotgun!
1968 Ford Pickup
 Converted to Propane
Transportation: For moving the goats to Settlement Canyon (within two miles and where we do most of our training hikes), most often we  just load everyone into a utility trailer that holds eleven very comfortably and not to close.  For regular pack trips or longer distances from home we have a couple of house trailers that block wind.  We put the gear in the pickup. Load up!
Easy to load and go
Basic Utility Trailer with side panels.
Goats are individually tied to side panels.
They can stand or lie down durning travel.
What is the Cost of a Pack Goat?
From a pack goat breeder, you can expect to pay $100 to $175 for a beginning packgoat less than six months of age. A fully trained pack goat can cost $350 to $600 depending on training, size and age, plus equipment.
If you know what to look for, good quality animals can be purchased from the local livestock auction. Expect to pay from $30.00 to $40.00 for young goats and about $125.00 for older goats. This is a much more risky way of getting your goat so you'd best know what you are doing! I would not recommend using this method unless you are experienced in raising goats. Take the time to scout out some reputable breeders and do some research. Cheap is not always the best way to go. It can be very frustrating if you're just starting out and are trying to work with an inferior animal. We learned NOT to go this route for us. All of our less than good packers were cheap. Spend the time to learn about goats.  You'll be glad you did.

What type of standard equipment do I need?
There are a variety of things to consider when you think about owning packgoats. As with any animal, goats have special needs. They need a fenced area which has shelter, food and water available daily. You will need to purchase feed, medicines, and various supplies on an ongoing basis in order to properly care for your goats.
You will need to figure out how to transport your animals to and from your destination. Goats have been transported in all manner of vehicles - pickups, vans, suv's, and trailers of all types. Home built, brand spanking new trailers, whatever works and is available to you. Be careful of open trailers. You don't want your hiking buddy to jump out while you're traveling.  ((Chain link fencing is not reccommended. We have found that 4" X 4" welded wire 5' X 16' panels work the best.))

What Packing Equipment Do I Need?
Since packgoats are working animals, you will need to purchase pack equipment for each animal. Halters, collars, leads, pack saddles, panniers, are but a few of the items necessary for proper outfitting.
Two types of packs are commonly used.  The most common type of pack is a cross buck, and is used to carry full loads of 25% to 30% of the goat's body weight. The cross buck consists of the saddle (wood or metal), saddle pad, and panniers (carrying bags). This pack type can cost $150 or more.  The other is a bucket and strap system, most usuful for hunting. Cost is an empty square 4 gallon laudery bucket and and per made strapping that runs about $20. You also need a collar, lead and ID tag for the goat.  Using "dog packs" or home made "soft packs" can be harmful to the goat by destroying their back.

Panniers for hiking

Basic Cross-buck

Panniers for Hunting 

Trail Care Gear for the Goat

Hoof Care

Goat Grooming
What Do I Need to Consider if I Decide to Purchase a Goat?
Land 100 sq. ft. per goat.
Fencing 5-ft. high field/horse fencing. (With horned goats 4" squares recommend)
Shelter Covered, with at least three sides, dry and blocks main wind flow.
Food - hay: alfalfa/grass mix and vitamins. Mineral salt lick. And protein treats
Water fresh daily.
Health Care yearly checkups, worming, yearly vaccinations, hooves trimmed every 6 to 12 weeks. (dependent on need)
Companionship consider at least 2 goats to keep each other company. Goats are herd animals and tend to act out or cry a lot if solo. They do make good horse companions.
Care Cost about $15 to $20 per month per goat.
Exercise a hike a week or walks during the week. An exercised goat is a healthy goat.
Training Time plan to spend several minutes each day with the goat to work on commands as well as for bonding.

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