Fun Facts about Herd Dynamics

Goats are social creatures, just like people, and they have somewhat complex hierarchy structures that accompany this. The hierarchy part is pretty straight forward, with each goat having a place in the herd that’s above someone else and below another (unless you’re herd boss or at the bottom of the herd, of course).

Firstly, there is the herd boss, who runs the operations in the herd.

How exactly this plays out depends on her personality. A herd boss has the basic role of watching out for the herd and leading them to where she’d like the herd to be.Some boss’ will be more jealous about the food, only allowing her favorites and her daughters the tasty bits. Some boss’ will be more generous, leading the whole herd to the best spots and showing everyone how to go about it.

The temperament of the herd boss really affects how the rest of the herd behaves, since they’re all supposed to follow her lead. For example, Cocoa was pretty anxious and nervous about everything. It took a bit of encouragement for the herd to want to venture outside.

It seems like Sari is the herd boss at this particular time. She seems to be calling the shots. She’s a lot more stubborn and in your face about going places, and in this sense, the herd moves in and out of the barn all the time now. She’s also much more of the jealous type, and likes to hoard the food for her favorites. Blackberry complains about it all the time.

Then there’s the herd uh, well, my name isn’t exactly appropriate for polite company, so let’s call it the herd second

Her job, besides helping the herd boss out with leading and watching duties, is to keep everybody in line and to keep any challengers from pestering the herd boss too much. She’s the badass of the group.

Phe seems to have that place in the herd at the moment. And she’s definitely a butthead about it.

Daughters fit into the hierarchy directly below the dam, as opposed to starting off at the bottom. I’m not exactly sure how that works out for the herd boss — with Sari’s babies, I wonder if Phe will need prove to Beltane and Inanna that she’s above them (and herd second).

And just because daughters are automatically placed in the hierarchy doesn’t mean that this doesn’t change. If goats are butting heads, they’re often working out who’s on top. I’m pretty sure that Duchess is going to give Maggie a run for her money, as soon as she’s old enough to defend (or lose) her place in the herd.

For fun I’ve created a picture hierarchy of what my herd looks like at the moment. You can see I’m not sure how Beltane and Inanna are fitting in there yet! I’m selling Aztec hopefully soon, so he won’t be there long term, and is still technically in with the girls at the moment. He’s very interested in trying to fight the bucks through the fence; though, Duchess took him on the other day and they had a giant battle throughout the barn. That might have been her teaching him a lesson on how rude it is to try to hump everyone, however (even if he’s not old enough to be viable yet).

Bucks, actually, have a hierarchy that is a little removed from the females. I don’t have my bucks in with my girls (for obvious reasons), but in a ‘wild’ situation where they might be, bucks have the primary job of protecting the herd and listening to the herd boss. They don’t necessarily fit into the same structure at the females, but have their own straightforward hierarchy.

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What do you think? Anything to add in your observations of herd interactions?

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Author: DairyGoatDiaries

Goats have been in my life for 13 years now -- and I've enjoyed every (often aggravating) second. Beyond basic care and management, I'll be sharing humorous stories and bits and bobs of advice I've collected over the years. Follow me for good info -- or just for fun. Bonus: pictures of baby goats!

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