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Thursday, Nov. 27, 2003


Feral goat

* Japanese name: Yagi
* Scientific name:Capra hircus
* Description: Feal goats are smaller and stockier than their domesticated relatives. Males (billies) weigh 30 to 45 kg, females (nannies) 25 to 35 kg; they are 60 to 70 cm high. The color varies from white to dark brown, black or gray, and while the coat is often rough and greasy (so would yours if you lived on a hillside), the underwool is soft and highly insulating. Goats have sturdy horns: some curve backward, some spread outward and some are stubby. But they are always larger in males than females.
* Where to find them:Feral goats are typically found in mountainous areas and on coastal cliffs where there are caves for shelter and where the terrain is good for escaping from predators. The kids (usually just one) are born in late winter/early spring. The nanny leaves her kid in a sheltered spot for a few days after giving birth, while she feeds. Nannies suckle their kids for 3 to 4 months. When nannies are in estrus, the billies get aggressive. Younger males will roam large areas in the hope of finding an estrus nanny not being defended by a male.
* Food: Goats are not fussy eaters, feeding on herbs, grass, roots and heath.
* Special features: Even goats have special features. The undercoat of the Himalayan goat is valuable: the wool is fine and soft and used to make pashmina shawls. (Four goats must be combed to provide the wool for one shawl.) A herd of goats was introduced to Mucojima Island in 1800, but the human inhabitants abandoned the island soon after and the goats made it theirs. They ate most of the vegetation, and as a result all the trees on the island have died and certain bird species have been wiped out. A similar situation occurred in 1978, when a Japanese group intentionally released a pair of goats on Uotsurijima, one of a group of southwestern islands that Japan calls the Senkaku. There are now more than 300 goats, and some endemic species face extinction in the near future as a result. But the problem is not just ecological, it is political: Ownership of the islands is disputed by Japan, China and Taiwan.

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