'Got Your Goat': The Origins of This Funny Phrase

Posted by Allie Layos

The phrase "got your goat" is a common one, but its origins are somewhat of a mystery. 

The expression "got your goat" means to anger or upset someone -- throwing someone off his or her game. But where did this unique expression come from? There are two supported theories, and yes, both involve actual goats.

According to The Phrase Finder, the most common theory also involves horses, and says that the phrase originated at a time when goats were used as companions to calm high-strung racehorses.

"When ne'er-do-wells who wanted the horse to race badly removed it, i.e. they 'got someone's goat,' the horse became unsettled and ran badly," the site states.

However, it also goes on to explain that there is no real evidence to support this tale.

Beautiful girl with baby goat on farm

Others believe the phrase originated from cows, not horses, due to an old belief that keeping a goat in the barn had a calming effect on the cows, who would then produce more milk.

Thus an enemy "getting one's goat" would upset the cows and cause them to be less productive.

Cow and Goat

We may never know which theory is correct, but one thing seems to be clear -- goats must really have a calming effect on other animals.

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'Got Your Goat': The Origins of This Funny Phrase