There's a Reason Goats Try to Headbutt Each Other

Posted by Christy Caplan
Goats Headbutting

Goats love to headbutt to spar, to establish dominance and also to play. Many goat keepers complain in forums and are looking for advice on how to stop this behavior. Some have multiple goats that are trying to headbutt at once and it can be dangerous. 

Young goats headbutt to play and older goats are always headbutting to establish dominance. Just like with chickens, there is a "pecking order" with goats, and within the herd, every goat has its official status.

There are four main reasons goats love to headbutt.

1. Age

According to Roy's Farm, older goats in your flock need extra attention, affection and space.

"Goat's immunity can lower with their age, and various health problems often creep in and that affects the goat's good temperament. Your goat may be startled or tentative when people (especially children) approach if their sight and hearing are affected."

 An older goat may simply be trying to get your attention. 

2. Dominance (most common reason) 

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Pecking order isn't something you want to mess around with whether it comes to goats or chickens. The goats that headbutt, kick or bite are usually showing their dominance with other animals, even with humans.

Adults with a horn can cause damage to you and a lot of damage to a child explains experts at Roy's Farm.

"Spend some time with your goats when they are babies and try to make them well behaved. If you notice a goat is continuously trying to show it's dominance, then separate it from the flock and place it in a subservient position or use pepper spray to halt the behavior."

3. Illness

Animals that don't feel well can act out. This applies to dogs and even my chickens. You need to watch what "normal" looks like in your herd so you can sense when one of your goats seems off. If your goat is acting rudely and you suspect physical discomfort and then contact your vet immediately. Always look for signs of some diseases which are causing discomfort in goats.

4. Stress

If a nice goat suddenly starts headbutting you or its mates, you can assume this behavioral change is perhaps due to stress. Your goats may be stressed by your dog, small child or even a trip to the vet. Any predator or attack on the herd can be extremely stressful.

Goats become fearful and apprehensive when stressed, and often retreat or hide. 

How to stop headbutting

You must stop this behavior immediately. Here are some tips from a Homesteading Today forum.

  • Squirt bottle
  • A big stick
  • Lay them down: grab them and lay them down, you will have to take their legs out from under them and pin them on the ground for a minute.

Adding a new goat can also be stressful for your herd so that could be a reason for headbutting. You should read through the recent posts on homesteading forums as many goat keepers have this issue. Goats headbutting is common and they'll even headbutt people if they're trying to portray their dominance.

Signs of illness can also cause behavior changes and headbutting can result from a goat becoming ill as they don't feel well. Always watch for a change in goat behavior. This can also include new moms.

We learned from research that the spray bottle is a great technique that works well.

Do you have a goat or know someone that lives with a herd? Please leave a comment below!

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There's a Reason Goats Try to Headbutt Each Other