Capra (genus)

Capra (genus)

This article is about the Capra genus of animals and the Goat species. For other uses, see Capra, or Goat (disambiguation).
The genus Capra, usually called goats or wild goats, is a genus of mammals composed of up to nine species, including the ibexes, the markhor, and the wild goat.

The animal commonly known as the domestic goat (Capra aegagrus hircus) is a domesticated subspecies of the wild goat. All members of the Capra genus are bovids (members of the family Bovidae) and caprins (subfamily Caprinae). They are also ruminants, meaning they chew cud. These animals have a four-chambered stomach which plays a vital role in digesting, regurgitating and re-digesting their food. The Rocky Mountain Goat, despite its name, is not considered a true goat by scientists as it belongs to the genus Oreamnos.

Species and subspecies

All species of the genus were included in just a single species formerly. Some would have recognized two species, the Markhor on one side and all other forms included in one species on the other side. Today usually seven to nine species are accepted:

The goats of the genus Capra have a complicated intern systematic, which is still not completely resolved. Recent studies based on mitochondrial DNA confirm that the Siberian ibex and the Nubian ibex represent distinct species, which are not very closely related to the similar Alpine ibex. The Alpine ibex however, is genetically not so far from the Spanish ibex and a need for grouping both together seems to be evident. West Caucasian tur seems to be closely related with the wild goat rather than with the East Caucasian tur. The genetic distance separating the markhor, which was thought to be a separate branch of the genus, from other forms is small..

Almost all wild goat species are allopatric, only the range of the wild goat (Capra aegagrus) overlaps with that of the East Caucasian tur (Capra cylindricornis) and the range of the markhor (Capra falconeri) overlaps with the Siberian ibex (Capra siberica). In both cases they form usually no hydrids or intermediate forms. In captivity however all Capra species can interbreed and produce fertile offspring.

Species and subspecies of goats

Capra (aegagrus) hircus domestic goat
Capra caucasica West Caucasian tur
Capra cylindricornis East Caucasian tur
Capra falconeri Markhor
Capra aegagrus Wild goat
Capra sibirica Siberian ibex
Capra pyrenaica Spanish ibex
Capra walie Walia ibex
Capra ibex Alpine ibex
Capra nubiana Nubian ibex

Similarity to sheep

Though closely related to sheep, to the point of causing occasional taxonomic confusion, goat behaviour is quite different. Sheep are primarily roaming grazers which travel in herds (also known as flocks), while goats are browsers like deer, eating branches and twigs, and tend to be more territorial. Like sheep, though, they have horns that continue to grow throughout their lifetime instead of antlers that fall off once a year. Unlike sheep, both male and female goats grow horns, and both sexes can have beards. Goats are herd animals and survive better in a herd situation than alone. But they tend to be more aggressive with predators, and some sheep herders will run a few goats with the herd because after initially fleeing, the goats will stand up to a predator and possibly deter them, whereas sheep will continue to run. A herd typically has a Herd Queen, who leads the herd while browsing. They are also much more lively than sheep and their inquisitive nature makes them curious pets. Sheep and goats have the same horizontal slit pupil in their eyeballs. Sheep tails go down, which is why they are sometimes docked, whereas goat tails go up.

Domestication and uses

Main article: Domestic goat

Along with sheep, goats were among the first domesticated animals, the domestication process starting at least 10,000 years ago. Goats may have first been domesticated in what is now northern Iran. Easy human access to goat hair, meat, and milk were the primary motivations. Goat skins were popularly used until the Middle Ages for water and wine bottles when traveling and camping, and in certain regions as parchment for writing.

The meat and milk of goats is used for consumption, goat milk having become more popular in recent years because it is easier to digest than cow milk. Many call goat milk a universal milk, because it can be given to most mammals. It is used to make a variety of dairy products. The cheeses are known collectively as chevre; examples include Rocamadour and feta. Goat meat intended for consumption is also known as 'chevon'. Goat skin is used to make kid gloves and other items of clothing. Fibre is obtained from several breeds: Angora goats produce silk-like mohair, Kashmir goats produce cashmere wool, while Pygora goats produce a cashmere-type fiber. All are fine soft fibers that can be knitted into sweaters and other items. Some people keep goats as pets as well.

References

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