by Jo

Etymology: OE gat - she-goat, bucca – he-goat

Goats were earliest animals domesticated by humans, from the wild Bezoar ibex in the Middle East. 10,000 years ago, Neolithic farmers began to herd wild goats for milk, meat, dung (fuel), and their bones, hair, and sinew for clothing, building, and tools. Now goats still provides milk (2% of the world's total annual milk supply), manure, fibre (Angora, cashmere), meat and hide. Some charities provide goats to impoverished people in poor countries, because goats are easier and cheaper to manage than cattle, and have multiple uses. Used for driving and as pack animals. Over 800 million goats in world!

Goats have horns, horizontal, slit-shaped pupils, beards, and wattles.

While goats will not actually eat inedible material, they are browsing animals, not grazers like cattle and sheep, and (coupled with their highly curious nature) will chew on and taste just about anything remotely resembling plant matter to decide whether it is good to eat. Aside from sampling many things, goats are quite particular in what they actually consume, preferring to browse on the tips of woody shrubs and trees, as well as the occasional broad-leaved plant. However, it can fairly be said that their plant diet is extremely varied, and includes some species which are otherwise toxic.

Goats are extremely curious and intelligent. They are also very coordinated and widely known for their ability to climb and hold their balance in the most precarious places. This makes them the only ruminant able to climb trees, although the tree generally has to be on somewhat of an angle. Due to their agility and inquisitiveness, they are notorious for escaping their pens.

Myths: Not always bad - The Cornucopia or horn of plenty is a goat's horn. But now goats are associated with the Devil. Why?

Matthew: [about Jesus] "And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left." (Some breeds of sheep and goats look similar, but goat tails are point up, and sheep tails hang down.) Still, this means that the goats are the damned, not the devil.

Wicca horned god

The modern Horned God of Wicca is a goat.

Wicca horned god

Goya's Witches Sabbat, showing the traditional witches' god as a goat.

But why? There are plenty of devils in Doom paintings (medieval paintings of the Last Judgement). Some look goatish, with horns and hairiness, and sometimes hooves, but they have human faces. Others have wings, or even more strange shapes.

Devil in Chesteron Doom painting

Chesteron Doom painting - goatish devil

Devil in Wenhaston Doom painting

Wenhaston Doom painting - devil with wings

Devil in Bartlow Doom painting

Bartlow Doom painting - devil as fish? with claws

Lucifer in hell

However, these are devils, not THE devil. Traditionally, the devil is Lucifer, a fallen angel. Since angels have wings, so must the devil, but instead of beautiful white feathered wings, he must have black bat wings, since bats are creatures of the night. This is by Gustave Doré, illustrating Dante's Divine Comedy. However, he still has horns!


One origin for the devil as goat is the god Pan. He is god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, nature of mountain wilds and rustic music, and companion of the nymphs. The idea is that the Christians made this god into the devil. But Pan seems a very innocent god to be the enemy of Christianity.

Dionysus seems a better candidate for the enemy of Christianity. He was the god of wine, and wine has a Christian significance. Also his bacchic revels were drunken orgies (from the sound of it) and Christians would definitely not approve! He is always portrayed as a human, with no animal attributes (although he is described as the horned god - see later). But he is accompanied by satyrs. These originally had horses tails (see right).

When the Romans combined their gods with the Greeks, Pan became associated with Faunus, and Faunus' companios, the fauns, became like little Pans, half goat, with horns. Then these were confused with satyrs, so eventually Dionysus got accompanied by half-goat people.

satyr with Dionysus


Roman mosaic of Dionysus in his chariot

Getting back to the horned god of Wicca, this is reputed to be the ancient God of the Animals, worshipped in many different cultures, and called various names such as Pan of the Greeks (see above), Cernunnos of the Celts, and Pashupati of the Hindus. We could add Amun as a horned god (although not necessarily associated with animals), and other horned gods. However, there is a problem. None of these horned gods are goats!

Cernunnos of the Celts (stag)


Cernunnos is named as a Celtic god in a Roman sculpture found in Paris. He has stub antlers, such as stags start to grow each year.

Gundestrup Cauldron

There is another stag god on the Gundestrup Cauldron found in Denmark. He is surrounded by animals. He is not named, but may be Cernunnos.

Abbots Bromley Horn Dance

Finally, there is the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance (in Staffordshire) which is danced every year. The horns are kept in the church. The dance has been recorded since 1686. The horns have been carbon dated to 11th C. They are reindeer horns, but reindeer were extinct in England by 11th century!

Amun of the Egyptians (ram)

Amun was horned god of the Egyptians, a ram. He was also called Ammon, and the fossil ammonites are called after him, because their shape is like a ram's horn.

Amun Amun

Zeus was connected with Amun, and sometimes shown as Zeus-Amun with ram's horns (left).

Alexander the Great considered himself the son of Zeus-Ammon, and after his death, currency depicted him adorned with rams horn as a symbol of his divinity (see right).

Alexander the Great

Bull gods

Pashupati seal

The "Pashupati" seal shows a bull-horned gods surrounded by animals. It was discovered at the Mohenjo-daro archaeological site of the Indus Valley Civilization (25C-19C BC). The god is not named, and the Hindu Pashupati is shown differently.

Cretan bull god

On the left, a bull-horned god from Cypus, 16C-12C BC

On the right, the Minotaur. This was a monster who lived in Crete, but there is evidence that bulls were venerated in Crete, with murals of bull leaping.

Dionysus was called a bull-horned god (although not shown as such in representations of him).


In summary - there have certainly been many horned gods, often associated with animals. But they are different animals, and I feel it unlikely that the ancients, who lived closer to animals than we did, would get them mixed up! I suspect that the goat horned god of the Wicca is NOT an ancient god.

And why is the devil a goat? Difficult to say. The quote in Matthews' gospel may have had an influence, together with Pan, and the goat-legged satyrs. Goats do look a bit odd, with their slit-shaped pupils, wattles and beard, and their intelligence and tendency to try and eat everything! The goatish god of medieval witches may be from an original religion rather than defiance of the Christian tradition (although I doubt it!) STill, today, I think we are agreed that goats are lovely and NOT devilish!

Military Goats

Military goat

1st Battalion (formerly The Royal Welsh Fusiliers)
The history of the regimental goat dates back to the American War of Independence in 1775 when a wild goat wandered onto a battlefield in Boston and led the Welsh regiment away at the end of the Battle of Bunker Hill. In 1884, Queen Victoria presented the Regiment with a Kashmir goat from her Royal herd. The herd had originally come from Mohammad Shah Qajar, Shah of Persia from 1834 to 1848, which he presented to her in 1837 upon her accession to the throne.

All the goats of the 1st Battalion are called William Windsor. Their primary duty is to march at the head of the battalion at ceremonial events. The present goat, Fusilier William Windsor, was chosen in 2009 from a herd living on the Great Orme in Llandudno. His predecessor, Lance Corporal William Windsor, a Kashmir goat from the Royal herd at Whipsnade Zoo, was presented to the Regiment by the Queen in 2001, and, following 8 years' service, he retired to the Children's Farm at Whipsnade Zoo.

The mascot is a full member of the battalion, which, when it was a 1,000-strong unit, was 999 men plus the goat. He can move up the ranks from Fusilier to Lance Corporal if he behaves well. As a full member of the battalion he is accorded full status and privileges of the rank including membership of the Corporals' Mess and the right to be saluted by his subordinates.

His perks are a two-a-day cigarette ration which he eats, as, traditionally, tobacco was thought to be good for the coat. He also gets Guinness when he is older 'to keep the iron up'.

2nd Battalion (formerly The Royal Regiment of Wales)
During the Crimean War in 1855, a Private Gwilym Jenkins on sentry duty one very cold night put a kid goat inside his greatcoat to keep himself warm, but, Jenkins fell asleep! Goats have good hearing and, fortunately, the kid's bleating when it heard the approach of the enemy awoke Private Jenkins in time to see the advancing Russian patrol and so the enemy was driven off. From then on, every time the 41st (Welsh) Regiment of Foot went into battle a goat led the way as good luck. When Queen Victoria reviewed the Regiments returning from Crimea, learning of their goat mascot tradition, she pledged to replace the goat when he died. In 1862 the first official goat from the Royal herd at Windsor was presented to the Regiment.

During the Zulu war the name of Gwilym Jenkins was given to the first known and adopted mascot which name had to be used to log in for his rations, for, logging 'goat' in, would not have been acceptable, therefore, according to a direct quote from the Brecon War Museum, South Wales, his rations were logged in as 'Gwilym Jenkins - one bale of hay'.

3rd Battalion (formerly The Royal Welsh Regiment)
The present battalion mascot is a Kashmir white goat, named Shenkin III selected in 2009 from the Queen's herd of Royal Windsor Whites and is a direct descendant of the original mascot given to the 3rd Royal Welsh Regiment by Queen Victoria. Shenkin III's predecessor died of old age in 2009 and had been the battalion mascot for 12 years.

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