previous next


The goat occasionally brings forth as many as four at a birth; but this is rarely the case.1 It is pregnant five months, like the sheep. Goats become barren when very fat. There is little advantage to be derived from their bringing forth before their third year, or after the fourth, when they begin to grow old.2 They are capable of generating in the seventh month, and while they are still sucking. In both sexes those that have no horns are considered the most valuable.3 A single coupling in the day is not sufficient; the second and the following ones are more effectual. They conceive in the month of November, so as to bring forth in the month of March, when the buds are bursting; this is sometimes the case with them when only one year old, and always with those of the second year; but the produce of those which are three years old is the most valuable.4 They continue to bring forth for a period of eight years. Cold produces abortion. When their eyes are surcharged, the female discharges the blood from the eye by pricking it with the point of a bulrush, and the male with the thorn of a bramble.

Mutianus relates an instance of the intelligence of this animal, of which he himself was an eye-witness. Two goats, coming from opposite directions, met on a very narrow bridge, which would not admit of either of them turning round, and in consequence of its great length, they could not safely go backwards, there being no sure footing on account of its narrowness, while at the same time an impetuous torrent was rapidly rushing beneath; accordingly, one of the animals lay down flat, while the other walked over it.

Among the males, those are the most esteemed which have flat noses and long hanging ears,5 the shoulders being covered with very thick shaggy hair; the mark of the most valuable among the females is the having two folds6 hanging down the body from under the neck. Some of these animals have no horns; but where there are horns, the age of the animal is denoted by the number of knots on them. Those that have no horns give the most milk.7 According to Archelaus,8 they breathe, not through the nose, but the ears,9 and they are never entirely free from fever,10 from which circumstance it is, probably, that they are more animated than sheep, more ardent, and have stronger sexual passions. It is said also, that they have the power of seeing by night as well as in the day, for which reason those persons who are called Nyctalopes,11 recover the power of seeing in the evening, by eating the liver of the he-goat. In Cilicia, and in the vicinity of the Syrtes, the inhabitants shear the goat for the purpose of clothing themselves.12 It is said that the she-goats in the pastures will never look at each other at sun-set, but lie with their backs towards one another,13 while at other times of the day they lie facing each other and in family groups. They all have long hair hanging down from the chin, which is called by us aruncus.14 If any one of the flock is taken hold of and dragged by this hair, all the rest gaze on in stupid astonishment; and the same happens when any one of them has eaten of a certain herb15 Their bite is very destructive to trees, and they make the olive barren by licking it;16 for which reason they are not sacrificed to Minerva.17

1 We have an account of the generation of the goat in Aristotle. Hist. Anim. B. vi. c. 19. Ælian, Anim. Nat. B. iii. c. 38, says that the goats of Egypt sometimes produce five young ones at a birth.—B.

2 Columella, B. vii. c. 6, gives a somewhat different account; he says, "Before its sixth year it is old-so that when five years old, it is not suitable for coupling."—B.

3 According to Columella, ubi supra, "Because those with horns are usually troublesome, from their uncertainty of temper."—B.

4 There has been considerable difference of opinion respecting the reading of the original, whether the word "utiles," or "inutiles," was the one here employed. Hardouin conceives it was the latter, and endeavours to reconcile the sense with this reading; Lemaire, vol. iii. pp. 538, 539. But, notwithstanding his high authority, there is still great doubt on the matter.—B.

5 "Infractis," probably in contradistinction to erect ears. Columella, ubi supra, terms them, "flaccidis et prægrandibus auribus"—"flaccid ears, and very large."—B.

6 "Laciniæ;" Varro, B. ii. c. 3, describes them as "mammulas pensiles;" Columclla, ubi supra, calls them "verruculas;" he, however, assigns this appendage to the male goat.—B.

7 The word "mutilus" is employed, which Hardouin interprets, "having had the horns removed." But the same word is applied by Columella, B. vii. c. 6, to an animal naturally without horns.—B.

8 On this reference to Archelaus, Dalechamps remarks that he is incorrect; but refers to Varro, ubi supra, who ascribes this opinion to Archelaus; Lemaire, vol. iii. p. 540.—B.

9 Aristotle, Hist. Anim. B. i. c. 9, refers to this opinion, as being erroneous; Ælian, Hist. Anim. B. i. c. 53, supposes that they breathe both through the nose and the ears.—B.

10 Varro, ubi supra, remarks, "that no one in his senses speaks of a goat in health; for they are never without fever."

11 Meaning those who cannot see at night, who have a weak sight, and therefore require a strong light to distinguish objects. See also, as to the Nyctalopes, B. xxviii. c. 47. The same remedy, the liver of the goat, is recommended for its cure.—B. See also B. xxviii. c. 11.

12 Aristotle, Hist. Anim. B. viii. c. 28, says that the inhabitants of Cilicia shear the goats in the same manner as the sheep.—B.

13 This is mentioned by Aristotle, Hist. Anim. B. ix. c. 3.—B.

14 Aristotle, Hist. Anim. B. ix. c. 3, refers to the beard of the goat, under the name of, ἤρυγγον.

15 According to Hardouin, the herb referred to is the "erngium;" prob- ably the "eringo:" he cites various authorities in support of his opinion.—B.

16 This is repeated in B. xvii. c. 24.—B.

17 Varro, B. i. c. 2, says: "Hence it is that they sacrificed no goats to Minerva, on account of the olive;" he then explains why the circumstance of the goat injuring the olive-tree was a reason for not offering it in sacrifice to Minerva, the patroness of this tree. Ovid, on the other hand, in the Fasti, B. i. 1. 360, says that the goat was sacrificed to Bacchus, because it gnawed the vine.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Latin (Karl Friedrich Theodor Mayhoff, 1906)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

hide References (3 total)
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (3):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: