Do Female Goats Have Horns? Revealing Myth

Do you know there are very few female species in the world that have horns? I bet you don’t, as I wasn’t aware of this fact for a long time but I do now.  So, why would I not discuss it with you?

To simplify this topic let’s take an example of female goats. Do female goats(does or nannies) have horns? Yes, most breeds of female goats have horns. Some are polled but mostly females goats are horned.

Goats, a member of the Bovidae family(a family that also includes sheep, cattle, and antelopes), are the oldest domestic species that are kept for milk, meat, fur, and skin. According to the Smithsonian Institution, there are 200 species of domestic goats all of them are different from one another in unique ways. 

Facts about the horned goats

The majority of goats are horned

Unlike sheep, the majority of goat breeds are horned. And surprisingly, they do not shed their horns.

Female Nigerian Dwarfs and Mountain goats have horns

The majority of the goat breeds have horns but Nigerian Dwarfs and Mountains goats are famous for their beautiful horns. Both male and female mountain goats have horns but the Nigerian Dwarf’s case is different. Some female goats from this category(Nigerian Dwarf) have horns while others are completely hornless(polled).

What do horns do for goats?

Horns are just not a sign of beauty; they silently help goats in many ways. 

  • In extremely hot weather, they help in regulating the internal temperature.
  • They save them from the deadly attacks.
  • Helps them in searching for food in the wild and snow.

Female goats have shorter horns than male goats

Male goats do not just have longer horns but their horns are thicker as compared to female goats horns. Shorter and thinner horns represent the delicacy of the female gender. Goat keepers usually tell the gender of the goat by looking at the horns and udders.

Horns grow bigger and faster in male goats

The growth of horns in male goats is much faster than in females. Within weeks of their birth, you can spot prominent horns on their heads. Female goats take more time to grow horns and their dehorning needs not to be done as fast as we need male goats to be disbudded.

Horned goats have shorter lives than the polled ones

For some unknown reasons, polled goats are seen living a little extra than the horned ones. The reason behind this injustice is still leaving several question marks in the minds of goat keepers? Whatever the reason is, they do not live as long as they should be living.

In the case of goats, horns do not regrow once damaged

Once the horns are damaged, broken they are not going to regrow in any way. Horns keep growing throughout the life of goats but as soon as they are damaged or broken their growth stops right there.

Breeding polled and horned goats, mostly produce polled kids

When horned and polled goats are bred the outcome would either be horned or polled goats. The polled breed is dominant so there are 75% chances (pretty high, don’t you agree?) the offspring is going to be polled. 

In the parts of the world, like the USA, where polled goats are more in demand, horned and polled goats are bred to get polled offspring to save the poor creature from the painful dishorning process. 

Horns have nerves and blood vessels

Even if you rarely come across goats you know that horns bleed when they get broken. They bleed because they have nerves and blood vessels. And this is the reason why they get infected easily.

Goat horns are called “goat berries”

Horns, in the modern age, are no different from the horns several years back even after thousands of experimental breedings. Even after the same old shape, they are adored by the goat keeper and they have named them ” goat berries”. The origin of this name is unknown but it got so popular that the whole world officially recognized the horns as the “goat berries”.

Horns are not as strong as you think

Holding the horn in hands makes you think they are unbreakable but in reality, they are not as strong as you think. Even if they appear strong, they are as vulnerable to breaking as bones.

Disbudding is extremely painful and disturbing

Removing and burning the roots of horns is called disbudding. And this is one of the most painful and disturbing experiences goats have to go through after pregnancy and delivery. There would be a pool of blood if the disbudding goes wrong it could make the goat bleed to death (that’s rare but it happens).

female goat with horns

Do goat horns need extra care?

If they look healthy and are growing fine they would not require you to go out of the way. But if they get infected they do need extra care and ” what needs to be done in this case” can only be told by the vet.

They need to be trimmed

Like our fingernails and hair, when the horns start curling down they need to be trimmed to let not the shape of horns go out of hands. They need trimming when either the horns have grown bigger than the expected length or they are curling down otherwise your goat is doing fine.

Polled vs. Horned goats

Horned kids will have a swirl of hair but the polled ones will have bumps or nubs but no swirled hair around that area.

If the polled and horned goats are brought to breed, the outcome would more likely be the polled offspring.

Polled goats have an egg-shaped head but the head of the horned goats does not give the “eggy” shape from all possible angles.

The polled gene is dominant but the horned gene is recessive.

Everything you need to know about the horned goats

How many weeks a female goat takes to have prominent horns?

The growth of the horns start from the day they are born and it continues to grow throughout their life.  The answer to this question, “How long does a female goat take to have prominent horns?” is different for each horned breed. Some take five to six weeks and others may need a few months to give you a sight of their beautiful eye-catching horns. But whatever the breed is, within a year they will have prominent horns.

How to tell if the kid that has just been born is polled or horned?

If the contour of the head is not similar to the shape of an egg, You can guess that these kids are about to grow into spectacular horned goats.

But if the shape of the head is somewhat like the egg this generation would be polled.

Having bumps in the place of horns with no swirled hair would be a sign of the polled goat and the opposite of that ( swirled hair around the area of the horns) is going to grow them into horned goats.

Horns can be helpful and dangerous at the same time

Horns help goats in several ways like

  • When they get attacked they use their horns to defend themselves.
  • They use their horns to clear their way out.
  • They use their horns to dig for food.
  • They keep the body temperature regulated in hot weather.

Horns are dangerous for fences, lawns, and you. When the goats get aggressive for any reason they are probably going to hit you with their horns. And they like getting their horns scratched so if you are not scratching they will probably go scratch them with the walls and fences. You probably have to unstuck their horns from the fence every other day. If these two problems do not bother you they are not harmful to you at all.

Polled or horned which breed is more in demand?

You may think polled goats are more in demand as you have witnessed several dehorning procedures but this is not the case. Both are in demand. Some goat herds find the beauty in horned goats and the other prefers polled ones as they are not going to attack their fellow animals. If the goat has to live in the mountains grazing for food, herders would go for the horned ones.

Horns may seem unbreakable but they can get broken easily.

Those who have never kept goats in their backyards may think that horns are unbreakable. But in reality, they usually end up completely broken or damaged when they get tangled in bushes, wires, and fences.

Should horned goat be your go-to choice?

Horned goats should be your go-to choice despite all the damage they do to the lawns and fences

  • If your farm is vulnerable to predators. 
  • If the goats have to graze around for food.
  • If you know how to train the horned goats not to attack humans and fellow animals.
  • If you like to use horns to grab them.
  • If you truly consider them a sign of beauty.

and last but not least.

  • If you find dishorning cruel (you would never get their horns removed).

Dehorning is cruel even if you have a thousand reasons to support the action.

Humans have found several reasons to support the dehorning procedure. Even if the dehorning reasons look promising it is still cruel. If the pain, bloody show, and the infection are not cruel I do not know what is. They just can’t describe their pain in words does not mean they do not feel the pain at all. And when there are polled breeds as well if horned goats do not suit your needs, there is no harm in getting the polled ones. No reason is valid enough to remove this sign of beauty.

Trimming vs. Dehorning

Trimming and dehorning are two different things. Trimming keeps the horns in shape but dehorning is the removal of horns. Trimming can either be done by the goat herder himself but the dehorning procedure is only performed by the professional. Trimming is only needed when the horns start curling down but dehorning is done for a variety of reasons like to make the aggressive goat less harmful for humans, animals, and fences. 

Final Words

the majority of female goats have horns. Some are born hornless(called polled). The female goats have short and thinner horns as compared to the males. The lesser-known fact about the horns is that they keep on growing throughout the life of a goat and tell a lot about their age. Horns are considered a sign of beauty and are called “goat berries” in some parts of the world.

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