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Goats in Mythology and Literature

Goats in Mythology

Among the first domesticated animals, goats are a common character in western mythology. Like many mortals, the Greek gods were nourished on goat milk. One famous goat, the doe Amalthea, allegedly provided suckle in a cave on Crete to baby Zeus, the chief deity of the Greek Pantheon.  Dionysius, the god of wine, was also suckled on goat milk. Pan, the Greek deity of nature, was possessed of goat horns and feet, as were the satyrs of classic Greek drama and art.

Goats in Literature: Historical References and Modern Literature

Hippocrates, the early Greek physician, routinely prescribed that his patients should “Go to the mountains and drink goat milk!”  The Biblical book of Proverbs says that “Thou shalt have goat milk, enough for the maintenance of thy maidens.”  Examples of modern literature featuring goats include Esmerelda, in the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and the two does, Shwani and Barli, in the classic children’s story of Heidi.

The Irresistible Personality of Goats

Goats are curious, friendly and affectionate. “For some wonderful reason, goats not only aren’t afraid of but actually live for fun. Anyone who has seen a goat race headlong across a field then leap sideway into the air for the sheer joy of it knows what kicking up your heels really means,” says writer Bill O’Halloren.

“Because [goats] are almost totally fearless, they are splendid companions for the modern neurotic. There is something inherently soothing about watching goats whether they are simply chewing their cuds or playing king of the mountain. Goats often seem to take immense delight in putting on a show for visitors, kicking, butting, running, jumping and generally raising h__ll.”

“Goats are always testing you,” says a character in Tom Robbins’ novel, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. “They can tell instantly if you’re faking your feelings. So they play games with you to keep you true. People should go to goats instead of psychiatrists.” While some people might consider this to be a bit farfetched, many goat owners would agree.