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Friday, February 1, 2013

Goat me out of here!

by Ben

The domestic goat, a common sight in Ghana, is almost un-herd of (yeah, I went there) in the United Kingdom. It's not totally out the box but it is certainly teetering (oh yeah I'm on form today!) on the edge. They're in actual fact one of the oldest domesticated animal species and have been used for milk, cheese, meat and skins all over the world. There are over 300 distinct breeds of goat and it is, shockingly, closely related to the sheep; both are members of the Bovidae family.

Seeing these little animals wandering around is a bizarrely enjoyable experience; it's like the Volkswagen beetle game all over again. Unfortunately, the bleating noise they make is anything other than grating (does that count as a goat pun!? Screw it why not). The goats are free to wander the city in the day and they return home in the night to be fed. You often see them crossing the road and apparently they are the cause of a number of car accidents. Their laissez faire attitude to checking both ways before crossing really gets (…you guessed it) my goat!

[caption id="attachment_168" align="aligncenter" width="409"]Goat traffic roads Tamale Ghana A need for horns: goats have no respect for the rules of the road.[/caption]

They wander freely but the communities operate an informal neighbourhood watch system for ensuring goats are not stolen. If someone who is not known to the community, or not known to have goats, is seen with an animal (usually they operate at night), then community members will approach the goat hustler and question them. The bandits play a dangerous game: if caught they could be taken to the Chief who will force you to pay three times the value of the goat (About £8, I'm not even kid-ding … ZING) and it's not unlikely that you will not receive some instant justice in the form of bleatings(…) on your way there. There are instances when the goat hustler has attempted to run away and has been lynched by the communities who caught them.

An urban legend is that goats will eat absolutely anything. While this isn't entirely true, they are browsing animals and you will often see them sticking their heads into all manner of places.  This is because goats are a naturally curious animal and use their tongue and upper lip to assess their surroundings. They're also considered an extremely intelligent animal and are known for their ability to escape from their pens. Once a weakness in their holdings is identified the goats will repeatedly exploit it - they don't bleat around the bush. (Face palm). This is possibly why Ghanaians seem to have admitted defeat and left them to roam freely, confident of their ability to find their way back home. Incidentally, a group of goats, whilst commonly referred to as a 'herd,’ can also be called a 'drove,' a 'trip,' and my personal favourite: a 'tribe.'

Anyway, I think I've milked these goat puns for all they're worth (ohh yes). They've left me feeling a bit gruff (and another!).