English for Agriculture - Beginners and Intermediate

Sheep vs. Goat Differences

Goats and sheep have many differences and similarities between them. These can be in term of behavior or even physically. An easy way to differentiate between sheep and goats is that goats have shorter tails than sheep. Goat’s tail usually points up and a sheep’s tail hangs down. In terms of horns, goat horns are longer and grow in an upward, backward and outward direction, while horns on a sheep grow in a twisted spiral shape. Most goats have horns, many sheep, but not all, are naturally without horns. Goat horns are narrower and usually straighter; sheep horns tend to be thicker and curved, tending to loop around on the sides of their heads. Sheep are known for their woolly coats, which require annual shearing. Goats are generally hairy and do not require haircuts. Some goats have beards, sheep do not. But some sheep have manes. Sheep have an upper lip that is divided by a distinct philtrum, goats do not. A main difference in terms of behavior between the two is how they hunt.  Sheep are grazers; they ramble slowly eating short plants close to the ground having more contact with roundworms, tapeworms, etc. so they have better resistance to pasture parasites. On the other hand, goats are browsers; they look for leaves, twigs, vines, and shrubs. And their agility allows them to obtain fascinating positions when seeking to get their food, they feed themselves  eating off the ground having less contact with parasites in manure on the ground. For this reason, they have a less developed natural ability to resist parasitic infections. So when, for some reason, goats are forced to graze directly off the ground they can get infections easier than sheep.

Another difference between goats and sheep is their flock behavior. Goats tend to be much more independent and curious than sheep. They can tend to get into more trouble than sheep. This is because of their flock mentality. They have a very strong flocking instinct and become agitated when separated from their posse. This difference often makes people think sheep are less intelligent than goats. There are few cases where a sheep is raised on its own as pets. They may be more curious and interactive than the one raised on the farms.

Another difference between their personality is Rams (male sheep), when aggressive, will butt head-on while bucks (male goats) will rear up and come down with their heads.


We can start by saying that both of them are ruminants. Also their eyes are similar, a goat’s eye is rectangular rather than round like the one from the sheep. They have excellent night vision and will often browse during the night. Just like sheep, goats are considered to be the ‘first domesticated animal’. The domestication process began over 10,000 years ago in a North Iranian town called Sangsar. The initial reasons for domesticating goats were to have easy access to goat hair, meat and milk. Goat skins were also used up until the Middle Ages for making bottles out of to hold water and wine for people who were traveling or camping. Both goats and sheep are hoofed mammals, or ungulates

Sheep and goats have a similar gestation period. Both are pregnant for approximately five months, with sheep carrying for 146 days and goats for 150 days. Both sheep and goats can produce more than one offspring per pregnancy.

Goats and sheep care for and protect the young animals. Both sheep and goats also form matrifocal groups, in which the female animals and their dependant young remain together while the male animals segregate in a smaller band that remains in close proximity to the females. Female goats and sheep both form close bonds with their young.

Last modified: Monday, 29 February 2016, 3:39 PM
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