What do goats think about hills?

I don’t know much about Mountain Goats. I’m sure there is plenty of published information that could get me past the learning curve. But, I think I prefer the mystery.

I’ve shared mountains with goats on lots of occasions. When you decide to chase birds in high places, summits with goats happen. 

Once in Nevada when I was hunting with Wyatt the retriever, we climbed over a saddle and came face-to-face with a small herd of goats at a distance of around 50 yards. At the time, Wyatt had never seen a goat, it was his first encounter. He was curious, not in a nefarious way. Despite my explanation that we don’t hunt those, he decided he still wanted a closer look and began ambling their direction. The goats, without the slightest look of distress or added pace, strolled to the nearest cliff and walked straight up. Whatever their opinion of Wyatt, they had full confidence he couldn’t follow them. And they were right. I walked to the base of the cliff to get a better perspective and just the first ledge where one could conceive getting any kind of footing was well over my head. The goats shot an occasional, indifferent glance our direction as they effortlessly climbed to quieter ground.

I sat Wyatt down and had an additional discussion about leaving goats alone. That may sound silly but he never approached another. He always gives me a quick look when we run across four-legged animals to make sure the rules haven’t changed. I just shake my head and wave him a different direction. 

Billys look big — it may be the shape of their body with the hulking shoulders, broad chest and Popeye forearms. They don’t look menacing but appear capable, like a bouncer at a deserted bar. 

On this trip to Colorado the dogs and I hiked well above tree line on an overcast day. We accidentally snuck up on a nanny and kid, maybe 100’ below us. I pulled Ida back to heel, she’s young and her goat encounters are limited. If we were goat predators, these two were in a precarious position. But they just casually rose, seemed to stretch and then edge over the crest. I couldn’t see exactly where they were headed, but I was hoping to get a closer look. I directed the dogs on a big loop downhill plotting an intersection with the goats’ course. I kept looking back at the face as we descended. Finally I saw them, perched on a precipice where only goats can cling. The kid seemed a little interested in our passing, but the nanny paid no mind. 

A goat’s direction of travel never seems influenced by terrain. I don’t think goats have any concept of a place they can’t reach. They’ve grown so generationally accustomed to their jagged surroundings that they no longer see obstacles. 

I admire that goatly confidence and look forward to more run-ins.

Nobody really knows what goats think about hills. But I think it’s something worth contemplating. 

3 Big Goats

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