Asia, central Europe, North America, and North Africa


Mountain, tundra, and desert

Living on the edge

Wild goats and sheep may not seem too exciting at first glance. But wait until you get to know them better: some wild goats can climb trees, and some goats and sheep can walk along a ledge not much wider than a tightrope! With their amazing climbing talent, spectacular spiraling horns, and ability to live in some of the world's steepest, most forbidding habitats, goats and sheep are worthy of our attention and appreciation.

Sheep or goat?

How can you tell if you're looking at a goat or a sheep? If a male has the familiar beard, or goatee, then he's probably a goat; male sheep don't have beards. Another hint is the horns: a male sheep's horns usually curl, and a goat's are straight. But, of course, there are exceptions. Male Barbary sheep or aoudads look like a mixture of both: they have beards AND curled horns! And the scientific name for the beardless Himalayan tahr—Hemitragus jemlahicus—means "something like a goat."

The musk ox wins the prize for the longest hair in the Animal Kingdom (apart from that of humans!). Its shaggy guard hairs can reach nearly 2 feet (60 centimeters) in length.
No kidding: when female goats (called does) give birth to babies, called kids, the process is called "kidding."
When the snow is too deep, the chamois has been known to survive for up to two weeks without food.
Chinese bharals live in the highest part of the world, the Himalayan region, at elevations up to 19,000 feet (5,800 meters). That's 3.5 miles (5.6 kilometers) straight up.
More people eat goat meat worldwide than any other kind of meat.
The markhor is the national mammal of Pakistan.

Both the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park have a variety of goat and sheep species. Guests to the Zoo can meet domesticated goats and sheep in the Petting Paddock of the Children’s Zoo, or admire the Sichuan takin herd cavorting along the hillside in the Zoo’s Panda Trek.

Visitors to the Safari Park can mingle with domestic goats in the Petting Kraal at Nairobi Village and view groups of Sudan Barbary sheep, Turkomen markhor, Nubian ibex, Armenian mouflon, Transcaspian urials, and Chinese bharals in our expansive field exhibits. A small group of desert bighorn sheep lives in the Park’s Condor Ridge.

Unfortunately, some goats, including the endangered markhor Capra falconeri, and some of the wild sheep, are still highly prized as trophy animals. Hunters often pay thousands of dollars to pursue and kill them for their horns. Many wild goat and sheep species are hunted for their hide and meat, causing their numbers to drop, with some populations disappearing completely.

Help for bighorn sheep in San Diego County
There are just over 950 Peninsular bighorn sheep Ovis canadensis nelsoni left in the US. Their current range is from the San Jacinto Mountains in Southern California to Baja California, Mexico. Bighorn sheep rams are wide ranging, moving between ewe groups and linking the subpopulations together. Human disturbances, development, several major highways, and the recently built fence along the US-Mexico border have compromised the ability for small subpopulations to connect for breeding.

After Peninsular bighorn sheep were listed as endangered, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put together a team of bighorn sheep experts and asked them to create a plan for the sheep's recovery. The plan calls for a number of actions, including increased habitat protection and restoration, reduction of human impact, and development of public education programs. Researchers from San Diego Zoo Global are working with collaborators in Mexico collecting data, using camera traps, tracking bighorn sheep signs, and collecting fecal samples for genetic analysis.

Join us
You can help us bring bighorn sheep and other sheep and goat species back from the brink by supporting the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy. Together we can save and protect wildlife around the globe.