Feral Goats, Fauna in Co. Mayo

Feral goats are descendants of domestic goats run wild. These long horned ruminants, closely related to sheep and cattle, have a shaggy coat that can be black, white, grey, brown or a mixture of these colours. Males weight between 50 to 75kg and stand up to 60cm at the shoulder. They are heavier than females which usually are between 35 to 60 kg weight and stand up at 50cm to the shoulder.

They roam freely the Mayo remote mountains and hills. They can be seen on the western slopes of the Ox Mountains, Achill Island and Mulranny area. They are thought to descend from flocks arrived in Ireland with some of the earliest human settlers about 4000 years ago. Early farmers used to breed these hardy animals for their meat, milk, hair and hides.

These goats live in family groups (usually under twelve individuals) led by a dominant nanny. The group is composed of female relatives, daughters and male kids under one years old. Males usually live separated from their females and kids for most of the year joining the female group for the rutting season.

In summertime their diet consists of grasses, sedges, rushes and bilberries. In winter they switch to heather, gorse and shrubs. They also eat bark from the trunks of oak, willow, spruce, pine tree species and, in coastal areas, seaweed.

They are good jumpers and climbers. Their special hooves enable them to run up very steep hills and cliffs. The hooves have a hard outer edge and spongy surface in the middle giving the goats a very strong grip on rocks.

Its name is Capra circus and in Irish it is called Gabhar fiáin.