• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Can you domesticate bighorn sheep and mountain goats?  RSS feed

 
Thom Kelt
Posts: 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Figured someone here might know the answer to this.  I've tried Googling it but putting "goat" or "sheep" and "domesticate" in the same search term just returns stuff about domestic goats and sheep.

Also, I know mountain goats aren't technically goats, but this is the closest section relating to them. 

Thanks!
 
Leora Laforge
Posts: 50
Location: Saskatchewan
10
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
How much time have you got?

Most of our domestic animals have taken hundreds or even thousands of years to be changed from wild to domestic. The ancestors of dogs, horses, cattle, sheep, goats, plus a few more domesticated animals had one main common characteristic. They lived in social groups.

If the wild sheep and goats you are thinking of are social then yes it is possible. Start with a large group and select for the most human friendly individuals eventually you could develop a domestic animal.

There are examples of animals that have been domesticated very quickly such as hamsters, lab mice, and rats. These are all very quick to mature and have lots of offspring which allows for very heavy culling.

I know of one experiment on how quickly an animal can be domesticated, this is the Russian domesticated fox. It took approximately 60 years to achieve a human friendly fox by selecting only the 20% born each year who were most human friendly.

With sheep and goat they do not reproduce nearly as quickly, so selection would be much slower. I would estimate it would take 100-200 years of careful selection to achieve a fully domesticated species.

From my knowledge I would conclude that it is possible to start this project, but you would not achieve a domesticated species in your lifetime.

If you want tame animals, you could raise babies who would continue to be friendly as adults, although they will not be predictable.

If you want to farm them you could probably do that too, bison, deer, elk, and wild boar are all wild animals that are frequently farmed.
 
Travis Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 1134
116
books cat chicken duck rabbit transportation trees woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Good gracious no! I am not sure what would be worse; the Game Wardens catching you or the local sheep ranchers. In this case both have VERY vested interests in the two as there is a huge controversy on whether or not domestic sheep introduce pathogens to Bighorn Sheep.  We are talking the closing of grazing lands that have been used for decades and decades, so sheep ranchers would be sour against anyone trying to make the problem worse, and big government would like to make the point that people were trying to domesticate Bighorn Sheep.
 
Juniper Zen
Posts: 43
Location: Winters, California
dog greening the desert tiny house
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I was going to bring up Belyaev's silver fox experiment but was beaten to the punch. It is a fascinating project!
 
Thom Kelt
Posts: 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Leora Laforge wrote:How much time have you got?

Most of our domestic animals have taken hundreds or even thousands of years to be changed from wild to domestic. The ancestors of dogs, horses, cattle, sheep, goats, plus a few more domesticated animals had one main common characteristic. They lived in social groups.

If the wild sheep and goats you are thinking of are social then yes it is possible. Start with a large group and select for the most human friendly individuals eventually you could develop a domestic animal.

There are examples of animals that have been domesticated very quickly such as hamsters, lab mice, and rats. These are all very quick to mature and have lots of offspring which allows for very heavy culling.

I know of one experiment on how quickly an animal can be domesticated, this is the Russian domesticated fox. It took approximately 60 years to achieve a human friendly fox by selecting only the 20% born each year who were most human friendly.

With sheep and goat they do not reproduce nearly as quickly, so selection would be much slower. I would estimate it would take 100-200 years of careful selection to achieve a fully domesticated species.

From my knowledge I would conclude that it is possible to start this project, but you would not achieve a domesticated species in your lifetime.

If you want tame animals, you could raise babies who would continue to be friendly as adults, although they will not be predictable.

If you want to farm them you could probably do that too, bison, deer, elk, and wild boar are all wild animals that are frequently farmed.


Farming is mostly my goal, but I figure domesticated animals are easier to handle.  Now, regarding the length of time it takes to domesticate.  You say it took 60 years to breed a human friendly fox.  Silver foxes have a sexual maturity of around 10 months.  This would mean it took ~72 generations.  Mountain goats are 30 months, so it would take 180 years if the 72 generation figure is accurate for the species (no guarantees).  In humans we've seen people reach sexual maturity earlier than in past decades, and this had been attributed to high-fat diets (as far as I know) and this is backed up by a study on rats.  So would it be possible to decrease the length of time it would take for a mountain goat to reach sexual maturity by altering its diet in a similar manner?
 
Leora Laforge
Posts: 50
Location: Saskatchewan
10
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Farming is mostly my goal, but I figure domesticated animals are easier to handle.

Domesticated animals are definitely easier to handle.  So why look at wild animals? Are you hoping to attract trophy hunters? Are you looking for a low input animal to raise for meat, hides or wool? If you are looking to sell to trophies there are domestic breeds of sheep and cattle that grow huge horns which could be used for this. If you want impressive cattle I would suggest the Ankole-watusi, or the Highland. For impressive sheep look at Jacob, Norfolk Horn, Wiltshire Horn, and there are many more. Most goats have horns, some breeds will be more striking than others.

Silver foxes have a sexual maturity of around 10 months.  This would mean it took ~72 generations.  Mountain goats are 30 months, so it would take 180 years if the 72 generation figure is accurate for the species (no guarantees)

This would probably be around one generation per year in the experiment. It was in Russia so kits would not survive unless born in spring or summer. So 60 generations, same goes for the mountain goats, sexual maturity at 30 months a doe has her first offspring at 3 years.

Goats would take more generations for change. Foxes have 4-6 kits per litter. So if I bred 10 vixens I would expect 50 kits, of these the friendliest 10 would be kept to produce the next generation. Goats have fewer offspring, 10 does might equal 12 kids. You would have to keep most of your does and keep the best of the offspring to be profitable. Stock could be managed to domesticate as quickly as possible but that is unlikely to be profitable. Mountain goats live from 12-15 years, so to farm mountain goats I would suggest keeping the top 20% of doelings every year and culling about 10% of your does every year, this would mean complete stock turn over every 10 years. This would probably be analogous to the system under which cattle, sheep, and goats where first domesticated. If you were able to farm like this you could have a domesticated mountain goat in about 600 years. Bison farming is about 100 years into this process right now.

In humans we've seen people reach sexual maturity earlier than in past decades, and this had been attributed to high-fat diets (as far as I know) and this is backed up by a study on rats.  So would it be possible to decrease the length of time it would take for a mountain goat to reach sexual maturity by altering its diet in a similar manner?

Yes after several generations of selection from well fed animals you could probably get them to have their first kids at 2 years.

However I am assuming you are in either the U.S or Canada. In Canada it is illegal to capture animals from the wild and farm them, I don't know the laws in the states but I image they won't let you do that there either. I enjoy discussing this as a hypothetical but due to current laws that is all this is. I hope my information has helped.
 
Devin Lavign
pollinator
Posts: 475
Location: Pac Northwest
39
books chicken forest garden goat hunting solar trees wofati woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Something worth noting, not all animals domesticate easily.

Canines tend to be some of the easiest to domesticate, something in them just tends to head that way quickly once the traits start expressing. Which includes foxes. So that fox experiment is not necessarily a good example of how quickly you can domesticate another species.

Look at Bison for example. They still haven't been domesticated. There are bison herds in captivity, but they are still wild animals. Just captive raised.

In fact look at the Americas. Only 2 species were domesticated by the indigenous people. Llama, and turkeys. While Europe, Africa, and Asia had huge amounts of domesticated animals. I don't think it was the Native population of the America's not trying either. Since obviously they succeeded with 2 species. They knew the idea and concept, but the majority of animals from the Americas seem resistant to domestication.

You can capture them and they can get used to you, but they are not really domesticated.
 
Thom Kelt
Posts: 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Leora Laforge wrote:
Farming is mostly my goal, but I figure domesticated animals are easier to handle.

Domesticated animals are definitely easier to handle.  So why look at wild animals?


Just want to try something new.  I don't think there's anywhere in Canada that farms mountain goats or bighorns.  Plus, I also want to see what potential there is in regards to mountain goat fur for clothing.  I'd imagine it would be similar to wool, but I don't know for sure.  EDIT:  Plus, they look super cool.

Leora Laforge wrote:However I am assuming you are in either the U.S or Canada. In Canada it is illegal to capture animals from the wild and farm them


How is it possible that there are deer, buffalo, moose, etc. farms?  At some point those animals would have had to be taken from the wild.

Devin Lavign wrote:In fact look at the Americas. Only 2 species were domesticated by the indigenous people. Llama, and turkeys. While Europe, Africa, and Asia had huge amounts of domesticated animals. I don't think it was the Native population of the America's not trying either. Since obviously they succeeded with 2 species. They knew the idea and concept, but the majority of animals from the Americas seem resistant to domestication.


Not sure if I agree with you there.  Firstly, natives in the Americas did also domesticate wolves.  They were generally used as the beast of burden since others weren't available.  But as you said, canids are generally more prone to domestication, so this is expected.  More importantly, though, is that many native cultures simply didn't operate in such a way that domestication was needed.  The closest would have been the agricultural societies such as the Iroquois.  For the most part, though, native societies operated in a hunter-gatherer capacity and never truly progressed into an agricultural capacity (except for vegetables, see The Three Sisters).  Because of this, there was simply no need for them to domesticate animals, and it was more rewarding in the short term to just hunt them.
 
Leora Laforge
Posts: 50
Location: Saskatchewan
10
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Leora Laforge wrote:
However I am assuming you are in either the U.S or Canada. In Canada it is illegal to capture animals from the wild and farm them


How is it possible that there are deer, buffalo, moose, etc. farms?  At some point those animals would have had to be taken from the wild.

Yes at some point these animals were taken from the wild, since then the laws have changed.

For example, bison almost went extinct, at the lowest point the population was down to 5 herds, 1 wild and the other 4 on ranches. The herds on ranches were crossed with cattle, while the wild herd was infected with brucellosis. Now the source of any bison being reintroduced to the wild or farmed anywhere comes from the ranch herds, these animals are all 5-10% cattle.

There are a few white-tail deer farms where I am, this is a result of a provincial 90s policy of diversifying agriculture. At that point it was legal for treaty First Nations people to capture them from the wild and build a herd, non-FN people had to buy breeding stock.

This has gotten much less common because deer simply do not breed and gain weight like domestic animals. I would image it would be the same situation with bighorn sheep or mountain goats.
 
Devin Lavign
pollinator
Posts: 475
Location: Pac Northwest
39
books chicken forest garden goat hunting solar trees wofati woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thom Kelt wrote:Not sure if I agree with you there.  Firstly, natives in the Americas did also domesticate wolves.  They were generally used as the beast of burden since others weren't available.  But as you said, canids are generally more prone to domestication, so this is expected.  More importantly, though, is that many native cultures simply didn't operate in such a way that domestication was needed.  The closest would have been the agricultural societies such as the Iroquois.  For the most part, though, native societies operated in a hunter-gatherer capacity and never truly progressed into an agricultural capacity (except for vegetables, see The Three Sisters).  Because of this, there was simply no need for them to domesticate animals, and it was more rewarding in the short term to just hunt them.


The DNA evidence shows it was unlikely the Native American dogs were domesticated in the Americas, but rather were brought to the Americas by the colonizing Natives. No evidence of DNA from American wolves was found in the Native American dogs. They weren't domesticated in the Americas but in Eurasia and came with the natives as they came to the Americas.

There was a lot more agriculture than you might think. Along with sophisticated irrigation techniques, some of the most impressive plant domestication comes from the Americas. While yes there was plenty of hunter gathers in the Americas, even the only city known to be built by hunter gathers, I think it would be a huge disservice to say they never developed sophisticated agricultural societies. A look at the Inca terracing, or the Hopi irrigation systems would seem to speak otherwise. There was a lot of sophisticated farming. Look at the Mexican Chinampa turning lake into garden space. While yes there was some hunting and gathering going on. There was also wide spread agriculture happening. Just not the same way Europeans did it. Rather in much more sustainable ways that we as permies are slowly rediscovering.
 
Libbie Hawker
Posts: 102
Location: Friday Harbor, WA
6
chicken food preservation hugelkultur
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I might be able to clear up some of the confusion about domesticated animals vs. animals being managed in captivity. I used to be a zookeeper, so I worked with lots of species in captivity, most of whom lived in relative comfort and peace in human-made and human-managed environments...but those species were not domesticated. The animals themselves were domesticated, but nobody would call elephants or gorillas domesticated species just because some of them live with humans.

You can certainly keep bighorn sheep and mountain goats in captivity. Or you could, hypothetically, if bighorns weren't endangered and mountain goats weren't federally protected in most areas. But keeping individual animals relatively safe and comfortable in captivity doesn't mean they'll behave like truly domesticated species. They will not submit to typical husbandry practices, nor will they allow you to be near them without defending themselves. They don't have dozens to hundreds of generations of selective breeding for docility and other domestic traits, as domestic ruminant species have. With a few generations to breed, you could probably select fairly human-tolerant animals and have a less dangerous population, but they would still behave mostly like wild animals--and captive wild animals are the most dangerous of all, because they typically have no more fear of humans.

If you're looking for species that are similar to bighorns or mountain goats, check out black-belly sheep, a domestic hair sheep (short-haired) breed that resembles bighorns in many ways. I'm not aware of a domestic goat breed that is similar to mountain goats, but Valais blackneck goats are pretty freaking awesome. They have an unusual, wild-ish look about them, not much like the appearance of many other domestic goat breeds.
 
Hester Winterbourne
Posts: 192
Location: West Midlands UK (zone 8b)
14
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It's arguable that pretty much all animals that had the potential to be domesticated, have been.  And then even the wild populations that were left had any remaining "friendliness" bred out of them as only the wariest would survive. Of course there may have been some that just never came into contact with man because their ranges didn't overlap, which could still be domesticated, but I don't think the ones you are talking about come into that category.  I know a farmer who keeps red deer, and they're not domesticated, they calve by themselves and if he can get anywhere near one that's in trouble it's probably too late by then.  If they escape, they revert back to being completely wild and more or less indistinguishable from the truly wild population. 
 
 
You didn't tell me he was so big. Unlike this tiny ad:
permaculture bootcamp - boots-to-roots
https://permies.com/t/59706/permaculture-bootcamp-boots-roots
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!