Thought for the Day

"I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we only will tune in."
- George Washington Carver

Search This Blog

Monday, 12 November 2012

Acting the Goat

During September and October I managed a couple of trips over the The Great Orme in Llandudno to film the Kashmiri Goats rutting. Unfortunately, they seemed to be only giving a somewhat half-hearted attempt at it. Perhaps I was to early.....or to late, or maybe the mild weather was putting them off. It certainly wasn't the spectacle that I had been expecting, and my troll across the internet didn't furnish any detailed information about the timing or duration of the rut. Anyway, here are a few clips, and below is a brief history of how these impressive animals ended up in North Wales.

This is the Great Orme of Llandudno in North Wales and these guys are not your average wild goat, but Kashmiri Goats that are descended from the Royal herd at Windsor which had its origins way back in 1837 when the Shah of Persia, presented some to Queen Victoria on her accession to the throne.

Even earlier, in the early 1800s, Squire Christopher Tower of Essex had given a pair of similar goats to George the fourth.

Sometime around 1880, a certain Major General Sir Savage Mostyn acquired two of these Windsor goats, and took them to the grounds of Gloddaeth all where he established a new herd, and it is these descendants that were later released on the Great Orme around 1890.
…..and they have been living wild here ever since

Unlike sheep which prefer to eat grass, goats prefer to browse on thorny scrub such as gorse, brambles and hawthorn and by keeping these plants at bay, less competitive wild flowers are able to flourish.             Wild flowers such as spiked speedwell, thrift and common rock-rose  a species that is important for the silver-studded blue butterfly…….a sub-species of which is only found here on the Great Orme. As such they are of real conservation value despite not being native to the area.

Most will live for around nine years or so and each ridge on the Billy's horn represents a year’s growth, so it is easy to tell their age. The ridges on the nanny’s horns, however, are not quite so obvious so, ageing them is a little bit trickier.

In summer the billies roam in small groups on one side of the mountain but the nannies and last years youngsters form their own herds on the other side,
Autumn, though, is the rutting season and around late September or early October the Billies start to challenge each other with displays of aggression. Lips are curled and heads are thrown back as they rear up to clash horns with each other….often in very dangerous positions on these limestone cliffs.

The Billies spend less time feeding, and more time following the nannies. They curl their lips in order to find out whether a nanny is in heat, and urinate on their forelegs and faces in order to make themselves attractive to the nannies. They also have sebaceous glands at the base of the horns that produce secretions that are irresistible to the nannies.

The Billies need to be quick if they are to sire next years offspring as the nannies are only in heat for a period of around 2 hours to a couple of days at most, and will only come into heat again in about three weeks time.

At this time the nannies become more vocal and wag their tails vigorously to attract the Billies attention.

The kids will be born in February on a secluded cliff and will be left hidden whilst the nannies go off to feed, returning periodically to suckle the new born.

Because the numbers of these goats increased to an unsustainable level, the local authorities have had to introduce control measures and on two occasions in the 1990s there was public uproar and protestations at the thought of culling them. Each year they are counted and some are occasionally relocated to other parts of the country. In addition, some of the nannies are given implants of progesterone to help reduce the birth rate.
In 2002 there were around 200 goats on the Orme. These were reduced to around 150 in 2008 by relocating some of them. The general idea is to restrict the numbers to around 100 animals so the local authorities keep a look-out for locations where small numbers could be re-located.