What is the Difference Between a Goat and a Sheep?

Sheep and goats look similar, but they are still very, very different. To grasp a firmer understanding of what the similarities and differences are between the two flock-dwelling animals, let us take a look at their respective visual aspects.

To kick things off, let us take a look at the weight and looks of the two animals. Goats are skinnier, smaller, and shorter (overall, although there are freaks of nature and as is with all species, this is prone to natural and genetic change) while sheep are tubbier and taller.

With that having been set aside, let us look at what nutritional and visual gifts both sheep and goats bear for us. Goats are eaten in the Middle Eastern and Indian Sub-continent, while in the Western and Indo-European (or colonized) cultures, the sheep is the more prevalent in the herd-sectioned dietary choices.

Aside from red meat and flesh in general, sheep offer us wool, while goats do not. Wool, for thousands of years, has been a key material in the development of clothes and garments and continued to be today. Merino wool is a fine grade of wool that is used in high-quality socks, scarfs, hats, gloves and even coats.

While goats do not offer wool or other materials that have the potential to be used in clothes and garments, and in addition to the meat they provide (which is a key food source in some native cultures in the Middle East) they produce milk and cheese. There are all kinds of different cheeses and milk that come from goats, and some of which have been around for centuries or even thousands of years.

On the more scientific and technical side, sheep are members of the Ovis Aries genospecies. They tend to have, on average, fifty-four chromosomes while their distant (but still related!) cousins, the goats, have sixty chromosomes and belong to the Capra Hircus species.

Regarding physical features, they both have thick-boned heads which are used for ramming in a sport as well as offense and defense when being provoked. A goat’s tail is shorter and typically stands up while a sheep tail (which is shorter by about half of an inch on average) hangs down.

The eating habits between both sheep and goats are quite distinct. A goat is a stereotypical browser that likes to feed shrubs, leaves, twigs, and vines. On the other end of the dietary spectrum, sheep like to graze on grass and, as a favorite, clover.

Regarding personality and emotions, goats are naturally more hyper and independent, while on the other hand, sheep like to stay with their flock where it is safe and protected. Goats have horns that are more upright and are less craved than sheep horns.

In just about every species, a ram would dominate a buck any day of the week. This is obviously true in the goat species as well. However, the roles are switched around when you speak about sheep.

Regarding hair (also known as fur when on mammals) a sheep has a rough, thick and waterproof layer of hair called wool, while a goat has none. Funnily enough, a goat has a goatee (just kidding, it’s a beard. But where do you think the name came from, eh?) while a sheep has a mane.

To wrap this whole thing up, goats and sheep are similar in a lot of ways; the way they breed, are herded, somewhat similar in what they like to eat as far as diets are concerned, and even look pretty much the same as well. A shaved sheep looks almost like a goat! For more clues and secrets: