Goats are notorious for head butting, but why do they do it? The simple answer is that head butting is a natural behavior in goats. You’ll see kids butting heads and play, does butting heads in competition for food and other desirable items in situations and bucks butting heads as a show of dominance.
In this article, we share tips to help you prevent the start of head butting in goats. We also share some tips to help you put a quick end to this bad habit if/when it begins. If you have any specific question to ask, please leave a comment at the end of this article. Read on to learn more about how to stop a goat from head butting.
What You'll Learn Today
- Is Head Butting Dangerous?
- How To Prevent Head Butting From Starting?
- 1. Have All Kids Dehorned When They Are Young
- 2. Be Confident And In Charge
- 3. Introduce New Goats Carefully
- 4. Understand Goat Herd Pecking Order
- 5. Use A Trough For Feeding Rather Than A Single Round Pan
- 6. Don’t Use Feeders That Require Your Goat To Put Its Head Inside To Eat
- 7. Use Good Behavior Management
- How To Keep Your Goat From Butting You
- How To Stop Head Butting In Goats?
- Remember That Goats Are Not Lap Dogs
- Frequently Asked Questions
Is Head Butting Dangerous?
Head butting can be harmless, or it can be quite harmful and damaging. While kids at play will seldom hurt each other, pregnant does competing in earnest can hurt one another and even cause miscarriages. Mature bucks fighting can do a great deal of harm to one another.
Additionally, sometimes mature bucks will simply butt inanimate objects (such as wooden walls) for the sheer joy of destroying them.
The real trouble begins when your goat decides to butt you. This is entirely inappropriate no matter why it happens. It is not all right for your goat to play with you in this manner, and it is certainly not all right for your goat to try to hurt you.
How To Prevent Head Butting From Starting?
1. Have All Kids Dehorned When They Are Young
While this will not stop the behavior of head butting, it will greatly reduce the potential damage. There is absolutely no reason to have a goat with horns. They are dangerous and destructive.
2. Be Confident And In Charge
If you are afraid or tentative around goats, you have no business having them. Learn how to handle goats and always present yourself with calm confidence.
3. Introduce New Goats Carefully
It’s a good idea to let goats get to know each other through the fence for a week or so before allowing them to come into direct contact with one another.
It’s also wise to always introduce two or more new goats at a time to a herd rather than introducing a single new goat. A goat alone is bound to be picked on, perhaps by the entire herd.
4. Understand Goat Herd Pecking Order
Anytime new goats are introduced to a herd, a tussle is bound to ensue. Goats need to establish their hierarchy or pecking order. A little bit of head butting (especially by dehorned goats) is fairly harmless. Nonetheless, keep a close eye on newly introduced goats and separate them as needed.
5. Use A Trough For Feeding Rather Than A Single Round Pan
If you put all the goat feed into a single round pan and expect the goats to gather around it and eat peacefully, you’re dreaming. This is just setting up a situation that will cause them to head butt in competition over the feed. The end result will be lots of chaos and feed trampled into the ground.
Instead, use a long trough that is elevated off the ground so that goats must approach it and eat with their heads raised to shoulder level. There should be plenty of room for all of your goats to find a place at the trough without having to push anyone out of the way.
6. Don’t Use Feeders That Require Your Goat To Put Its Head Inside To Eat
This obscures the goat’s line of vision and makes it vulnerable to being butted by jealous rivals.
7. Use Good Behavior Management
Always reward the behavior that you desire by giving your goats a pat and speaking with kind words in a pleasant tone of voice. Respond quickly to unwanted behavior with a sharp, stern “NO!” Begin this when your goats are very young, and they will learn which behaviors are acceptable and desired and which are forbidden.
Don’t rely on rigged solutions as shown in this video.
How To Keep Your Goat From Butting You
While it may seem cute and possibly effective to do things like putting sections of pool noodles on your goats’ horns to mitigate potential damage, this sort of thing is actually ineffective. Even without horns, a head butting goat can inflict quite a bit of damage and injury.
Additionally, any strange thing you put on one goat is bound to be pulled off and chewed to pieces by another goat.
How To Stop Head Butting In Goats?
Kids At Play
For kids at play, there’s no need to stop head butting. This is a natural and harmless behavior. Kids who grow up together head butting will continue harmlessly head butting each other as they mature. Just be aware that this behavior may escalate into damaging behavior if and when they are separated into new herds.
Don’t keep your buck with your herd or with other bucks. Intact bucks are well known for head butting for all sorts of ornery, dominance seeking, destructive reasons.
Your dehorned buck should be kept in his own pen with a strong fence and a sturdy metal house that he cannot butt to pieces. He should only be allowed in with the does at breeding time.
If your does are head butting each other, it’s an indication that something is wrong. Evaluate the situation and make changes to your feeding set up or any other circumstance that may trigger does to compete with each other. If larger does are picking on a smaller doe, separate her.
What About Pet Goats?
If your pet goat develops the horrible habit of butting you, you’ll need to nip it in the bud by responding quickly and decisively. You can do this with a loud, stern shout of “NO!”
You may wish to accompany this with a sharp whack on top of the head using a sturdy stick or a riding crop. Don’t worry that you’ll hurt the goat. Remember that they have extremely hard heads that are just made for butting.
If the head butting is very aggressive and dangerous, you may need to use a cattle prod to shock the offending goat, but only do this in very severe cases.
Some goat keepers have had very good luck stopping head butting by using a high-powered water gun as shown in this video.
Solution For Aggressive Goats
Remember That Goats Are Not Lap Dogs
Even if you are keeping a pygmy or dwarf goat as a pet, remember that it is essentially a farm animal and should not be treated like a lap dog.
Don’t let it jump up on you, sit in your lap or butt you with its head as kid. This may seem cute when the goat is tiny, but even a miniature goat can hurt you with these behaviors when it is grown.
If you have a farm, whether you have your goats for milk or are raising them for meat, teach them to walk well on a lead, have good ground manners and respect your space from a very early age. By doing so you will not have problems with head butting when they grow up.
If you are looking for more tips to help you with your goats, check this advice on trimming their hooves.
Frequently Asked Questions
Handle your young goat on a regular basis. Take him or her on walks and allow socialization with people and other animals. Allow your goat to be around various types of equipment in a wide variety of situations. Even if you are keeping your goat as a pet, remember that it is not a cat or dog. A goat is hoofed livestock, and all of those hooves need to stay on the ground. Never allow a baby goat to jump up or sit on your lap. You’ll regret it when the animal grows larger.
Say “NO!” in a deep, commanding tone of voice, and spray the animal in the face with a water bottle or a water blaster. Walk away. Do not give attention for bad behavior. Be very firm about this. Your goat should not think of you as a buddy or a peer. Even pet goats need to know that their person is the one in charge. Remember to give attention when the goat is exhibiting the behavior you want. When he or she approaches you calmly and keeps all four feet on the ground, be sure to pet and praise.
Always behave in a calm and confident manner around your goats so that they do not perceive you as a threat. With an unhandled goat, you may want to try holding the animal’s feed dish in your lap so that it will approach you to eat. Just sit quietly and talk to the goat for the first few days. Eventually, you should be able to pet the goat on the shoulder, and after a while you’ll be able to put on a collar so that you can have some measure of control.
You might think that having your goats afraid of you would keep them from wanting to head butt you, but the opposite is true. If goats are anxious and afraid, they are far more likely to head butt and otherwise aggress. Just as with most animals, if you can convince your goats that you are competent, confident and in charge, they are far more likely to place you at the top of the pecking order and refrain from challenging you.
Goats’ skulls are especially designed to be able to absorb a tremendous amount of force. In fact, a goats’ skull can absorb sixty times’ more force than a human skull.
29 thoughts on “How To Stop A Goat From Head Butting?”
i have 2 male fixed dehorned goats they seem to like to butt heads most of the time they are not doing it enough to make there heads bleed but today they did . i put sav on them but i want to know how to get them when iam not with them to not be doing it . they are like peas in a pod love each other they are lost with out each other so seperating them wont work the one will cry all day and night
hope u can come up with something
Thanks for your question! If you’re lucky, your goats may have learned a lesson from hurting each other, and the solution may be in the problem. Even so, you might try installing a surveillance camera for a few days to determine exactly what causes the more aggressive butting. Maybe they are fighting over feed or hay, or maybe some event is triggering them.
Otherwise, try these tips:
1. Be sure they have plenty of space so they can get away from each other if things get too rough.
2. Make sure they are getting enough to eat.
3. Avoid feeding sweet feeds. Check sugar content on the feed you use. Too much sugar causes behavior problems in everyone!
4. Try feeding them in separate dishes on separate sides of the pen, or completely separate them at feeding time.
5. Put hay in two or three separate places so they never have to fight over it.
6. Give them open pasture time, if possible, or take them on walks to work off extra energy and add interest to their lives. You may want to take them on leash like dogs. I have found that goats will pretty much stay close by when taken for a walk off-leash, but you’ll need to experiment with that in your circumstance to know what works best for you.
Remember that head-butting is a normal behavior for goats, and they may hurt each other occasionally. Giving them first aid was the right thing to do. If the injuries become serious, consult your veterinarian for care and recommendations.
Best of luck to you!
I have a male goat named, “Donkey”. He was raised with a mini pony and his old owners said he did perfectly fine. I adopted him when he was 2 years old and he was in our backyard for a really long time with my dogs. This year we finally decided to get him a friend. We bought a female baby Nigerien dwarf goat. We put her outside with him and he is ramming her, he has no horns but I still don’t want him to hurt her. I don’t know how to stop it, and I don’t have room to separate her. What should I do? Is there anyway I can teach him to not do that? Should I get another baby goat and let them meet him together?
It sounds as if your goat is set in his ways. You don’t mention whether he is intact or wethered (castrated) but it is not unusual for intact male goats to be very territorial. Giving him a smaller, younger goat as a companion was the perfect recipe to start him bullying. Sadly, I think it would be best if you found a new home for the smaller goat and let your mature male goat go back to being a companion for your dogs. It sounds as if he grew up without goat companionship, and he will probably be fine continuing without it.
I have two male goats that have found sport in ramming the dogs. Head butted and ran over our 10wk old puppy yesterday. They wait for a chance to strike and aggressively go after the dogs. Any hope at stopping this behavior. Don’t want to get rid of them, but my dogs come first. Thanks.
Thanks for your question, Curtis.
You are really best off keeping your goats in a separate pen that the dogs cannot access. It’s especially important to keep baby animals (e.g. a ten week old puppy) away from livestock. It’s far to easy for accidents to happen.
Goats are notoriously full of mischief, especially intact males. If your two males are not already castrated, you should take care of that ASAP. Intact male goats are aggressive and smelly, and it won’t be long before they begin fighting each other and aggressing toward people.
Hi! We recently had a goat “move-in” to our horse farm. We have lots of small children around and a few dogs as well. The goat is usually a companion goat to her horse. However, sometime they let her out (or she lets herself out) of her pasture to play with a dog or just to roam around. Lately she has gotten very needy(?) towards people though. Pawing, pushing against, and sometimes head butting. I don’t know if she thinks we are playing like she does with the dog, or if she’s being aggressive. My concern is that she’s going to do this to a small child and really hurt them. What do you suggest we do to nip this behavior in the bud? Thank you!
Thank you for your question, Leigh.
Just as with people, with goats, good fences make good neighbors. If the goat is supposed to be a companion to a horse, steps should be taken to improve fencing so the goat cannot get out and stays with the horse. This is as much for the goat’s safety as the safety of others.
It’s not a good idea to let goats play with dogs. All sorts of mayhem can ensue for both.
When handling any goat take care not to be overindulgent. Don’t hand feed treats, and don’t let her encroach on your space. When the animal does not respect your boundaries, stand firm and tall and say NO! Be sure to use a firm, loud voice. Being screechy or panicking will only make matters worse.
Handle the goat regularly with a halter and lead. Teach her to stand tied, be groomed and have her hooves trimmed. Regular, consistent, firm handling will help her understand and respect boundaries and learn who’s in charge.
We just got a goat. He rears up at my 5 year old son and he tries to separate my son and his dad when they go in the pen. He also head butts him. We use a spray bottle but not totally working. He is fixed but still has his horns. Any suggestions?
Yeah don’t bring your kids around goats.
Thanks for your question, Tricia. In part, I agree with Fred! That’s a potentially dangerous situation, so at least for the time being, you are best off keeping your 5 year old out of the goat pen. Let him become acquainted with the goat through the fence for now.
You mention that this is a new goat, so he may be trying to sort out the pecking order in his new situation. The spray bottle is a good training device. Be sure to pair it with a firm “NO!” or other consistent command.
Here is a good video on the use of the spray bottle as a disciplining tool. Notice that the presenter has several consistent verbal cues he uses with his goats.
Never push or hit a goat. It’s just in their nature to push back, so that only makes matters worse. Hope this helps!
Hi, we are new to goats and just adopted 6. 4 are related, “queen grandma”, her 2 kids, and grandkid. The other 2 are brother and sister. Grandma picks on the smaller sister goat, and her kids follow suit. I’ve been reading about and understand goat dominance. I’m just wondering if this is going to stop overtime or if my poor doe will continue to be ganged up on
Chances are, with the configuration of animals you have, the behavior will continue. You are probably best off to separate the doe who is being picked on.
I have purchased 3 Nigerian dwarfs from the same herd. One male is 14 weeks and the other male and female siblings are 6 weeks old. I have recently wethered the two males. All have their horns. The older wether has butted both smaller goats, resulting in wounds on both goats rib area. What should I do?
Because of the difference in age and size, this behavior will probably continue. If you can separate the larger male from the siblings, you should do so. If you are able to keep them in adjacent pens so that they can continue to build relationship, you may be able to put them together again in the future when they are all fully mature and equal in size and strength.
I have two male brother Pygmy goats the breeder said they were castrated but one of them, he’s called Gilbert is really aggressive towards his brother Frankie and to people. Frankie however loves people and wants to sit on you all day (I try to not let him do that though) when Gilbert head butts anything I stand up real straight and shout NO! But he just looks at me like “really? I’m the boss here” and just goes for me instead. I really want to be able to sit out in hot weather and enjoy watching my two goats instead of shouting at Gilbert all the time. I can’t separate them because Gilbert will scream like he’s being murdered 24/7
Can you help me?
Hi Amber, Thanks for your question. It sounds as if you need to separate your goats from your sitting area. They will tussle with each other, no matter what, but they shouldn’t even be given the opportunity to run all over you in your own space, and you should not let a goat sit on your lap, no matter how cute and small he is.
As far as teaching Gilbert boundaries goes, don’t sit down around him. Stay physically bigger than he is at all times. Continue to verbally correct him when he misbehaves, and add a water bottle to your response.
Incorporate halter training, walking on leash and grooming in your goat care routine as a way of taking control and instilling respect for your authority.
I really, really hate to be *that* person, but I disagree with a passage here…
“1. HAVE ALL KIDS DEHORNED WHEN THEY ARE YOUNG
While this will not stop the behavior of head butting, it will greatly reduce the potential damage. There is absolutely no reason to have a goat with horns. They are dangerous and destructive.”
First, dehorning is unethical. It involves hacking off horns that have already attached to the skull, leaving gaping holes in the head. It causes extreme pain and often leads to the goat bleeding out. Please don’t recommend it.
Disbudding is the proper, more ethical process, involving cauterizing the buds before the tissue grows into the skull. It still causes pain, but it’s by far the quickest and safest method. These are NOT interchangeable terms.
Second, “there’s absolutely no reason to have a goat with horns”? Is keeping a legitimate body part that serves a very legitimate purpose a reason, or are we just manipulating an animal’s natural body to suit our own personal preferences and to win a ribbon here? Horns can absolutely be a problem, but they’re also a very natural part of the body. I’ve had goats with horns who were completely fine. Not saying there couldn’t ever be a problem; one goat had suicide horns. I think it’s a debatable point, though.
Other than that, this was an excellent, thorough guide.
As to all these people commenting here, has common sense been completely abandoned? Don’t put a young goat in with an adult goat. Don’t keep dogs and goats together. Don’t let your young children around your livestock without supervision. If there isn’t enough space for multiple goats, don’t get goats. If a goat seems to be bent on butting a smaller, younger, more helpless, or ill animal…separate them. Always introduce new animals together slowly.
Good grief. I get so annoyed with all the people who fail to do basic research BEFORE getting animals, and then scratch their heads wondering why they’ve run into such basic problems with basic solutions that don’t seem to even occur to them. Case in point: a few years ago, a family acquaintance brought home an LGD puppy. Apparently she didn’t realize that she had to keep the puppy separate from the livestock until it was older. The next morning, the puppy was dead, trampled by the livestock. THIS is what bugs me. Due to the human’s inability to ask simple questions, the animals often end up paying the price. Then, and sometimes not even then, it finally dawns on people. It shouldn’t be that way.
Please, please, please, to anyone reading this, DO THOROUGH RESEARCH. Preferably BEFORE you bring home an animal. So many problems and headaches could be completely avoided with some knowledge (and common sense).
I hate to leave “negative” comments (although I do believe in healthy disagreement), because as a writer I know what it’s like to read one, and because I know how much effort goes into articles. But this is an issue I have no patience or tolerance for (and it’s just toward the other commenters).
Thanks for hearing me out. I genuinely mean no offense to the writer.
Thanks Jeannette! Yes, disbudding is actually what I had in mind. You provide good advice.
Hi I have 4 castrated male goats, every time I go into their pen the oldest male butts me, plus I have a 4 month old brother and we really do not want our goats to hurt him. Our goats have a really tight bond toward each other but no one else. Especially when the baby is older and can walk we don’t want this behavior to continue, how do I stop this behavior without separation?.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
Thanks for your question, Katie. Head butting is a natural part of goat life, and wethers (castrated male goats) kept together are very likely to butt one another. To keep your goats from butting you, carry a spray bottle or water blaster gun to spray the critters when they approach you aggressively. It is very important that you maintain dominance. You are in charge. The goats are not.
As far as your 4-month-old brother is concerned, just keep him out of there until he is big enough to carry and use his own water bottle or water blasting gun. It is never a good idea to have very small children running around larger, hoofed animals. Even the most gentle animal can hurt a small child accidentally. It’s far better to be safe than sorry.
We have two small 3 years old goats, a brother (whether) & his sister. Both have horns. In the past 3 months the whether, always dominating his smaller sister, has started rearing and occasionally bucking me when I am feeding them in the morning. They are in a large pasture but are penned in at night (we have coyotes). When I enter the barn to feed them bit of grain (and hay winter) he sometimes, but not often, becomes aggressive if I don’t get the hay to him quickly enough. He gets plenty of food. To keep him from butting me, I have had to hold his horns. Several times I have also spoken a sharp “no!’ and swatted his nose. He backs away, but it hasn’t stopped the behavior. I don’t want to respond him with aggression. How do I get him to stop. Am I doing something that encourages this? When we take walks, he will also rub his horns on my walking stick. Then he gets enough of it then he is fine.
Hi Doris, thanks for your question. As with Katie’s situation above, carrying a spray bottle or water blasting gun to use on your wether when he aggresses may help with this behavior.
It also sounds as if he may be quite hungry when you arrive in the morning. You might try leaving them with their hay overnight so that they will have already eaten it by the time you arrive to feed them.
It may also be that you are feeding them a bit too much grain or a grain product that is too rich. This can account for unruly behavior.
Goats typically do best with a diet that is about 75-80% roughage (pasture, hay, weeds, shrubs, etc.) and a very small amount of a low sugar grain product.
A standard goat formula is good. Sweet feed is not good. If you are feeding any grain mixture that has molasses added, transition away from it. High sugar content can lead to health problems and unruly behavior.
Backstory: I have a 4-yr old horned Pygmy doe. I got her a young horned ND/Kiko/Saanen wether as a companion. They were fine until the wether began to grow bigger and he would start bullying my doe (head butting) at each & every feeding time (and any time he would think the doe was getting something that he was missing out on).
She’d be able to take care of herself each time & head butt right back. She would, however, acquiesce to the wether. To date I have not seen any injuries on her and it’s been 1-1/2 yrs.
Note: My wether has never reared up or head butted me.
My concern is should I rehome the wether? Should I get a young Pygmy/ND doeling as new buddy for my doe? Problem is the doeling would be disbudded. Would this create a dangerous situation for the doeling? I don’t know if my doe would be aggressive even though she’s been the submissive one in the past.
Anyone’s thoughts? Thank you ☺️
If they are not hurting each other, I think you may be best off leaving matters as they are. Head butting is a natural behavior for goats. Having the doe acquiesce is not necessarily a problem.
No matter what configuration of animals you have, a pecking order will develop and someone will acquiesce. Your doe may very well rise to the top of the pecking order if you replace the wether with a younger, smaller doe, and that may not be a good thing.
In the meantime, your rehomed, dominant wether may have a hard time adjusting to a new situation and could very well end up moving from home to home unsuccessfully. That’s the type of animal that may eventually suffer abuse and/or land in the stew pot.
Hi I googled your article and so I was hoping to get some feedback. I have two female goats that have been raised together since kids they are now five years. One of them have become very aggressive towards two others and will not stop headbutting. The two that she seems to have chosen to head but or her mother and daughter. I had to separate them because the mothers legs were hyperextended through this battle. Every time I attempt to put them back together again the fighting continues. I do not leave them alone for any period of time because I do not know what will happen. I stay in the pen and separate and say no but after about 20 minutes still it does not stop. Female that is causing the problem last couple of months she has also developed a bag just on one side and one Tete like she could milk. I didn’t know if this might have something to do with her hormones?? I’m not sure what to do? It’s crazy they have grown up together and I’ve never had an issue until the last couple months.
Sorry I meant to say the female that is causing the problem towards the other two goats that are mother and daughter. She is not a daughter
Hi there..I have 4 goats around 5-8 months old. One buck, one wether and 2 does. They all came from same breeder. We got the buck and one doe and then 2 weeks later we went back and got the other 2. Buck does headbutt the wether only when eating. Then with the 2 females (one is way smaller), the bigger one headbutts her all the time. I guess I need to separate the girls, but I’ve read that they get depressed when separated. I just want them to all get along. I figured they would since they all came from same place. The buck and wether are together and separate from females. Please advise. Thank you so much!!
I have young children and raise ND goats. The children have always come in to help me with the goats just as they do the chickens.
I purchased a pregnant doe from a friend of mine who was getting out of raising goats. This doe was incredibly temperamental, but I figured it was just from being pregnant in a new setting. My other NDs are all incredibly gentle but that didn’t stop this new doe from acting threatened. She head butt my kids twice while they were in the fenced in area with me.
After she gave birth she calmed down quite a bit. My kids were even allowed to handle her babies while she was there with no issues.
This month though she’s not only become temperamental again but she’s becoming dangerous. Today she was out in the pasture and my middle daughter had gone out there to grab something she had left there. This doe waited for my daughter to turn her back and then rammed her as hard as she could, knocking my daughter completely off her feet.
I don’t know what to do at this point. I feel like I should just get rid of her, but that would mean going to a third farm without her babies, who are both very gentle so I would be keeping. While farm animals aren’t dogs or cats, because I raise mine for dairy exclusively they do become more like pets. My very first goat and her two adult children feel like a part of the family because they are so near and dear to all our hearts.
I like this head butting doe a lot, when she isn’t in one of her moods. Generally speaking she’s a good mother, good milker, and seems to have bonded to me. I just will not tolerate her head butting my children.