Do Female Goats Have Horns? Answering This Question In Detail

When we think of horned animals, we typically think of the males of the species. However, this topic can be a little bit harder to work out when it comes to goats since many people assume that female goats shouldn’t have horns – much like deer. However, the answer to this question is relatively simple. As such, today, we’re looking at the key question: do female goats have horns? Hopefully, this will help you understand a little more about how horns work with goats, what goats use their horns for, and the like.

Do All Female Goats Have Horns?

Naturally, almost all female goats have horns, since horns are not an exclusively male trait in goats. As such, as they grow older, the vast majority of female goats (if not interfered with, that is) will grow horns. However, horns on female goats are usually much smaller, finer, and less impressive than horns on male goats. In male goats (bucks or billies), large horns are used for several purposes, but they are primarily used for display tools and can be used during fights for mating rights. 

Do Only Certain Breeds Have Horns on Female Goats?

All goat breeds have horns on male and female goats alike, naturally. While there is an exception for goats with the polled gene (we’ll get into that a little later), all goat breeds and goats of both genders have horns. However, there is a massive variation between different goat breeds and horn structures.

For example, cashmere goats and kiko goats often have very wide, wild-looking horns (that will definitely take an eye out if you get to close – be careful!) Contrastingly, breeds such as the Boer goat usually have smaller, more well-kept horns that help make them easier to handle when their horns are left on.

Why Do I Keep Seeing Goats That Don’t Have Horns? 

At this point, you’re probably wondering: if all female goats naturally have horns, how come so many dairy goats don’t seem to grow horns as they grow up? Well, in most cases, the reason behind this is simple: the horns are removed shortly after the goat is born.

This process is called “disbudding” or “dehorning.” It is a somewhat uncomfortable process, but it can be important for a number of reasons, which is why many breeders and goatkeepers choose to have their goats’ horns removed. 

The two main methods used to disbud goat kids are using a hot disbudding iron or caustic disbudding paste. We must point out here that you must always check the specific regulations and rules in your chosen country, as not all products are legal in all countries; for example, in the United Kingdom, disbudding goat kids must be done with a hot iron by a vet.

During the hot iron process, the horn buds are burnt off (don’t worry – the area is anesthetized!), which theoretically prevents the horns from growing. This must be done very quickly after birth, as it may not work if the horn has already started to grow.

Alternatively, some people use a caustic paste to burn off the horn buds. This is simply applied to the horn and has the same function of burning it off; however, it’s vital to be careful during application to prevent injuries. After all, the clue’s in the name: it’s caustic.

Do Goats Need to be Disbudded? 

Whether goats need to be disbudded often comes down to personal choice. For example, for me, I never disbud any of my goats. I just prefer them to have horns. However, other breeders may prefer to disbud, especially for dairy goats where you’re often up much closer and personal with the goat – so the risk of injury is greater. 

In the end, it really comes down to personal choice. However, if you do choose to disbud your goat’s horns, you must ensure the procedure is carried out by a trained professional to ensure it doesn’t hurt the goat.

What About Naturally Polled Goats Without Horns? 

There are actually a handful of goats that are born without the ability to grow horns. These are called polled goats, and the polled gene is dominant – meaning that a goat with the polled gene will always be polled. However, since it is an incredibly rare gene, it’s much more common for the polled gene to occur as a genetic mutation. 

And there’s an issue here: the polled gene in goats is very closely linked to the recessive gene for hermaphroditism. As such, when a goat is born polled, it is believed to have a greater chance of being infertile and unable to pass on its polled genes to the next generation. 

As such, if you have a young goat that does not have its horns, the chances are much higher that it has simply had its horns removed at a young age and has since healed rather than being naturally polled. But, if you’ve owned the goat since birth and it does not ever grow horns, it may actually be a rare polled goat!

Final Thoughts

When we think about goats, the first thought that usually comes to mind is a nanny dairy goat – and these usually don’t have horns! Thus, many wrongly assume that female goats do not always have horns. However, this is something of a generalization. Indeed, while many female goats can have their horns removed, in reality, most modern goats are actually naturally horned animals. A very small number of polled goats exist, which means a mutation in their genetics prevents them from having horns. However, these polled goats are pretty rare, for the most part, and they are widely believed to be infertile (or have very low fertility).

In summary, the question “do female goats have horns” is somewhat misleading. Yes, the vast majority of female goats are born with the ability to grow horns. However, most have their horns removed at birth to prevent them from hurting each other or their owner. As such, if you’re looking for a goat that doesn’t have horns, you may want to consider approaching a breeder who regularly disbuds their goat kids.

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