Have you ever seen those little nubs of skin below the chin of many goat breeds? These are called wattles, and while no one can entirely understand what wattles are for from an evolutionary perspective, they’re often part of what gives goats such wonderful charm. But what are wattles, and which goat breeds have wattles?
Certain breeds such as Boers, for example, do not have wattles at all unless crossbred with another breed that does – so, how do these curious little things work? We’ll be considering all of this and more today to help you understand a little more about wattles – a complete evolutionary mystery!
What Goat Breeds Have Wattles?
Before we go any further, we should first start by considering which goat breeds have wattles. As a general rule of thumb, most dairy goats and dairy-cross goats will have wattles. Pygmies and pet breeds also often have wattles; many myotonic goats also have wattles. However, wattles are typically less common on meat and feral goats, including Kikos, Boers, and Savannahs; wattles on these animals are usually a genetic mutation or the result of crossbreeding.
Since goat wattles are a dominant trait, this means that if your goat has wattles and breeds with another goat with wattles, most likely, the resulting kid will have wattles. Even if you breed a goat with wattles to a wattle-less goat, you could still see wattles on the kid due to this inheritance pattern.
Wattles are present on both male and female goats. A homozygous goat for wattles should always pass wattles onto its kids, although they may not if a genetic mutation occurs.
Some breeders refer to wattles as “toggles.” Either term is generally accepted as accurate, although if breeding pedigree animals, you should check the breed standard for your chosen breed to determine the correct terminology.
What are Wattles on Goats?
Wattles on goats are a small skin growth just below the animal’s chin, comprising of skin, fat, and blood vessels. Wattles are usually found just behind the beard and can be either singular or double, although double wattles are most common in most goats.
Wattles can also appear on other species, often resulting from sexual dimorphism; however, in goats, wattles occur on males and females and are roughly comparable in both sexes.
One Wattle or Two?
Most goats with wattles will have two; however, goats can also have one wattle or none at all. When two goats without wattles are paired, the resulting offspring should not have wattles (unless due to a genetic mutation occurring during development). However, goats with one wattle are often rarer than goats with two wattles.
Fortunately, the dominant nature of wattles makes breeding wattles (or breeding without them) on goats pretty easy. Still, it’s not really a trait breeders select for specifically, as we’ll mention in the next section.
What Purpose do Goat Wattles Serve?
The purpose of goat wattles is largely unknown, and the general consensus at present is that goat wattles are mainly an evolutionary relic for a gland that no longer exists in modern goats – in much the same way as to why we still have a tailbone, despite having no tail.
However, wattles could allow for marginally more heat exchange in some animals, although this is unlikely to be overly significant except in especially hot regions, where every additional cm2 of skin surface area is vital. As such, goats without wattles (in most climates) are unlikely to struggle with the temperature more than goats with wattles.
Due to their lack of function, most goat breeders don’t focus on wattles significantly. However, breed standards for certain goat breeds – such as the Boer – determine that the animals should have a clean appearance without wattles.
Supporting Information and References
If you’d like to learn more about wattles on goats, their purpose (or lack thereof), and whether you can remove wattles from goats, you could consider the following resources. Remember: if you’re planning to learn more about wattles, or if you’ve considered removing wattles from your goats, you should always consult with your vet first to ensure this won’t harm the goat.
There’s something delightfully cute about wattles in goats, and they’re common in the vast majority of goat breeds and crosses. However, not all goat breeds have wattles, and these curious appendages’ scientific purpose is still not entirely known. Still, if you ask us, they look cute – aren’t all goats? – and they certainly add a little more character to goats that have them. Meanwhile, for breeds that do not have wattles – such as the Boer – the clean-cut look is definitely something to respect.
A passionate owner and breeder of Boer Goats, Charlotte is ensconced in daily goat farm life at Himmon Boer Goats in the UK. A member of the British Boer Goat Society, she spends her spare time also involved with goats. You could say, and she would admit, she is somewhat obsessed!