With over 200 breeds of domestic goat around the world, it’s hard to imagine that they all came from one type of animal: the wild bezoar ibex. But goats became some of the first domesticated animals when they adapted from this wiry, spry animal about 11,000 years ago.
Domestication is the process of adapting wild plants and animals for human use. The bezoar was kept in small herds by Neolithic farmers in western Asia for its milk, meat, hair (for clothing and building) and dung (for fuel). As farming began to emerge during this time, the domestication of livestock marked a critical point in agricultural history.
Archaeological data suggests that there two distinct places where goats were domesticated: the Euphrates river valley at Nevali Çori, Turkey and the Zagros Mountains of Iran at Ganj Dareh. Another possible domestication site is the Indus Basin in Pakistan.
As goats began to adapt into the animals that we know today, their wild counterparts decreased in population. While the exact cause for this decline isn’t known, it is speculated that the loss was due to competition with domestic animals, increased hunting or habitat loss. And while domestic goats are plentiful today, the bezoar is now only found in limited numbers as the pasang or kri-kri in west Asia.
For thousands of years now, goats have been utilized all around the world and just in the past century, they have gained some popularity as pets. Today’s domestic goats—such as the ones we house in the Petting Zone in Paws On—come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. To think that it all stemmed from the domestication of the wild bezoar—how neat!