Wild Feral Goats have habited the Carsaig, Ross of Mull, for a long time. The origin of the goats is steeped in history, some say they where ‘ship wrecked’ as long ago as the 17th century, but the truth is they are an enigma of Mull. As you can see from the old photograph, they have stood the test of time.
Feral Goats are not native to Britain. They were brought here in Neolithic times (about 5000 BP) as domestic stock, derived from the Bezoar Capra aegagrus, a native of theMiddle East (Lever, 1985; Yalden, 1999). Most British herds are thought to be the descendents of domesticated stock that was allowed to go feral when sheep replaced goats as the favoured stock of upland farmers during the Middle Ages. The Feral Goats of theCheviot Hills in Northumberland are thought to be some of the best examples of this primitive type of goat (S. Goodyer, British Feral Goat Research Group, pers. comm., 2005). Their appearance suggests little evidence of cross breeding with modern domestic goats which are bred for increased milk and meat yields and finer quality coats. Primitive British Feral Goats are relatively small, have ears which stand upright, horns in both sexes, and lack the toggles found on the face of modern dairy goats. Coats are long, coarse and shaggy. Colour varies from mostly dark brown to light grey with white patches. Each animal has different, characteristic markings on its body and face that make it relatively easy to identify individuals. Annual growth rings on the horns can be used to age the goat.
Feral Goats are well established in a number of locations inBritain and Ireland. “Wild” populations are found mainly in hilly areas: the Burren in the west of Ireland, Snowdonia inWales, Lynton in Devon, some of the Scottish Western Isles including Jura, Mull and Rum, the north of mainland Scotland, the Southern Uplands and Dumfries andGalloway, and the herds that straddle the Scottish/English Border including Northumberland. In addition to the “wild” populations there are several small actively-managed herds which have been established relatively recently for conservation grazing purposes such as at Cheddar Gorge andWindsorGreatPark. The Forestry Commission established a WildGoatPark at Craigdews in Dumfries andGallowayas a visitor attraction. There are thought to be between 5,000 and 10,000 Feral Goats spread amongst 45 populations in theUK (Smith, 2005). This number will continue to change through time as populations are managed with some conserved, others removed and new ones created.
On Mull the Goats, come down from the hills to feed on Sea Weed at Carsaig as shown here in this excellent video
Video produced by isleofmullcottages