I doubt this article is true of Shetland. I have seen mention of the possible presence of goats in the Iron Age, but nothing in histories, natural histories or agricultural writings. Andrew O'Dell wrote in 1939 that goats were almost totally absent except for 2 that were a gift to a crofter. Given the custom of earmarking livestock, it doesn't seem possible that "wild" goats would tolerated.
Morula 23:10, 26 March 2012 (MDT)
- Would tend to agree with Morula, while there may have been goats in Shetland if you go back far enough, they seem to have been an unknown and largely unwelcome species for centuries. Certainly once the Scots Lairds regime became the norm and the population increased, sheep and cattle seem to have been viewed as the far more productive, suitable and valuable species. "Wild" species during the same period seem to have been mostly considered pests, or vermin and actively eradicated. Certainly some of the more "wild" Shetland sheep, from a distance (which was as close as a casual observer could have hoped to have seen them, unless they attended when they'd been gathered and penned), could easily have been mistaken for a goat by their behaviours. Perhaps this is what an observer has seen and made a mistaken assumption?
- Ghostrider 07:01, 27 March 2012 (MDT)
Wild goats seem to have been very common in the British Isles a century or two back. The only two places that I ever hear of them these days are parts of North Wales, and Galloway. But yes, primitive sheep and goats, are pretty much the same in appearance, which is why Jesus goes on about separating sheep and goats in his parables.--Pett 10:46, 29 March 2012 (MDT)
- Pett, I really think this article is in error. I would like to see it deleted.Morula 12:38, 31 March 2012 (MDT)
Agreed, there is no mention in folklore of goats and, had they been present, they would certainly have got a mention somewhere.
Heimdal 17:54, 31 March 2012 (MDT)
I haven't been able to find any other references to goats in Shetland, and I agree it does seem dubious. But surely someone must keep goats on Shetland these days? (Probably English.)--Pett 10:56, 5 April 2012 (MDT)
- A number of folk (both natives and transplants) have had a goat or goats in more recent years, but to my knowledge its tended to be just one or two, and for a very limited time. The overall Shetland population at any one given time would be miniscule. As far as I've been aware none who've had them ever considered or used them as a seriously commercial species. At best they were utilised as a short term milk supply, but for the most part they were basically pets, and it would be an arguable point that as a species their presence in Shetland were anything more than imported pets of the last 40-50 years.
- Quite possibly someone somewhere Shetland in the more recent past may have attempted to establish a commercial flock, as I obviously am not familiar with what livestock is everywhere, but if they have its never become common knowledge. So unless someone else knows otherwise?
- Ghostrider 14:10, 5 April 2012 (MDT)
- The best thing about goats is that they'll eat just about anything, which is why I'm amazed they're not more common in Shetland, as they can be kept on very rough ground and live off weeds. They're hardier than a lot of sheep, and brighter too (although that's not hard)--Pett 08:26, 8 April 2012 (MDT)
I would guess the lack of favour for goats stemmed from practicalities and necessity. The cow was of vital importance, an average Shetland cow could produce enough milk to feed her own calf, and significantly help feed a household, a grice and their dog(s) and cat(s), they also through their calf or themselves at the end of their useful life provided a quantity of meat for food for both human and animal, plus their hides were used to make rivlins etc. Cows and weaned calves were also a valuable cash crop for any that were in excess of a crofter's necessity to use personally. Sheep had wool, which was a vital commodity for both personal use, and raising cash, and they were also a significant food source. Goats would have produced an amount of milk from very little, but it would have taken several to equal the output of one cow, they had no wool and I don't know the worth of their hides as an alternative to leather, nor have goats seemed to have much popularity when it comes to the eating of their flesh.
Maintaining boundaries stockproof for goats would have been a nightmare if not nigh on impossible. Most boundaries before the 20th C. were drystone dykes, and almost without exception those are a playgrond for a goat, not an insurmountable obstacle. Keeping some of the more adventurous sheep secured with them was difficult enough, and a goat is a much better climber and jumper than any sheep. A fence, which was only within the financial grasp of Lairds in that time of life, or being tethered would have been the only way to control them, all year round when they weren't indoors. At least horses, cattle, sheep, swine and geese could all be let loose in the open hill when conditions allowed, leaving more time for other croft work to be attended to.
These days, where most have the option of choosing what livestock they'd like to keep rather than having to keepwhat they needed to survive and of fences aplenty there's no real impediment to anyone keeping a flock of goats if they felt like it, but I've never come across anyone with that interest.
Ghostrider 11:25, 8 April 2012 (MDT)
I'm in agreement with the historic scarcity (or lack of) of goats in Shetland - i've not been able to find any details in any of the historic literature I have access too. However, there is currently a small flock of about 10 at Swinister in Sandwick (South Mainland), with at least 4 kids born to them this year - they are quite amusing jumping up & down & running around.
--Kozetland1 13:20, 8 April 2012 (MDT)
Some more info from A.C. O’Dell, The Historical Geography of the Shetland Islands, Lerwick 1939, p.101:
- ‘Those who are accustomed to the agricultural economics of such areas as Germany express surprise on observing the almost total absence of goats in Shetland. The argument that the goat gives a supply of cheap milk on a relatively small fodder requirement is of course invalid in the islands where there is sufficient pasture to let each crofter keep a cow. The only two goats I have seen in the county were given to the croft in return for hospitality and, though the new owners would not willingly admit it, they were more nuisance than they were worth. As was remarked to me, the crofter knows how to handle cows, they “are used to it”; they do not know how to deal with goats.
EM 04:42, 11 April 2012 (MDT)
- The last sentence is probably the best explanation I've heard. I actually think goats would have been more efficient than cows in a lot of places, but people were simply more used to cattle. This quote should probably appear in the article.--Pett 12:44, 12 April 2012 (MDT)