Goat or Sheep – Which Is It?

George carries Bucky, a katahdin lamb, on his shoulders

Goat or Sheep – Which Is It?

A few days ago I saw this video on Facebook


As is the case with most things on the internet there were people wanting to argue that the animal in the video is a goat. I can understand why they might think that. After all, sheep are woolly and goats have hair, right? There are different types of cattle, sheep, and goats. Not all cattle are good milkers, not all goats produce milk. There are even goats that aren’t prized for milk or even necessarily meat.

Hair Sheep

It takes time to learn about the different types, especially hair sheep. We even mixed up our ram, Bucky, with being a goat kid, when he was rescued by Commando, our guardian dog, until we saw his tail. They do have some similarities, and if you’re expecting goat kids then if a hair lamb shows up on your doorstep, you may not realize that what you have is a lamb and not a goat kid initially. Especially, if you don’t currently raise sheep.

Straight Hair Lamb
Bucky as a lamb.

So, how do you tell sheep apart from goats? The main thing I look at is the tail. How long is it? Does it stand up or does it flop?

Sheep have floppy tails that are often docked or cut short. They are all born with long tails. Wool sheep will likely have a short floppy tail because wool catches poop and it can cause health problems. So, they often dock the tails of young lambs.
Hair sheep on the other hand, while looking the closest to a goat, are kept with their tails long. Their tails come past their hocks. Note the docked tail on the back end of the ewe in the below picture and the long tails of her babies.

Shetland Sheep which are kept for wool

The following link has a diagram that illustrates the hocks on a sheep. Sheep Diagram

Wait … What’s the Difference?

Goats on the other hand, regardless of the breed, have short perky triangular tails.  Take a look at this picture which has both one of our up and coming dairy does, and our hair sheep ram Bucky.

Goat or sheep? Can you tell the difference?


Notice the perky little tail on these goat hind ends, and the long hanging tail on the ram. Sheep tails always droop. They never get lifted up as high as a goat tail. Goats only droop their tails as a general rule if they don’t feel well, and then it’s clamped, not really drooped.


Hopefully, this will help you in identifying if you’re dealing with a sheep or a goat if you have absolutely no experience with dealing with either animal.


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