Capra hircus

Threats Status

Unwanted Organism

Common Name(s)





Feral goats occur on a wide range of habitats, from moorland on subantarctic Auckland Island to tropical forest on Raoul Island. They prefer rocky substrate in forest or scrub-covered upland and will favour sunny rather than shady hill faces. In New Zealand studies have shown they inhabit forest vegetation (including mahoe and Griselinia as well as totara and matai) and grass/scrublands doinated by browntop. In bad weather or at night goats often seek shelter under rocky outcrops or other sheltered places to stay dry. Goats are herbivorous browsers with strong dietary preferences. A large proportion of their diet is made out if Melicytus ramiflorus and Griselinia littoralis, but also Asplenium bulbiferum, Brachyglottis repanda, Griselinia lucida, Melicytus ramiflorus and Ripogonum scandens.


Goats have a variable coloration, but are mostly black or brown. They can also be multi-colored and patterned. A goats horns are dimorphic, having homonymous spiral and anterior keel. Male goats are bearded and have a strong smell during the breeding season. Goats have a well-developed herding instinct and prefer to be in groups of 2 or more.

Similar Species

In New Zealand Goats might be confused with Rupicapra rupicapra rupicapra (Chamois) or Himalayan tahr (Hermitragus jemlahicus)

Threat To Plants

The total NZ goat population is believed to be in the order of several hundred thousand animals occupying large areas of conservation land. C. hircus is a ruminant and eats grasses and shrubs. That means the main impact of goats on plant life is overgrazing affecting the species composition and biomass of understory vegetation. Secondary impacts can also occur such as erosion of overgrazed hillsides. Goats can also introduce weeds through seeds carried in their dung.


Widespread throughout New Zealand with 50% of this land managed as conservation land.


Acromial height: 660mm (female), 700mm (male)

Year Introduced


Reason For Introduction

Goats were first liberated as a food source (and a potential food source for people marooned by shipwrecks) and to clear weeds. They are known to have been released on Arapawa Island in 1777 by Captain Cook. Later they were introduced to provide fibre for commercial industries.

Colonisation History

First introduced to New Zealand by James Cook in 1773 and 1777, but it is uncertain if they produced any feral progeny. During the 19th century goats were widely liberated on the two main and also many offshore islands. In the 1880s Angora goats were introduced for the local fibre industry by the acclimatisation societies. More recently, in the 1980s many feral herd populations established as goat farming operations collapsed and farmers released their animals. However, escapes from domestic herds in contrast to planned releases have always been the main course of colonisation on both main islands.