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The Independent Voice of
Central West Queensland since 1923
Central West Queensland

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22 September, 2021

A Step Back In Time: domestic goats

The volunteers of the Longreach Archival And Historical Research Group Inc. have used all reasonable endeavours to ensure this information is as accurate as possible. It gives no warranty or guarantee that the information is accurate, complete, current, or fit for any use whatsoever. If you believe any of the information may be inaccurate, please let us know.

By Longreach Archival and Historical Research Group

Ready for the goat race at sports day, Longreach PHOTO: Supplied

IT IS documented in the history of the arrival of the first fleet in Australia that domestic goats were among the cargo. 

They provided meat and milk for the journey. The usefulness of the humble goat soon became apparent. 

Each time a new settlement was established, goats were taken along.  This was most definitely the case when the brave and adventurous folk first made their way to western Queensland.  

Most, if not all households in Longreach, had at least two or more nannies (female goats) for milk.  It was the same for all towns along the route west from Rockhampton. 

In Longreach, the majority of goats were white. 

The goat yards in each household’s back yard were made of old corrugated iron water tanks cut in half length ways and mounted on gidgee posts. There are still some goat yards in backyards today. 

When the morning milking was done, the nannies and kids were set free in the lanes. 

The town had specific areas on the Town Common where the goats went to graze. 

Once freed, the goats wandered to the end of their lane and when the latecomers arrived, they meandered to the Town Common. 

The north side mob went up the Muttaburra Road, the western end mob toward the river, and the southern mob towards the Gin Creek. 

People would say the mobs of goats reminded them of a huge cloud floating across the ground. 

The Council owned several male goats, known as stinkers, which were let run with the nannies (for obvious reasons). 

At about 4pm each day, the mobs wandered back to town, each group cleverly finding the correct lane to go into, and then which gate led into their own yard. 

The kids were locked away from their mothers to allow a buildup of milk for the next day’s morning milking.   

Most goats were easy to milk and gave beautiful, rich milk, which proved an excellent relief for children who had eczema from cow’s milk. 

Some people used the young males for meat, which tasted like mutton, and the hides made great mats.  

It is acknowledged that goats were a nuisance in many ways. 

They could and would eat anything, except salt bush hedge. 

When cars first began to make their appearance, the hood was made of strong canvas but it was not strong enough to withstand the weight of one or more goats. 

During summer, in an endeavor to lessen the heat in the vehicle, it would be parked under whatever trees were available. 

When the goats were after a tasty feed of foliage, the parked cars provided the goats with easy access to the higher branches. 

If the groceries, especially bread, had been left in the car, that provided more temptation for the goats. 

As well as damaging the canvas hoods, the goat’s hooves – which are extremely hard – scratched the paintwork on the journey up to the hood.   

Goats do not like rain and would shelter under buildings or on verandahs. Goats have been known to chew and rip off advertising signs from sandwich boards. 

It is reported that goats ate a portion of the Salvation Army’s plane as well as documents at the Court House. 

When what is now known as the ‘old bridge’ was under construction, the engineer forgot to securely fasten the door of the hut where the plans were housed. 

When the workmen arrived for work the next day, the plans were gone… eaten by goats.  

Billy goat carts were a feature of the early days. Boys made these from sturdy wooden boxes.  The harnesses were made from leather scrounged from a friendly saddler. 

The boys brought in huge loads of firewood and water. Goats were also a feature of sports days and it was considered prestigious to own the best goat. 

There were goat races where boys would ride on the backs of the goats with small bits and bridles.  There were also hurdle races. 

Goats were even used by youngsters for polo.  Goats were – and still are – wonderful pets.  

Goats were a big part of life in Longreach right up until the 1950s, but when the continuous and guaranteed supply of bottled and carton milk became available, the backyard goats gradually met their demise. 

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