Now when you hear of goat carts, you are likely one of two groups of people. Either those who had no clue that such a thing exists and may be thinking this whole article is a joke or someone who has grown up with stories of an ancestor driving their goat to school every day up hills both ways in a blizzard (in a cart, not a car).
Photos of people driving goat carts or posing in one abound all over the internet if you look, we are not joking (aside from possibly the uphill in the blizzard bit). This isn’t just how the cool kid used to go to school though. Goat carts go back quite a bit, and the more we learn about them the cooler they become. What’s even better? With time and the right equipment, you could become a goat cart driver too!
- 1 History of Goat Carts
- 2 What is the Goat for the Job?
- 3 What Sort of Cart do you Need?
- 4 How to Build a Cart?
- 5 Carts for Sale
- 6 Harness
- 7 How to train your goat
History of Goat Carts
Uses in ancient times
The first record of goats being used to pull carts is a pendant depicting a goat-drawn chariot found on Crete 4,000 years ago. A little over 3,000 years ago the Prose Edda depicts Thor, the mighty god of thunder riding in a chariot being driven by two immortal goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr. The goat cart is no new or novel idea, and has taken many forms and has been used for many purposes over time.
Goats were often used as the best way to transport produce and other goods to market on small farms that couldn’t afford larger draft animals. The most famous and well-documented of these are the German goat carts of the 20th century, but they had come from a tradition that had spanned hundreds of years.
More around the 20th century
During the same time in other regions, goat carts were the peak of fashion. Posh men in suits driving their matching teams of angora goats through New York City. “Goat cart men” would travel to cities such as San Francisco to charge for taking pics of children in their goat cart. Photos capture a goat carriage used in King George the Vth’s wedding in Saint Jame’s Place.
Goat carts were very popular especially in the victorian era and kept being popular, especially as a cart for children to drive up until the mid-1900s when cars became popular enough to replace animal-drawn vehicles. An interesting thing is that several popular car manufacturers today started by creating goat carts.
Even today the goat carts are not a thing of the past, although they are far more reduced in numbers. They are still popular in Amish societies around the world. They are still used as a hobby. There is even a Harness Goat Society that governs goat carting shows.
What is the Goat for the Job?
Now, just as all goats are not created equally in milk, meat, or mohair production, not all goats are created equal as far as carting is concerned either. While any breed of goat can be used to pull a cart, an obedient and less clingy personality is important (I once tried to train a goat who only wanted to stand next to me and would not drive in front of me, which only works if I was going to be leading her with the cart).
What gender of goat to use
Buck: As far as gender goes, once again any goat can work. With this in mind, buck, or intact male goats, although being the strongest goats are usually unruly, less likely to respond to direction as well, have a very pungent odor, and are often barred from goat shows, so they are often discouraged.
Doe: Does also can be used, but if bred cannot be used to cart while pregnant and many harnesses have an under-strap that would interfere with and possibly injure an under while she is milking, plus many milk does put most of their energy into creating milk, so usually non-breeding does are used for pulling carts if a doe is used.
Whether: Because of the complications with using breeding animals for carting, whether, or castrated male goats are by far the most popular steed to use for carting. These are usually bigger and stronger than does, being males, have none of the hormonal-based issues you may have trying the drive a buck or doe, and have no breeding related restrictions, and are allowed any place that goats are allowed. In many ways, they are considered the ideal cart goat.
Size of goat / weight: Please note that goats should not pull more than half again its body weight, including the weight of the driver and cart. Because of this, large breed whethers are usually recommended. In America, these are usually Nubians, Sannans, large Alpines, well-behaved Boers, and various crossbreeds. In other areas of the world, other breeds are made available as well. With this in mind, depending on the weight the goat needs to pull and the number of goats you will have in harness at the same time almost any goat can be used, even miniature goats. Whether your cart with one giant whether or a whole team of miniature goats you are still almost guaranteed to be a head-turner.
What Sort of Cart do you Need?
In the history part of this article, it has mentioned several different types of goat carts for different purposes, from chariots to produce carts to carriages. The biggest thing you need to consider with all of these is the weight of the cart. Whether it is a small two-wheel cart for one goat or a 4 wheeled miniature of a horse cart or carriage it still needs to be very lightweight for the goat/ goats you wish to use to be able to pull it with whatever driver and cargo you wish to have them pull.
Most of the carts used in the goat cart hobby are two-wheeled buggies made specifically for goats, dogs, or miniature horses, so these are what I will be focussing on for the purpose of this article, but 4 wheeled carts are not unusable for goats but will be understandably heavier.
How to Build a Cart?
There are many ways to build a goat cart with many different styles and materials to choose from, but there are not many plans readily out there to find. A wooden construction would probably be easier to make, although heavier for your goat, but I could not find any step-by-step instructions other than “Build a cart out of 2X4s and bicycle tires.”
The instructions linked below require a lot more shop experience, but is a lightweight metal construction that will allow you to do more with your goat cart, have a cart that will let longer, and look more professional. To make this cart you will need 20-inch bike tires, 1/2 and 3/4 inch electrical conduit for the materials, and a bender and welder to work them with.
You can find step-by-step instructions here.
Carts for Sale
Even though I love being a do-it-yourself, the instructions above are a bit too high caliber for me to feel comfortable trying out, especially with the comfort of my goats in mind, so I am more inclined to just go the buy it online route. There are also a lot of people with small amounts of handmade goat carts often to be found depending on when you are looking for one.
Llama Products Dog / Goat Cart:
For $795 you can get a miniature cart from Llama products. It has a 46-inch seat for carrying 2 adults. It is rated for carrying up to 500 pounds, but keep in mind that with one goat pulling it the goat would need to be at least 332 pounds (That’s a big goat!). But don’t worry. The shafts are removable to be able to attach a tongue for multiple goats to b hitched to it! (Tongue not included)
ECONOMY MINI PONY-TEAM CART
Made for miniature horses in mind this is a lightweight 2 wheeled cart for $815. It comes with optional vinyl seat color, stain color, break type, and tongue design.
Amish Old Fashioned Goat Cart
For those who would like to have their goats haul items for them instead of the people only crafts, this cart is there for you for $666. It is a deep-bodied 4 wheeled cart with a multi harness tongue for being able to move large amounts of whatever you want to move, produce, children, hay, you make your pick. On the subject of picking you can pick between a multitude of options.
As you may have noticed, many carts do not come with their own harness, and this is an item that can make it or break it as far as the comfort effectiveness of your goat trying to pull. The biggest thing with them is how the harness fits your goat and the proper padding/ weight distribution so it rests naturally and does not hurt your goat. Checking for the proper construction and either exact sizing of your goat and perspective harness and or adjustability is key, especially if you want to be able to use it for multiple goats.
A good harness will have a wide, heavily padded breast piece that runs along the goat’s chest high enough to not limit leg/ shoulder motion, but low enough to not choke the goat. This is where most of the weight of the cart will be placed, so this is key.
You also want at least one, if not two cinches along the body of the goat to prevent the harness and the weight associated with it from twisting or getting off-center. The side straps of the harness also need to be level at each attachment point when placed on the goat to prevent it from rolling and pinching your goat.
Another thing to keep in mind is are you using shafts or tongue for your cart and find a harness that will attach your cart accordingly.
How to train your goat
Training your goat starts young. Make sure that you have a well-socialized goat that leads and works with people well and is comfortable with being touched everywhere (If the goat spins or bucks if you touch its hips just imagine putting it in harness attached to a cart before that get worked on). Once basic acclimatization is done then, it is time to grow your goat and get your equipment, and then the real fun can start!
- Start off slow, letting the goat see and smell the cart and equipment. It is often best to let the goat approach them on their own terms at first as they are prey animals and being forced towards them or being held while the stuff is brought to them will elicit a flight response in them.
- After this is done, slowly put the harness on your goat and tighten the straps on the goat as it is comfortable. A key thing is to not make this first introduction to something new a traumatic experience to the goat. Give treats throughout this process to help the goat associate this with happy thoughts to help him be more eager to see the harness next time.
- Start taking your goat on walks with the harness to help him get used to it. After this is done start intermittently pulling on the harness to help prepare the goat to the sensation of pulling things with it. Make sure you do not twist the harness and pinch the goat while doing so. At about this time begin using the reins and use the verbal commands you want to use when he starts, stops, and turns left and right so the goat can start associating those terms.
- When you want him to stop, say “Whoa” or “Stop.” Pull the reins if your goat doesn’t stop. Say “Go” or “Walk” when you want him to go and “Left” to go left and “Right” to go right. Practice these commands every day for a week or so, rewarding your goat when he complies, until he gets it.
- Before you start with a real cart, you need to simulate a cart in a safer way. Attach a travois to the harness and take your goat through the commands. To make a travois, get two long poles and a shorter pole and lash them together into a triangular shape. Practice with a travois for a week or so before attaching your goat to a cart or wagon.
- Make sure your goat is still acclimatized to your cart, or acclimatize him to it if you have just gotten your cart. Let him approach it on his own terms and smell it all over. Once he is comfortable with the cart attack his harness to it and first walk beside the cart for a bit till you know how he will react. Once he is calm and listening to you to complete your commands with the cart stop your goat, get in and go. Enjoy!