Goats and rams are two different animals that are commonly misunderstood for being the same. There are a lot of differences between the two and most of them can easily be identified too. These differences are not just limited to their morphological characters, rather there are a lot of differences in their anatomy too. Yet most people, especially the ones living in bustling cities who know less about farm animals tend to consider goats and rams to be the same.
So, what are the differences between a goat and a ram? Ram is basically a male sheep and is different from a goat. Ram(male sheep) and goats belong to two different families. The most notable difference between the two lies in their fur and shape of their horns. While sheep grow thick woolly coats, goats have a less thickened coating. Similarly, rams can also be easily identified by their iconic long and curved horns and split hooves.
The difference between the two is not limited to their fur or their hooves. Rather there are many notable differences in the shape and size of their body, shape of their tail, foraging behaviors, dietary pattern, and many more.
In this article, we will have an in-depth look into the similarities and differences between a ram and a goat.
More about rams and goats
As said earlier, Ram is nothing but a male sheep in a flock. It is just that most people don’t use the name Ram rather they simply call them a male sheep or simply a sheep.
The distinctive feature of a ram that sets it apart from the female sheep (ewe) and goats is their horn. Rams have a longer horn than goats that are curved backward from their head.
Apart from this, rams show sexual dimorphism owing to which rams are big. An adult ram can weigh anywhere between 120 to 180kg depending on the species.
Goats are the animals belonging to the Capra Aegagrus species. Along with sheep, goats were the first mammals to be domesticated by humans.
Being a good source of milk, meat, and fibers, goats have been long preferred over sheep when it came to domestication.
Compared to rams’ goats are smaller and are less heavy. Apart from this, goats also have a longer lifespan than sheep.
Now that you have a brief idea about goats and ram, let us have a look at the differences between the two.
Differences between a ram and a goat
In this section, we will have a look at the differences between a goat and a ram based on their morphological features and behavior.
In general, sheep are larger than goats, so are rams. An adult ram, in general, can grow up to 6ft in length and weigh anywhere between 120 to 180kg depending on the species.
In contrast, goats are considerably smaller and lighter than the rams.
Though goat tends to have the same length as that of the rams, they are lighter. Among the 210 identified species of goat in the wild and captivity, the heaviest one, the Anglo-Nubian goat, weighed only 113 kg.
Apart from the actual length and weight, sheep generally look bulkier than goats due to the thick woolly fur that they grow.
Though both goats and rams show sexual dimorphism, the size difference between the two remains the same. For instance, make rams are always larger and bulkier than male goats (irrespective of whether they are domesticated goats or wild goats).
Not just the body, there are start differences between the size and shape of their horns too. The horns of the rams are generally larger and heavier than that of goats. For instance, the horn of a ram can weigh around 14kg.
Though both the sheep and goats are herbivorous & ruminant mammals, their mode of foraging greatly differs. If you have seen how a goat forages, you might have seen that they are choosy animals when it comes to the food they eat.
Goats are naturally attracted to nutritious plants, and they don’t simply eat whatever plants they can find. Due to this, goats forage for a longer duration, and it has earned them the name ‘browsers’.
This isn’t the case with sheep. Sheep tend to walk around their foraging ground, eating almost every small grass and plants that are close to the land.
Unlike goats, sheep don’t spend more time investigating their surroundings. They are less inquisitive than goats and are called grazers.
As said in the previous section, goats are choosy animals when it comes to the food that they eat and are called browsers. Goats have this innate sense of inquisitiveness and curiosity.
Goats tend to be curious to explore their surroundings and anything new they encounter while foraging. This is a double-edged sword as their curiosity lands them in trouble.
Another exciting thing about goats is that they are social animals and tend to enjoy the company of other goats. But that doesn’t mean that they show flocking instinct or get agitated when separated from their herd.
Unlike goats, sheep are not curious or interested, and they show a high degree of flocking instinct. If they were to get separated from their flock, they would get agitated. But that doesn’t mean that sheep are stupid or defenseless.
Instead, they are extremely intelligent species who have impressive memory and recognition skill. It is just that sheep know they have a better chance of survival if they were to stick together.
Sheep are animals that are known for their wool, whereas goats are not. The thickness of the fur is one of the common differences between a sheep and a goat. Most sheep require combing and shearing of their wool once a year to keep them safe.
It is important to note that the long years of domestication have led the sheep to lose their natural ability to molt. It is important that the wool is sheared off the sheep once in a year.
If not done on time, there are high chances of the sheep succumbing to extreme heat, or they risk chances of parasitic skin infections. Excessive wool on their body can even impede their movement, and eventually, the sheep would die of starvation.
This isn’t the case with goats, who don’t grow thick fur like the sheep.
Both rams and goats are animals with horns, but the difference between the two lies in their shape.
Rams have big horns that are curled backward and are of no use as a mode of defense. It is interesting to note that the horns of rams are heavier than what they appear to be. An adult ram can have horns that can weigh almost up to 14kg.
Rams start growing horns within a few days after birth continues to grow it throughout their lifetime.
Unlike rams, goats have much narrower and upright horns than rams. Goats can use their horns for defense.
Similar to the rams, goats, too, start growing horns within a few days after birth and continue growing them throughout their lifetime.
The shape of the tail is another significant difference between the two. If you have closely observed the rear of goats, you would have noticed that they have a short tail that is pointed upwards.
Unlike the goats, both the ewes and rams have a long tail covered in wool, giving it a bushy appearance. Though the bushy tail looks beautiful, having an appendage in line with the anus can cause serious infections.
For instance, there are high chances for flystrike or some parasitic infections. This is why owners of domesticated sheep, shorten the tails of sheep to avoid chances of infection.
Now that we discussed the morphological differences between the two, let us look at the other aspects.
Diet of ram vs goat
Though rams and goats have a lot of differences between them, they are both ruminant animals. Owing to which they have more or less the same diet.
The only difference between the two when it comes to foraging is that goats are browsers while rams are grazers. In their natural habitat, goats tend to look for nutritious plants to eat, whereas sheep eat almost every grass and leave they find.
But while in captivity, hay makes up most of their diet. Contrary to what most people believe, goats and sheep need a highly nutritious diet for good health.
They must be fed nutrient supplements such as grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables once in a while.
Are rams aggressive?
Rams are animals that are known to headbutt each other. They are even found to attack humans in some situations like when they are with the ewes or during the breeding season.
Rams are not capable of landing a serious injury because of their curly horns. But you need to keep in mind that a charging ram can easily knock you down. This is why it is always advised for kids to keep a safe distance from rams.
There a few things which you can do to avoid being attacked by a ram. For instance, you should never take your eyes off the ram. Look straight into their eyes, which gives them the impression that you are the boss there.
Also note that if a ram were to charge at you, never turn around and run. Rams can run as fast as 40mph, and hence you can’t outrun them. The only way you can escape an attack is either by wrestling with the ram or dodging to the side at the last moment.
As always, the best way is not to go near them even if the ram appears to be friendly!
Can goats mate with rams?
Contrary to what most people believe and the pictures that are widely popular on social media, a sheep-goat hybrid doesn’t occur naturally. Though goats and sheep/rams are found foraging together, they mate very rarely.
Even if they were to mate successfully, the offspring would be stillborn. As said in the earlier sections, goats and sheep are different species, and there is a lot of genetic difference between the two.
But that being said, scientists were successful in artificially creating a sheep-goat hybrid, and they are known as geep.