Although there are some naturally "polled" (horn-free) goats. Most goats (including our Nubians) have horns. Both
males and female Nubians will develop horns. Now the question is what to do with them. There are basically two
schools of thought on this.
1) Get rid of the horns for the following reasons:
A) Horns can be dangerous to both the handler and other goats. It is possible for any goat to take out an eye (yours
or a herdmate) with its horns and a big buck could probably even disembowl you if he really wanted to. Also there are
stories of the udders on prized does getting ruined with a quick goring by a horned herdmate. I notice our buck has
learned to use his horns to "horn in" on feeding time and shove everyone else out of the way quite violently.
B) Not only are they dangerous to others, horns be dangerous to the goat that has them too. They can get stuck in
places (particularly fences and hay racks etc.) and immobilize a goat so they are easy prey to predators or on
exceptionally large goat farms, the goat may starve to death or die of thirst before anyone has a chance to free it. They
can also break and cause excesssive bleeding or infection.
C) Most agricultural fairs and organizations (including 4-H clubs) do not allow you to show goats with horns.
Although I am certain safety plays a role, originally, the hornless requirement probably had much to do with
aesthetics... as goat owners wanted to make sure their prized animals were not confused with common (and horned)
2) Keep the horns for the following reasons:
A) It is inhumane and painful to remove them. It is easiest to remove horns within a week or so of birth in a
procedure called "disbudding." Essentially you either burn the horn "bud" with a red hot iron, or use a caustic
"disbudding paste" to destroy the tissue around the skull that produces the horn (something like the nail bed of a
fingernail). Obviously these procedures are painful to the goat and can have all kinds of side effects. Including
infection, brain damage (from too much heat on the brain), blindness (from paste getting in eyes) and the like. I
would imagine the incidence of this is probably quite low, but it still is something to be concerned about. Many goat
handlers perform these procedures on kids themselves. However, it is very difficult to remove fully grown horns and
is virtually never done. In any case, this would be major surgery and involve a veterinary surgeon.
B) Goats need their horns for self-defense. There is quite a bit of debate about this. Some goat owners say the horns
offer no or limited defense, so this isn't a good argument. My training in biology/evolution teaches me that in most
circumstances an animal would not invest energy in growing horns if they had no purpose. I believe the horns will
offer the goat a better chance if cornered by a coyote (common in our area) or other threat. If you don't believe me...
why don't you tease our buck and see what happens when he gets irritated!!
C) Horns help a goat regulate temperature. The large blood vessels in a goat's horn horn can dilate in hot weather to
help it cool off (in addition to panting).
D) Horns can be used to check breeding status of a goat. Misshappen horns are obviously cause for culling and may
indicate other genetic defects. If they are removed, obviously they can't be used in this manner.
E) Horns can show the general nutritional status of goats. The more massive and corrugated the horns the better the
goat has been fed and maintained throughout its life
F) Horns can show age through the analysis of "growth rings". To me it is easier and more accurate to tell a goats
age by its teeth, but this is another valid method that can be used at a glance.
G) Improperly removed horns can grow in a deformed patterned (called scurs). These can often curly around and
grow back into the skull, and can also break and bleed easily during rough-housing. Remember just because you
remove a goats horns, doesn't mean you remove its instinctive desire to "butt" with its head.
H) Goats use there horns for utilitarian purposes such as scratching, and feeding (e.g. holding down tall brush to
After weighing all the pros and cons, we decided not to dehorn our herd. Besides all the aformentioned reasons, we
decided the horns are simply part of the animal and it just isn't humane to cut them off for our convenience.
Regarding the goats own safety... yes, it is possible the goats can harm each other with them, but the danger is
relatively small, and to us, it doesn't supersede the desire to leave the goat as "whole" and "happy" as possible. To
us this decision is the same as letting chickens "free range"... yes it might be safer and more convenient to keep them
locked in a coop 24/7, but the chickens certainly wouldn't opt for that choice.
Our buck Fred has an impressive set of horns for being a year old.
Daisy's horns at two months old