Mountain Goat

Category: Animal Info Pages

The mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus) is not a member of the goat family caprus, despite its name. While they may look very similar to goats in some ways, they are actually belong to the same family as deer and cattle. Even their scientific name is a misnomer; a compound of the Greek "oreas" meaning "mountain" and "amnos" meening "lamb".


Mountain goats are herbivores. They feed primarily on thin, high-altitude vegetation like grasses, mosses, ferns, sedge, and lichen. In captivity they are sometimes fed grains, fruits, and vegetables, and they survive about 5 years longer too. In the wild, the average life expectancy is 12-15 years, while in captivity they may live to be 20 or more. This is primarily due to the wearing down of their teeth with age.


Mountain goats can typically weigh anywhere from 100 to over 300 lbs. They are a sure footed subalpine/alpine species common in North America. Their feet have evolved special padding to aid in climbing, allowing the mountain goat to scale slopes steeper than 60 degrees. Mountain goats also have thick wool coats with an outer layer of hollow hairs which help them survive in temperatures as low as -50 degrees (F), and they are perfectly adapted to life in cold mountainous regions where winds can reach over 100mph. They inhabit many of the mountain ranges in the north western United States, Canada, and Alaska.


Males (billies), and females (nannies) both have beards and horns, though the male's horns and beard are usually longer than that of the female. Mountain goat horns can grow to as big as a foot long, and they also contain yearly growth rings much like a tree. The horns are used in sparring matches for the right to breed, and also for defense when necessary.