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Humans started keeping herds of goats around 9000 years ago because they realised that they were great providers of milk and therefore cheese and also that they could eat the meat of goats too. In fact even now, people eat goat more that any other animal.

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Their feet are cloven, this means that they have two horny-like toes which can grip onto rocky places and allow them to do some pretty impressive climbing up mountains and in trees.

Like sheep and a lot of other hooved animals goats have horizontal rectangular pupils so that they can see all around them and look out for other animals that want to hunt them for food.

goldengoat There is a bit of a myth about goats liking to eat almost anything they can find. They are quite picky eaters and they test things with their soft and sensitive lips to make sure that it is tasty and clean before they munch it up. They don’t graze like sheep do. In the wild they love to forage, that means that they wonder around all over the place looking for the yummiest things that they can find, they even climb trees to get to juicy leaves and berries.

They have four stomachs to help with things that are difficult to digest. Each stomach is cleverly designed to get a different set of nutrients out of the food that they eat. The first of their stomachs is called the rumen and it can hold up to four or five gallons of chewed up food. They have a habit of regurgitating this back up so that they can chew it again. This makes them burp, very loudly.

blackgoat Male goats are called billy goats, females are called nanny goats and the babies are called kids.

A nanny goat is pregnant with the kid for about five months and the baby can stand and even walk only minutes after being born. They also have their own unique call and scent which is how the mother can find and identify them.

They are very sociable creatures and if you were to keep one goat all alone it would become lonely and extremely depressed.

You may notice a very strong goaty smell when you visit their field at Mudchute. This is because in goat world it is considered very romantic and attractive for the billy goats to cover themselves with their own wee. The smell is apparently irresistible to the nanny goats.


Pigs

For thousands of years humans have kept pigs, mostly for food, but they have been used for other reasons as well.
In ancient Egyptian times pigs were used by Farmers as a sort of living tractor. They would encourage them to trample all over their fields, snuffling around with their marvellous sensitive noses for juicy things to eat up. Their trotters would sink down into the earth to a perfect depth for the Farmer to sow seeds for next years’ crop.
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Pigs are the cleanest beasts on the farm.
They never ever poo or wee inside their house and are always very careful to use their outside toilet.
So when people call them “dirty Pigs” that’s really not fair. They don’t deserve that reputation.
Perhaps people originally thought that Pigs were dirty because they are often covered in mud after wallowing in puddles.
We know a great deal better than that now.

Far from them being filthy, they are being brilliant.
They are doing something that we humans have learned from them and copy for ourselves. When the weather gets above about 20 degrees, pigs start to get really hot. middlewhiteprofileBecause they haven’t got many pores that allow their skin to breathe or glands to produce cooling drops sweat and because they can’t pant to cool down, they use mud as a cooling, sun cream and moisturiser to protect their skin from getting burned and dried out. If they haven’t got enough mud the farm workers will put sun lotion on them as a substitute.

Pigs are super clever creatures some researchers have done some investigations and found that they are more intelligent than dogs, primates and even very young children. They learn to do tricks and tasks really quickly especially if you offer them food treats as a reward.
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Not surprisingly they enjoy playing for its own sake, just like humans do, they like toys and can learn simple computer games, such as Pacman.
They have incredible memories and can recognise and remember faces and objects for years and years.
They enjoy listening to music too.

Another myth about them is that they are lazy, but given the opportunity, a farmyard pig can run at up to 11 miles an hour and a wild pig can get up a speed of about 15 miles an hour.
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We can learn a lot about how a pig is feeling from its tail.
if their tails are curly and jaunty, the pig is feeling very happy, like a piggy smile. But if their tails are lank and straight and dangly then the pig is worried or unhappy or poorly.

Their squeal can be as loud as 115 decibels which is louder than a supersonic aeroplane! They use their voices all the time to chat to one another. They have at least 20 sounds that they use to communicate.

Newborn piglets recognise their mum’s voice when they are as young as two weeks old, probably because their mothers ‘sing’ to them while they are suckling. Each piglet has its own special teat which it uses every single time they feed from mum, so they are always in the same order when they eat.
All through their lives they are very sociable animals and if they are able to they will snuggle up together to sleep tummy to tummy, snout to snout. They dream as well, just like we do.

Their genetic make up is very similar to humans.

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Pigs love to eat lots of different things, but please don’t try to feed them by hand.
They won’t mean to nibble you, but they have 44 big strong teeth and very weak eyesight, so sometimes they make mistakes and can nibble fingers.
Oh and don’t feed them onions. They don’t care for them at all.

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Sheep

Anyone who has seen Sheep grazing in fields knows that they are constantly munching away at the grass, looking a little bit like white clouds on a sky of green grass. The British countryside has been land formed by thousands and thousands of sheepy teeth nibbling away at the grassy hills and valleys and hooves pressing gently into the earth millions of times over hundreds of years.

Sheep are important to farmers in two ways. Some humans eat the meat of the lambs, young sheep, and the older animals, which is called mutton.

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Sheep also grow beautiful thick coats of wool which, if it isn’t cut, like our hair, will go on growing and growing forever.

This is to protect them from life outdoors in the cold and the wet and the wind. This coat has a natural waterproofing called lanolin. Their fleece can be shaved off once a year at the end of winter, when it gets to be about 6 inches thick.

After it is cut the fleece, wool, is combed and spun and woven or knitted into clothes to keep humans warm. A lamb has to be about a year old before it is first shaved or shorn. These young sheep are called shearlings.

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When they are first born some farmers put rings on the lambs tails.

Eventually the tails will fall off. Farmers do this is to prevent the animals getting something rather nasty called fly strike around their bottoms.

They can get bugs and ticks in their fleeces and you may sometimes see a magpie or other bird standing on the sheep’s back and picking out intruders.

We all need good neighbours like that

sheep4When they are first born some farmers put rings on the lambs tails. Eventually the tails will fall off. Farmers do this is to prevent the animals getting something rather nasty called fly strike around their bottoms. They can get bugs and ticks in their fleeces and you may sometimes see a magpie or other bird standing on the sheep’s back and picking out intruders. We all need good neighbours like that.

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Sheep are prey animals so even though they keep their heads down most of their lives to graze on the grass, at the same time they have to be on constant watch for other species that are going to try and eat them.

They have solved this problem by evolving amazing horizontal rectangular pupils that allow the between 270-320° vision so that they can spot any nastiness on the horizon almost all the way around them. (Imagine being able to see behind you)

This means that they can keep their eyes on the wide world at the same time as chewing the grass very close to the ground. Their mouths are very cleverly designed to do this job. Their top lip is split down the middle so they can pull it right back to get to the juicy new growth at the bottom of the blades of grass.

Like cows, they have no top front teeth and cut the grass with their lower teeth and tongue.

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Sheep are very clever and sociable animals. They will lean against walls of trees so that their companions can jump onto their backs to reach tasty leaves or fruit. A ewe, that’s a female sheep, can recognise the bleating (voice) of her babies out of hundreds of other bleating Lambs. They can recognise up to 50 different sheep and human faces and remember them for at least 2 years. Amazingly they can also identify each other from photographs and even recognise human beings from photos as well. Experiments have been done with Farmers who have twins. If the non-Farmer twin dresses up in the Farmers clothes, the sheep can still tell the two of them apart.

When Sheep are happy they are very sociable and they wiggle their tails. When the are sad or poorly, they mope around by themselves and hang their heads.

In medieval times, wool was as valuable as gold, so everybody who had any land bought sheep and grazed them so that they could sell the fleeces for loads of money. Farmers made a lot of money from selling them to people who could make fantastic garments or blankets or yarn from them. Some incredible skills and crafts grew around the uses of wool which helped humans to be more comfortable as well as developing new technologies, if you can imagine knitting or crochet or weaving as a new technology! So all over England sheep were nibbling away at the hillsides and mountains and flat marsh land. Sheep evolved different qualities of wool and colouring to camouflage themselves and to keep warm and dry.

Farmers would breed sheep of one sort with sheep of another to get a perfect mixture of traits so that their flocks could thrive in each of the different habitats.

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Places like Mudchute Farm are important these days because they nurture these ancient breeds of sheep and stop them from becoming extinct. Farmer Tom will tell you that the nibbling and trotting of these creatures shaped our countryside because wool was such a valuable commodity. Nowadays people are wearing clothes that are much more plasticky and the sheep’s coats are almost worthless, sometimes being sold for just a few pennies.

It feels very important that we should look after and value these beautiful creatures and care for them. They are a living part of our history.