Mountain goats, or Rocky Mountain goats, are among the best climbers in the animal kingdom. Their dizzying feats of balance and agility are enough to give anyone vertigo. Despite their name, they belong to a different genus (Oreamnos) from wild and domesticated goats (Capra). Mountain goats actually have a closer kinship with gazelles, antelopes, chamois, and takins. However, their goatlike hardiness and dexterity easily earn them their name. Check out the following videos to see mountain goats climbing and defying gravity!
Mountain Goats Climbing #1: A Headstrong Herd
In our first video, a herd of 8 Rocky Mountain goats decides to tackle a sheer rock face. A group of spectators nearby were lucky enough to capture video of the attempt. The herd, comprising 4 adults and 4 kids, files expertly along a narrow ledge in the rock. Then they begin their ascent. The leader of the group heads sharply upward, but at first, it can’t find its footing. To the disappointment of the spectators, it slides back down, nearly knocking a kid off the rock face.
But these goats are not about to give up! “Careful, careful,” a man shouts in the background as a different goat steps up to the challenge. This one makes it a few steps up before also sliding down, showering goats below with rock shards. The spectators groan, expecting the goats to give up.
However, the second goat tries again and finds the sweet spot. It hops from rock to rock with ease, ascending several feet above the rest of the herd. It continues to weave its way up the rock face as the first goat follows in its steps, leading a kid and another adult. The last adult struggles to ascend with the 3 remaining kids, who are still not as sure-footed as their elders. They tumble and scramble over the rocks, straining to follow the rest of the herd. One falls alarmingly over the back of another kid, barely catching itself on the rock ledge.
The video ends with the little ones still struggling to ascend. However, the woman who shot the video assures her viewers that all the goats eventually made it to the top. This remarkable feat of endurance and dexterity is the work of specialized cloven mountain goat hooves. Each hoof comes equipped with two toes that spread to stabilize the goat on uncertain perches and rough, fleshy pads to provide traction and grip. Besides this, mountain goats have other adaptations like specialized shoulder and neck muscles that make them excellent climbers.
Mountain Goats Climbing #2: King of the Mountain
Our second video showcases a shocking encounter between a mountain goat and a mountain lion. Perched on a precarious ledge, the two battle it out to see who’s the real king of the mountain.
The mountain lion surprises the mountain goat as it grazes on a ledge, darting forward to go for the throat. However, the goat is too nimble to be so easily taken off guard. It whirls around as the mountain lion goes in for the kill, getting its vulnerable throat out of range. Unfortunately for the goat, its back is now to the edge of the rock and a deadly fall. With nowhere to go, it is forced to stand its ground.
The mountain lion creeps closer, gauging its chances. It strikes with its paw at the mountain goat’s neck, hoping to score a hit. But the goat responds by jabbing with its deadly horns. For a few seconds, there’s a flurry of paws and horns as both seek an advantage. The whole time, the mountain goat keeps its footing on the ledge.
Finally, the mountain goat has had enough. In a bold and unexpected move, it scoots up the rock and behind the mountain lion, getting its back to the cliff. The mountain lion is forced to turn to protect its back and ends up wedged beneath a shelf of rock, hemmed in by the goat. With more space to work with, the goat goes on the offensive, battering at the mountain lion with its horns. The mountain lion can do little but lash out desperately with its paws, hoping to stave off the attack. Its powerful strikes look intimidating, but they fail to make a mark. Defeated, the mountain lion finally decides to leave without a meal.
Mountain goat horns are strong and sharp, able to pierce the hides of most animals. Besides this, they are hard to knock off the side of a cliff, even when perched on the edge. As this mountain lion found out, mountain goats make tough prey!
Mountain Goats Climbing #3: Close Encounters of the Goat Kind
Our third video features a stunning close encounter with a mountain goat. A man sits on the very edge of a cliff, admiring the vast panorama below him. The cliff falls away to a drop of thousands of feet of nearly impassable terrain. The view is gorgeous but perilous.
Just below the man, a mountain goat perches on a narrow ledge, grazing. Though one of its hooves teeters on a knife edge, it seems utterly unbothered by its situation. It paws at the rock, searching for more vegetation. Deciding it’s exhausted all the available bounty, it moves on. With a sudden leap and bound, it mounts another narrow ledge and lopes in the direction of a rocky outcropping. Below it is a sheer drop.
The man turns to the camera with a delighted expression on his face. “What?” he mouths, then looks again at the goat. After a moment of contemplation, the mountain goat turns and nimbly climbs down the steep side of the outcropping and out of view. The man turns back and grins at the camera. “That,” he says, “was one of the coolest things I’ve seen.” And we have to agree!
Mountain Goats Climbing #4: Between a Rock and a Hard Place
In the last video of mountain goats climbing, a mountain goat and her young kid take refuge from a bear on the side of a cliff. Parked on a precarious ledge partway down the cliff, the mother and kid huddle together. The kid leans against her as she forms a barrier between it and the sheer drop.
The mountain goat looks up worriedly at the bear, stamping her front hooves in protest. The bear considers the situation, then gingerly attempts to climb down, sliding a little on the sand and loose rock. After a pause, it continues downward as the observers whisper in anxious anticipation.
The bear halts a few feet above the two goats. One of the observers yells at it, hoping to frighten it away. As the bear waffles between risking the downward climb to an angry mother goat and just giving up, the mountain goat looks around to gauge the possibility of escape. Seeing no way to get down, she continues to stand her ground, stamping her hooves again.
Finally deciding the meal isn’t worth the risk, the bear backs off, looking back longingly over its missed opportunity. Undaunted, the mother goat remains balanced on the edge of the rock, immovable.
Though they may appear stocky and clumsy when at a standstill, these videos of mountain goats climbing prove that no mountain or predator can stymie their nimble feet and incredible balance!
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Eivor Kuchta/Shutterstock.com
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