￼Tunsis was a goat on the lam.
Unfortunately, the Brunswick City Commission forbade goats in the city limits in April 1917, and it’s hard to keep a low cover when your horns and hooves give you away.
“We assume he had been tagged for market, because he has a hole in his ear, and that’s where they would put the tag,” Diana Scarboro said. “But, he didn’t have the tag and he was wandering around, so animal control picked him up and called The Farm to come get him if they wanted him.”
Scarboro is a board member and a volunteer of many talents at The Farm at Oatland North on St. Simons Island, a livestock sanctuary. Tunsis was the first goat at The Farm — when they went over to pick him up, he took a look at the open car door and jumped in the backseat.
“He’s very sweet — he’s very docile,” Scarboro said. “They love people … and they’re very comical. But, they tend to be a little competitive with each other.”
Livestock sanctuaries have drawn attention in recent years, not the least of reasons why is the rising pop-culture popularity of goats, which can combine the curiosity and inscrutability of cats with the friendliness of dogs.
“He’s very people-oriented,” Scarboro said of Tunsis.
Of course, goats are also quite goat-oriented. They are social creatures and need to be around other goats with which to interact and do typical goaty things.
So the folks at The Farm got Tunsis a friend, or three. It’s more “This Old Goat” than “This Old House,” and Tunsis is the Bob Vila with his three Norms Abram.
They only intended to get one companion for the old man, but you know how things go.
“Yes, because baby goats are very cute. This one,” Scarboro said, indicating Archie, “we still refer to as a baby goat, but they’re about five years old.”
She said the vet thinks Tunsis is a little more than a decade old — he was fully grown when found traipsing the boulevards of Brunswick — but his true age remains somewhat of a mystery.
While Tunsis and Archie generally have the run of the place, Percy and Joseph have their own pen with some climbing platforms and landscaping. Scarboro said the pair can be a little too friendly. Also, they would not think twice of climbing atop your vehicle, leaving unintentional but indelibly real goat dents in the metal.
And when the goats play, they play as, well, goats do.
“Goats like to head-butt — they really like to do that,” Scarboro said. “They do it for fun, so they’re constantly head-butting each other, and they think that’s the most fun of all. But they get mostly aggressive when you have food — if I have food in my hand, and you were between me and the goat, they would not even see you.”
Ending up mistreated for any number of reasons, a good many of the goats are finding people with the time, money and desire to provide a good life at sanctuaries for these ruminants that by their nature straddle the line between traditional livestock and pets.
And goat-associated livestock sanctuaries have not only found a place throughout the United States, but internationally.
Over in a special corner of Kent in the United Kingdom sits the well-known Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats, founded by Robert and Valerie Hitch when they agreed to take care of two unwanted goats nearly 20 years ago. Once they became a resource for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, more goats in need came into safekeeping and protection. Buttercups is now the only registered charity in Britain whose mission is specifically to care for goats.
From the original two goats, they now care for more than 100.
“Any new goat that comes into the sanctuary, whatever the injury or background we let loose straightway to wander and mix with all the other goats — we have 151 on site at present — this enables them to immediately get the vibes from all the other goats that it is a safe place to be in,” Robert Hitch said to The News. “Within an hour they are relatively calm, this is not only beneficial to the goats but also for the staff who have to handle them.
“The challenge is to bring the goat into a natural setting that a goat would enjoy if humans were not around, i.e. a member of a large herd where they mix and play together, where humans are there only to support them with feed, health and care and can live comfortably and naturally together.”
He said it is satisfying to watch the rescued goats progress over time, and even with severely traumatized animals, seeing their characters and personalities change as they socialize with the other goats.
“The most enjoyable aspect is seeing them all improve both physically and mentally and over time seeing them mix with all the other goats, and best of all, for the first time, have them come up to you and rub their head up against you in gratitude,” Hitch said.
Queen Mary University of London researchers continually work with the goats, and over more than half a dozen years of observations came to some conclusions about their behavior.
In a 2013 production by the BBC, Alan McElligott, a senior lecturer in animal behavior at Queen Mary, explained how they tried to see what were the lasting effects of trauma among the goats there.
“And of course you can’t go to a goat or any other animal and ask it how it’s feeling on a particular day,” McElligott said to the BBC. “So, you need some objective measure of actually determining whether they’re in a positive mood or in a negative mood. And to do that you have to work with them in an experimental enclosure.”
Their setup included five corridors with a central corridor where researchers released the goats, with the option of choosing one of the other five corridors heading away. The researchers found negative goats were slower and wary, while positive goats bounded along, expecting a treat or some other favorable result.
“The most important thing from this study is the fact that we can show that the goats that have been rescued and actually treated well for several years actually fully recover from their former neglect,” McElligott said. “So, that’s really important because of course there are many animal rescue centers in the UK and worldwide.”
And so even when for some goats, life goes as sideways as their rectangular pupils, with a helping hand they can have it made in the hay.