Sheep vs Goat Comparison: Main Differences

goat vs sheep featured
Sheep are docile, calm, friendly, eat ground-based food and grow woolly coats. On the other hand, goats are cheeky, independent, can reach higher to eat plants and enjoy going on adventures. 

Sheep, goats, cattle, buffalo, bison, and antelopes belong to the same biological family of ruminant mammals called Bovidae. Sheep and goats are from the Caprinae subfamily.

The main difference between them is at the genus level, which is Capra for goats and Ovis for sheep. This article thoroughly compares the two, so keep reading for more key differences between these farm animals.

Are Sheep and Goats Related?

Sheep and goats are related in the same biological subfamily called Caprinae but their taxonomies are different.

Sheep, or Ovis aries, have 54 chromosomes, and goats (Capra aegagrus hircus) have 60.

A goat is a livestock animal that belongs to the genus Capra. A sheep is a domesticated small ruminant animal belonging to the genus Ovis.

What is the Difference Between a Goat, Sheep, and Lamb?

Here are their animal-specific names and time to maturity:

Female NameEweDoe or Nanny
Offspring NameLambKids
Time to Maturity9 Months1 Year

Sheep vs Goats – Physical Differences

Let’s look at the main physical differences between sheep and goats:

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CoatMost breeds are wooled when it comes to coat type. Some breeds don’t grow a fleece and are called hair sheepTypically don’t grow woolly coats, with an exception of Angora goats that have mohair.
HornsUsually polled or hornless. Some breeds of sheep have thick, curved horns curled on the sides of their headsThe majority of goat breeds have horns. Goat horns are narrower, less curved, and point upwards
TailsGenerally docked or shortened and hangs downPoints up
No grooveGenerally docked or shortened and hangs down
Typically don’t grow beards, but they can have manesUsually have beards

Eating Habits of Sheep and Goats

Sheep are grazers, so they eat short plants near the ground, such as tender grasses, cloves, and other broadleaf weeds. Contrastingly, goats are browsers. They can stand on their hind legs and tend to look for and eat various leaves, shrubs, twigs, etcetera. Goats need a more nutritious diet than sheep.

Sheep vs Goats – Temperaments

Sheep are docile, gentle, and friendly with humans, with lambs who love spending time with children. Sheep naturally exhibit strong flocking instincts and may become scared or agitated when isolated from their peers.

goat and sheep on farm
The cheeky and adventurous rule-breaker vs the calm and docile rule-follower

Goats are more cheeky, independent, curious, confident, and adventurous due to being browsers. Goats can also be found within groups in the wild (known as wild sheep, pests or varmint), while sheep are always domesticated on farms, ranches or cattle stations.


Both species have similar gestation periods of about five months. Goats tend to cycle all year round, while sheep cycle during the period of shorter day lengths. Ewes have an average estrus cycle of 17 days while for Does, it’s 21 days.

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Goats have a scent gland, so adult male goats will produce a strong odor during the breeding season. The scent is not noticeable in wethers (castrated male goats). Male sheep may have an enhanced distinctive scent during the mating season, but typically not as much as goats.

Benefits of Raising Goats and Sheep

Both sheep and goat raising comes with multiple benefits. Here’s a list of common considerations when it comes to keeping these farm animals:

  • Domestic goats are raised for milk production worldwide
  • Goat milk is largely used in cheese production
  • Goats produce cashmere (some breeds more than the others)
  • Both lamb and goat meat are considered to be specialties, but goat meat is more nutritious and has lower cholesterol levels
  • Sheep are mostly raised for wool, milk, and meat
  • Sheep are easier to fence and manage than goats due to their docile and skittish temperament
  • Lambs and sheep can be used as therapy animals
  • Sheep are less susceptible to diseases than goats
  • Sheep and goats can cohabit

Which Animal is More Intelligent, Sheep or Goat?

Goats are highly intelligent, similar to dogs, while sheep IQ level is similar to cattle’s. Although sheep are flock-oriented and may appear less inquisitive and intelligent, they have good memory and are able to problem solve.

Do Sheep and Goats Have the Same Lifespan?

The lifespan of sheep ranges from 10 to 12 years while goats can live up to 18 years. Ewes and does can have a highly productive life, given good care, meaning they can be profitable for farm owners for about six or seven years on average.

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Are There Goat Hybrids?

A sheep-goat hybrid is called a shoat or a geep. Crossbreeding can happen, but it’s rare, resulting in infertile offspring that provides very little commercial value.

While both animals can be used for meat and milk, sheep are generally easier to handle. They are also highly profitable due to the constant need for wool supply in the clothing industry.


Alexandra is passionate about writing, animals, and writing about animals. Even though she was born in the city, she’s always felt drawn to nature and animals of all kinds. She believes they are the best human companions and loves reading, researching, and writing about their welfare. She’s been writing about animals for years, and she strives to continue to share her knowledge with people across multiple websites. Today, she brings you closer to sheep at Sheep Caretaker.

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