Why Do Goats Headbutt (Is it Affectionate)?

Why Do Goats Headbutt

Male goats, especially younger ones, will often headbutt each other. Goats can also headbutt humans, for seemingly no reason at all. This behavior can cause anxiety for first-time goat owners… here’s why goats headbutt each other, and you – and whether you should see headbutting as a sign of affection. 

Why do goats headbutt?  Goats headbutt each other playing or to release pent-up energy. However, they may also headbutt when they are frightened or fighting over hierarchy. Headbutting can help establish their place in the herd.

Why do goats headbutt
Younger goats test boundaries by head butting (Credit: https://pixabay.com/photos/goats-goat-goat-pépito-jupiter-4369477/)

It’s very common with young goats. At this age goats will headbutt each other when sparring and to show dominance. Whilst it is playful by nature, it has a motive behind it to. The winner of the headbutting session will be top in the pecking order. 

Why do goats headbutt humans? 

But what about the reasons why goats headbutt you or other humans? Well, goats will sometimes headbutt humans when they are frightened or if they feel they are being challenged. 

It’s not uncommon for goats to be uncomfortable around new people, and this can trigger their survival instincts. Thankfully, a headbutting goat will rarely pose much danger to a fully grown adult, if they leave the area quickly and do not antagonize them further. 

However, goats can and have caused serious injuries to children, so it’s important not to leave youngsters and goats alone together. 

Why do goats headbutt humans
Be careful with goats around children as they could try to headbutt a small human!

Another reason why goats headbutt humans will be the sparring. If you have one goat, you could be the playmate, and he’s looking to play and possibly establish dominance. 

Why does my goat push his head against me?

When a goat pushes you, it means they are testing the boundaries. It’s the pre-cursor to headbutting. If you were to push back like another young goat would, the goat would then push their head against you harder, until it becomes more aggressive.

So that’s a very quick overview on goats’ headbutting behavior. However, make sure you read on if you want to find out more about this bizarre phenomenon. 

Below, I will explain whether goats headbutt to show affection, why goats headbutt humans, and how you can prevent a goat from headbutting you in the future. 

Why do goats headbutt other goats?

As previously mentioned, goats will typically headbutt each other when playfighting. Generally, these fights are nothing to worry about and are just one of the many ways goats release energy and show dominance.

goats headbutt each other
Goats headbutt each other to establish dominance (Credit: https://pixabay.com/photos/goats-competition-dispute-692660/)

Unlike most other farmyard animals, goats are very energetic and will quickly become destructive if they exercise regularly or find something to capture their attention. This behavior can reduce if a goat is castrated – here’s how that works.

Additionally, injuries during headbutting are rare amongst goats, as their horns and skulls are very durable and are designed to take a massive amount of pressure.

In general, you should refrain from separating goats when they are playfighting, as this activity is beneficial for both their physical and mental health. 

However, although more common in wild goats, fights over dominance and hierarchy can also happen amongst domesticated goats from time to time. These bouts are more dangerous than play fighting and can result in serious injuries for both animals without the intervention of their owner. 

Thankfully, spotting these types of altercations is relatively easy as they are characterized by extreme aggression, with the goats headbutting each other for hours when left to their own devices. 

If you notice this behavior, ensure that you safely separate the goats and put them into different enclosures. After some time has passed, you can try introducing the two goats to each other again.

Do goats headbutt to show affection?

Goats rarely headbutt to show affection. Instead, they may do this with their owners or other pets to invite them to play. 

However, goats are highly sociable animals and are not averse to showing affection to members of their flock or those they consider to be family. 

One of the most common ways they show affection is by licking or nibbling, and they will do this constantly to people they feel comfortable around – much to their annoyance.

Alongside this, they will sometimes lock eyes with their owners, a rare trait that is more associated with dogs and is an indication of love and trust. 

How do goats show affection then?

Additionally, goats will also show affection by asking by rubbing up against their owner’s legs, or by letting out a bleat when they see a person they like entering their enclosure. 

Handy Hint: Some people believe goats make great protectors of free range chickens. Here’s the truth.

How to stop a goat headbutting 

Naturally, the first thing that they worry about is whether their goats will seriously hurt themselves during these clashes and if they should separate them before it goes too far. 

Similarly, goats can sometimes turn their headbutts against their owners or other pets, which can be alarming, to say the least. Below, let’s look at why goats headbutt. 

Headbutting comes naturally to goats, and as a result, it is almost impossible to stop them from doing this completely. 

However, there are steps you can take to make their headbutting safer, both for yourself and for other animals on your property. Firstly, it’s a good idea to get goats dehorned when they are young, as their horns can cause serious damage. 

Secondly, when introducing a new goat to a herd, you should keep them separated via a mesh fence for at least a week. Here the animals can still see and interact with each other, without the likelihood of a fight breaking out in the process. 

Unfortunately, it’s quite common for new goats to be picked on or singled out by a herd without prior interaction. 

Thirdly, you can use rewards to program good behavior in goats. 

For example, if your goat has a habit of headbutting you or your pets, firmly tell them “no” whenever they do this. If they begin to stop this behavior, reward them with a pat or give them a piece of their favorite food. 

Eventually, they will learn that their headbutting is not desired behavior and stop doing it entirely. 

Why do goats headbutt fences and trees?

It’s not unusual for goats to headbutt trees and fences from time to time. Thankfully, this is usually nothing to worry about, and much like playfighting is another way for goats to de-stress and have fun. 

However, if you notice your goat is constantly bashing its head against objects for long periods without stopping, make sure you contact your vet.

Although rare, some goats will develop obsessive headbutting behavior when they are suffering from pain or abnormal levels of stress. 


Goats are known for their rather bizarre behavior and odd habits. Thankfully, in most cases, these traits are usually harmless or even amusing.

Goats will headbutt humans and other goats through play. But it can get out of hand, so be very careful around them.

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Image in header via https://pixabay.com/photos/goats-animal-desire-billy-goat-173940/

Categorized as Goats