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Goats vs. Rams: What's the Difference?

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At first glance, goats and rams share some similarities, but you can spot many key differences between these animals if you know what to look for. Here, we use ram to refer to both domestic and wild species of male sheep. Although both goats and rams are artiodactyls , goats belong to the genus Capra while rams belong to the genus Ovis.

In addition to their genetic makeup, goats and rams each have some unique physical and behavioral traits. The main differences are the size and shape of their horns, and the appearance and layering of their coats. Other less obvious ones are the foraging patterns, lifespan and tail shape of goats and rams. Let us now discuss these key differences in more depth.

Comparing Goats and Rams

Goats vs Rams 5 Key Differences
5 key differences between goats and rams besides their horns

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goat Memory
life 12-14 years old 10-12 years old
size 44-310 lbs. 99-300+ lbs.
trumpet straight, narrow, pointed curved, round, wide
fur coat a coat of fur, usually shorter Layers of thick fur
tail shape point up, short Split down, longer, can cover hair
foraging mode browser herbivore

5 Key Differences Between Goats and Rams

goats and rams
The key difference between goats and rams is their morphology and foraging behavior.

© Gretchen Blair Madden/Shutterstock.com

The key difference between goats and rams is their morphology and foraging behavior. Rams, also known as rams, tend to be larger than goats. In addition, the curved horns of rams are also larger than the narrow horns of common goats. Another key feature that may be superficially different is that rams have thicker fur than goats, and often have two layers to protect against the cold in their preferred climate. Their behavioral differences are mainly reflected in their preferred diet. Although both are herbivores, goats and rams have different ways of finding food.

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Let's explore further what makes these iconic animals special!

Goat vs Ram: Horns

The first noticeable difference you'll see between goats and rams is the size and shape of their horns. Rams are notorious for their signature curved horns. They mainly compete with other males during the breeding season. These horns can weigh up to 30 lbs! Using these horns, a ram can deliver a powerful headbutt to any competing male, or as a show of strength against any perceived threat.

Goat horns are narrower and more pointed than ram horns. These horns tend to grow upwards rather than being extremely backward curving. While they also use their horns to ward off possible threats, the horns of goats look very different from those of rams.

While goats and rams grow horns from birth, their horns are the same in texture. Not only are the horns of rams larger and more curved, but they are also angular and bumpy. Typical goat horns are smooth to the touch, lacking the distinct ridges that make ram horns so unique.

goats and rams
Goat horns are narrower and more pointed than ram horns.

©John Raptosh/Shutterstock.com

Goats vs Rams: Coats

Rams and sheep have long been grown for their shaggy fur, which is much thicker and multi-layered than that of goats. Ram wool usually has two layers: an outer layer and a lower layer, to protect vital organs from colder climates.

Goats, on the other hand, do not have the thick fleece coats that are unique to rams, and instead must rely on a single layer for warmth. Additionally, their fur is shorter and thinner on average. This gives the goat a much smaller appearance than you might see with a ram.

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Goats and Rams: Tails

Another morphological difference between a ram and a goat is its tail. Goat tails are usually shorter and less woolly, pointing them upwards, while rams will have a downward wooly tail. This can be a subtle distinction, especially since the tails of many domesticated rams and sheep are clipped.

Sheep and rams have a long history of tail docking. This is done primarily to prevent health complications throughout the animal's life, as bacteria and parasites can flourish in unsanitary conditions. By clipping the furry tail, breeders and zookeepers can reduce the amount of droppings on the animal's fur. If left unaddressed, infections and more serious health complications, such as myiasis, can develop.

goats and rams
Rams and sheep have long been grown for their shaggy fur, which is much thicker and multi-layered than that of goats.

©Igor Boldyrev/Shutterstock.com

Goats vs Rams: Weight

Not only do common rams appear larger than goats because of their thick wool coats, but rams are often heavier than goats. While goats and rams may be similar in shape because they share some genetic material, goats often appear leaner and weigh less than rams or sheep.

Goats vs Rams: Foraging Habits

goats and rams
Goat tails are usually shorter and less woolly, pointing them upwards, while rams will have a downward wooly tail.

© Warren Metcalfe/Shutterstock.com

Rams are less fussy about foraging than goats. Goats in general are known as browsers, which means that goats will prioritize foraging food sources with higher nutritional payoffs. Rams, on the other hand, have few preferences and will often focus on foraging in specific areas rather than finding more specific food sources. Therefore, rams are considered herbivores.

Since rams are herbivores, they typically move slowly with the flock in a given foraging area and feed indiscriminately as they move. This is not the case with goats, which are selective in what they eat. Goats will love certain flora for their nutrient content and quality.

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Not only do goats seek out more specific foods for their diet, they often use more creative methods, such as standing on their hind legs and even climbing short distances to eat taller bushes or bushes.

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featured image

Two bighorn sheep rams fight during mating season on a snow-covered grassland.
Two bighorn sheep rams fight during mating season on a snow-covered grassland.

© Warren Metcalf/Shutterstock.com


about the author

august croft


I am a non-binary freelance writer working full time in Oregon. A graduate of Southern Oregon University with a BA in Theater and a major in Creative Writing, I have an interest in a variety of topics, especially the history of the Pacific Northwest. When I'm not writing personally or professionally, you can find me camping on the Oregon coast with my high school sweetheart and Chihuahua mix, or in my family's kitchen, perfecting recipes in a gleaming cast-iron skillet.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Which zodiac signs do these animals represent in astrology?

These are the animals of the zodiac. The Goat represents Capricorn, while Aries represents the Ram.

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