Photo: A mountain goat sitting on top of a mountain

Surefooted on rocky slopes, mountain goats have a thick coat that protects them from cold temperatures and biting winds.

Photograph courtesy Dave Grickson/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Map

Map: Mountain goat range

Mountain Goat Range

Fast Facts

Type:
Mammal
Diet:
Herbivore
Average life span in the wild:
9 to 12 years
Size:
Height at shoulder, 3.5 ft (1 m)
Weight:
100 to 300 lbs (45 to 136 kg)
Group name:
Herd
Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:
Illustration: Mountain goat compared with adult man

Mountain goats are not true goats—but they are close relatives. They are more properly known as goat-antelopes.

These surefooted beasts inhabit many of North America's most spectacular alpine environments. They often appear at precipitous heights, from Alaska to the U.S. Rocky Mountains, showcasing climbing abilities that leave other animals, including most humans, far below. Mountain goats have cloven hooves with two toes that spread wide to improve balance. Rough pads on the bottom of each toe provide the grip of a natural climbing shoe. Mountain goats are powerful but nimble and can jump nearly 12 feet (3.5 meters) in a single bound.

Mountain goats have distinctive beards and long, warm coats to protect them from cold temperatures and biting mountain winds. Their dazzling white coats provide good camouflage on the snowy heights. During the more moderate summer season goats shed this coat.

Female goats (called nannies) spend much of the year in herds with their young (called kids). These groups may include as many as 20 animals. Males (known as billies) usually live alone or with one or two other male goats. Both sexes boast beautiful pointed horns, and in mating season billies will sometimes use them to battle rivals for prospective mates.

In the spring, a nanny goat gives birth to one kid (sometimes two), which must be on its feet within minutes of arrival into its sparse mountain world. Mountain goats eat plants, grasses, mosses, and other alpine vegetation.

Mammal Features

  • Photo: Close-up of an African lion

    Animal Conservation

    Find out what National Geographic Society is doing to save animals all over the world, and learn what you can do to help.

  • hawaiian-monk-critter-cam.jpg

    Crittercam Helps Study Rare Species

    The Hawaiian monk seal is one of the oldest species of seal on the planet. But their tenure in paradise is perilously close to its end; only about 1,100 seals remain in the wild.

  • Masai Mara Lion

    Lions Quiz

    The king of cats rules with a roar and a fierce bite. What else do you know about this top predator?

  • Photo: Lion bares his teeth

    Cause an Uproar

    Big cats are quickly disappearing. Now is the time to act. Cause an uproar to save big cats today.

Photos

  •  Picture of a Malayan tiger

    Pictures: Tiger Subspecies

    Scientists estimate only about 3,000 wild tigers are left in the entire world. Meet the subspecies and see what threats each is facing.

See more animal photos »

From the Magazine

  • Photo of the lions of the Vumbi pride.

    The Surprising Lives of Lions

    In case you missed it: See these breathtaking videos and photos from inside a wild Serengeti pride.

  • Photo: Two adult preen, Ireland

    Gannets Pictures

    Champion divers but clumsy landers, doting parents but hostile neighbors—northern gannets abound in contradictions.