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Origin and Spread of Goat Pastoralism

  1. Filipe Pereira1,
  2. António Amorim2

Published Online: 15 SEP 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0022864



How to Cite

Pereira, F. and Amorim, A. 2010. Origin and Spread of Goat Pastoralism. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. 1

    Instituto de Patologia e Imunologia Molecular da Universidade do Porto (IPATIMUP), Porto, Portugal

  2. 2

    Instituto de Patologia e Imunologia Molecular da Universidade do Porto (IPATIMUP), Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade do Porto, Porto, Portugal

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 SEP 2010


Goats were the first wild herbivores to be domesticated in the Near East around 11 000 years ago at the beginning of the revolutionary transition from hunter-gatherer to agriculture-based societies. Ever since that time, goats have fulfilled a vital economic, cultural and religious role in many human civilisations. A collaborative research effort that integrates genetics and archaeology has vastly expanded our ability not only to detect the context, locations and timing of initial goat domestication but also to trace the migratory trajectories used by humans to spread this farm animal worldwide. The successful geographical diffusion and exponential growth of goat populations around the world clearly demonstrate the remarkable adaptability of this ruminant species to extreme climates and difficult terrains and offer an excellent opportunity to assess the rise and fall of human migratory and commercial networks during historical times.

Key Concepts:

  • Animal domestication was one of the most important events in human history.

  • Goats (Capra hircus) were probably first domesticated in the Fertile Crescent region of the Near East around 11 000 years ago from the bezoar goat (Capra aegagrus).

  • Studies of archaeological assemblages suggest that the transition from the hunting to the herding of goats was a long-term process.

  • Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is the most widely used genetic tool in the study of goat populations.

  • The domestication of goats involved multiple maternal lineages carrying considerable pre-existing mtDNA diversity.

  • Goats were taken to nearly every corner of the world alongside humans in migratory movements.

  • Goats are the most adaptable and geographically widespread livestock species.


  • Capra;
  • domestic goat;
  • domestication;
  • neolithic;
  • pastoralism;
  • migrations;
  • animal genetics;
  • mitochondrial DNA;
  • Y-chromosome;
  • zooarchaeology