- Associated Press - Friday, October 17, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - Noelle Parker’s daughter is in love.

With a goat.

Yes, 4-year-old Mya loves to come to Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead in Overland Park to feed a baby bottle of milk to the adorable black-and-white pygmy goat she named Sprinkles.

“She thinks it’s her goat,” said Parker of Olathe. “We have to come several times a week, or (Mya) will be sad. She’ll say, ‘Mommy, Sprinkles is hungry.’ She’ll just sit there on the ground feeding and loving on that goat. Other goats come by and nip at her clothes or chew on her shoelaces. She doesn’t care. She just loves goats.”

If you don’t love them, we’ve got some baaaaad news for you: Goats are having a moment, gnawing their way all over the Internet and our lives, The Kansas City Star reported (https://bit.ly/1whx9FE ).

On YouTube, in addition to piano-playing cats and jumping dogs, you’ll find viral videos of fainting goats, screaming goats, goats that yell like humans and humans that yell like goats (that yell like humans). You’ll also find videos where those oddly yelling goats are edited into songs by Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, Jay-Z and Kanye West.

Goats made an appearance in the petting zoo at the American Royal and will return for competitions later this month.

There’s goat butter and goat milk soap in grocery stores, area farms producing gourmet goat cheese, goat calendars in bookstores.Modernfarmer.com has a goat cam that has drawn fans from around the country, including - we’re not making this up - the Pentagon. Both Texas and Colorado boast “goat whisperers.”

More goats are finding their way into the city and suburbs, though most places require a permit and the permission of your neighbors. On CNN, Anderson Cooper did a story on a black “crazy-eyed, scraggly, wild-haired, possibly demonic” pet goat named Voldemort that frightened a 14-year-old Utah paperboy so badly he climbed a tree to get away from it.

And even though you’re not supposed to let anyone “get your goat,” that’s exactly what happened to one rural Johnson County family last month when their adventurous goats escaped and started wandering the streets of Olathe like a pack of stray dogs.

That prompted the Olathe Police Department to write on its Facebook page: “We’ve got your goats. Come and get them.” The goats have since been reunited with their owners.

You can now buy a goat simulator video game ($9.99 PC/$4.99 app fromCoffee Stain Studios) that lets you live out your days - that’s right - as a goat. You can ram into cars, smash through fences and pick things up and throw them around with a long, waggling tongue.

In February the creators released a crude game trailer as a joke. But after an overwhelmingly positive response, they made the game for real. Or, as they put it: “You no longer have to fantasize about being a goat. Your dreams have come true.”

Amy Kowalik, office manager of the American Goat Society in Pipe Creek, Texas, can explain the popularity.

“Goats are the perfect sign-of-the-times animal for our economy,” she said. “They are very tough and can make it through anything. You knock a goat down, it gets right back up. You take away its food, it finds something else to eat. The world is finally waking up to the good attributes of goats.”

A goat rancher for more than 30 years, Kowalik has uploaded a few YouTube videos of screaming goats herself.

Why?

“Because goats are characters,” she said. “They’re fun. They’re awesome. And every one has its own personality. And in the world of YouTube, that spreads like wildfire.”

As livestock go, goats are cheap, hardy and don’t require a lot of land or upkeep. They eat less than a cow and provide you with a ton of different products.

“You can make soap, lotion, cheese and butter out of the milk,” she said. “And the meat is very healthy for you.”

In fact, goat meat is the most widely consumed red meat in the world (but not so much in the U.S.).

But, come on, Amy. What’s with all the yelling?

She paused, then gave a little laugh as if to say, “You city folk!”

“They’re in full-out rut,” she said. “They’re trying to catch the attention of the girls. It’s like a peacock strutting.”

Oh. Right.

David Hoffman, University of Missouri Extension livestock specialist, said goats taking over popular culture is a direct result of their increasing popularity in general.

“We are definitely seeing an increase in the numbers of goats,” he said. “They’re cute, they’re easy to handle and they have great potential” (for profit). In addition to keeping them for livestock, he said, more rural people are choosing them as pets.

“I had an older lady call me, and she said she had two pygmy goats she had adopted from animal shelters,” Hoffman said. “She needed some help providing adequate care. But she was enjoying them very much.”

Goats are easily one of the most popular exhibits at Deanna Rose, said superintendent Virgil Miles. Volunteer Linda Williamson has seen the goat devotion.

“There was a mother and a little girl that had been in the pen for about an hour,” she said. “And finally the mother just had to pick up the little girl and drag her out, and she screamed all the way around. She did not want to leave.”

Today, there are about 1 billion goats in the world, most with horns, scruffy chin beards and those weird, alien eyes that stare at you from the sides of their skulls. But goats come in many sizes, colors, textures and temperaments.

There are dairy goats, pygmy goats, miniature goats, Boer goats, Nigerian dwarf goats as well as an increasing number of goat shows, goat fairs and goat conventions.

And who knows? Maybe one day you, too, will fall in love with one of them just like Mya Parker.

Just not Sprinkles, OK?

“Nooo!” she screamed recently, guarding the goat from a stranger who dared get too close. “Sprinkles is my baby goat, and I’m going to stay with him here forever.”

Whatever floats your goat, Mya.

And if you think this goat giddiness is going anywhere soon, think again. Know what next year is on the Chinese calendar?

You guessed it: the year of the goat.

___

Information from: The Kansas City Star, https://www.kcstar.com


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