Why Do Goats Wear Bells?

Have you ever wondered why goats wear bells? Is it just for decoration? You never see goats on TV or hardly ever in life without those jangly little bells on their collars.

There has got to be a very practical reason behind it. So what’s the real reason? Why do goats wear bells?

Nigerian Dwarf Goat doe wearing bell on collar
Nigerian Dwarf Goat doe wearing bell on collar

Goats wear bells for practical reasons, the most important ones being, location, tracking a lost or separated goat, and awareness of goat or herd activity. Bells also assist dogs with herding goats, and can even help to prevent predator attacks.

As you can see, bells are an entirely practical item for goat herders and owners alike. So the next time you see a goat wearing a bell, you’ll know exactly why.

Even so, there is much more to consider about this topic, and if you own goats or are considering getting some you will definitely need to know.

Keep reading to learn all the ways that bells are important for keeping goats safe.

General Location

Goats don’t just walk around “baah’ing” all day. In fact, they are surprisingly quiet when on the move.

Accordingly, bells can provide valuable auditory feedback to their owners or handlers about their whereabouts.

This is especially helpful if the goats are allowed to roam freely over a large area, as it makes it easier to locate them when necessary.

If you hear a gentle tinkling of bells at a distance, you will know that the goats are a ways off, where the clear clanking of bells means they are nearby.

This is an important measure for situational awareness on a busy farm or homestead when the list of chores never ends. Being able to listen instead of go see saves time and manpower.

Tracking a Lost or Separated Goat

This factor dovetails with the above. Goats are pretty quiet on their own! If one gets lost or separated somehow, it is far more likely that you will be able to find it again if it is wearing a bell.

The sound of the bell will help you to home in on its location, even if it is hidden behind some brush or in a ravine.

Of course, this only works if the lost goat is still wearing its collar with the bell attached. Some goats are notoriously adept at removing their collars, so this may not always be the case.

If you are worried about losing a goat, you may want to consider a high-security collar or even a GPS locator tag, a so-called “digital bell.”

Awareness of Individual or Herd Activity

It is a little alarming and a little sad to consider that goats don’t always behave themselves.

Hard to believe, I know! But in seriousness, hearing the bells helps to alert you to their comings and goings so that you can keep an eye on them.

This is important for several reasons. If you have does (female goats) that are due to give birth, you will want to be aware of when they might leave the herd at an inopportune time to do so.

You’ll also want to know if a goat, especially a goat with horns, is coming up behind you at a trot when your back is turned! 

Also, if you have goats that like to hang behind the herd or even hide behind their enclosure, the bells will help you know when they are on the move so that you can catch them and put them back where they belong.

Aiding with Herding

If you have both goats and herding dogs on your farm or homestead, you may be wondering how to get them to work together instead of against each other.

It is possible to train your dog to herd goats with the help of bells, using the bells to key on herd or individual goat movement.

The sound of the bells will help the dog to understand where the goats are and what they are doing.

A trained dog can then use this information to keep the goats moving in the direction you want them to go, or to even prevent them from getting out of their pasture or enclosure.

Predator Protection

Bells may also help to keep goats safe from predators.

The sound of the bells may scare away predators before they have a chance to attack, as it either alerts them to the presence of humans nearby or simply serves as an unusual and unexpected sound.

As you know, predators prefer conditions of certainty when on the prowl, and anything that harms their confidence or unsettles them is only going to help deter at least some attacks.

Even if a predator does manage to get close enough to attack, the rapid clanging of bells will help you to hear what is happening and come to the rescue quickly.

In some cases, the bells may even help to distract the predator from a chosen target and give the goats time to escape.

Do Bells Harm or Pester Goats?

This is the million-dollar question: Do bells harm goats physically or mentally? It is a tricky question that requires a nuanced answer.

On the one hand, there is evidence that bells can cause physical harm to goats in the form of hearing damage, at least in the case of larger bells.

Larger bells can create enough decibels of sound to potentially cause hearing loss, though this is more likely to happen if the bells are worn all the time rather than just during specific activities like grazing.

Smaller bells, aka “jingle bells” are less likely to cause hearing damage and are not too heavy for goats to wear as they do not seem to chafe their necks or impede their movement in any way.

On the other hand, some people believe that the constant jingling of bells can be mentally taxing for goats, as it is a sound that they are not naturally accustomed to hearing.

This may be especially true for goats that have never heard or been around bells before.

It is also worth noting that some individual goats simply do not like wearing bells or anything around their necks at all, and may become agitated or even anxious when they are made to do so.

This is probably more a matter of personality than anything else, but it is something to be aware of if you are considering outfitting your goats with bells.

There is also some evidence that baby goats may be particularly bothered by bells, as they are still adjusting to all of the new sights and sounds around them.

For this reason, you may want to wait until your goats are a little older before you put bells on them.

There is no doubt that bells have very real and practical advantages when it comes to owner and animal safety, and there is also an undeniable traditional element at play.

At the end of the day, it is up to you to decide whether or not you want to put bells on your goats. If you do decide to do so, be sure to pay attention to how they react and adjust the size and weight of the bells accordingly.

You may also want to consider only using bells during specific activities, like grazing, rather than making your goats wear them all the time.

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