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Pete Wedderburn: A 300km walk with a goat? As a vet, I guarantee mayhem

Nathan Kingerlee from Kerry may have bitten off more than he can chew by bringing a dog and a goat on his 300km hike from Kerry to Dublin. The dog should be straightforward enough: Cara is a well-socialised Collie-cross who's used to traffic and people.

But what about Lucy the goat?

Goats can be charming, but they're well known for being troublesome beasts, possessing a dangerous combination of curiosity and intelligence.


Nathan's quoted as saying that he had rejected a sheep as a companion, because they're a "bit stupid", whereas "goats are real personalities". But did Nathan pause to consider what this means in practice? I've worked with both sheep and goats, and I can tell you that while sheep may be a little dull, at least they're biddable and somewhat predictable.

Goats, in contrast, are far too smart to be biddable.

A goat is always one step ahead of the obvious, looking for the angles rather than accepting what's in front of its nose.

You could leave a sheep in a pen on its own, and it'd still be there in half an hour. If Nathan tries depositing Lucy somewhere while he nips into a local pub for some refreshment, he'll need to check and double check that it's secure. If there's a way out, the goat will find it.

If he uses a biscuit to tempt his goat so that she'll do as he wishes, she'll be looking for the boxful of biscuits rather than accepting the morsel on offer. And if he takes his eye off her for a few minutes, she'll find mischief to entertain herself.

I've been caught at the wrong end of goats too many times. I've had my tie chewed by a sick goat while I've been trying to examine her. I've had a painful bite on the rear from a goat while bending over to pick something up in a straw byre. And I've seen flower gardens destroyed by goats who've managed to squeeze through the smallest gap in a fence. Goats seem to thrive on mayhem. If Nathan reaches Dublin without any goat-related mishaps, it'll be a small miracle.

And I hope Nathan isn't expecting to get any lifts from cars or vans, as Tony Hawks managed to do when he was dragging his fridge around Ireland. Under the 2005 European Regulations on the Protection of Animals During Transport, goats can only be carried by a licensed operator for any ride longer than 65km. Nathan may get away with a short road trip with Lucy, but anything longer, and he'd better keep an eye out for those Dept of Agriculture inspectors.

Nathan's chosen a couple of interesting comrades for his trip, but I wouldn't recommend that others try doing the same.

Before anyone has any other bright ideas over a few pints, be warned that living creatures are far more complicated companions than fridges.

Pigs, roosters and ponies, for instance, may sound like a bit of fun, but these are ideas that are best left in the pub on the back of beer mats where they belong.