How Common Are Hermaphroditic Goats?

Hermaphrodite goat (NPR)

Hermaphrodite goat (NPR)

A recent NPR article on a hermaphroditic goat in Gaza spawned the topic for today’s blog post. The article gave this intriguing stat:

When two naturally hornless goats breed, around 1 in 5 offspring is a hermaphrodite.

I decided to look around to see if that was true. NPR didn’t hyperlink or otherwise cite their source, so I had to go at it myself.

The best thing I found was also the oldest: a 1944 study on the relationship between hornless goats (called “polled” in this case) and subsequent hermaphroditic traits. Spanning 20 years, the study examined the various couplings between polled and horned goats. It found that the horns were a recessive (weak) trait, and that 25% of goat offspring from two dissimilar goat partners (one polled and one horned, in this case) would be likely to be hermaphrodites. The study also found that goats that possessed both horns and hermaphroditic traits were rare.

Isn’t it fascinating how diverse nature is?

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