The MSD Veterinary Manual reports that around 150,000-300,000 domestic animals are bitten every year in the US by pit vipers, and among these unfortunate victims are goats.
While this can be scary for both goats and owners, these four-legged grazers can defend themselves and do damage in the process.
Do goats kill snakes? Domesticated goats retain a strong instinct to shield their legs from predators that could make them lame and endanger their survival, so they are fully capable of stomping a snake violently to death if they encounter one and feel threatened. However, they are much more likely to simply vacate the area if a snake approaches.
Fun fact: the Himalayan corkscrew-horned goats are named Markhors (meaning “snake-eater” in Persian) as they were believed to kill serpents with their spiraled horns in folklore.
It’s much more likely that they trampled them in fear, but it’s cool nonetheless!
Let’s look at the reality of a snake and goat encounter on your farm, how to respond to snakebites, and tips for keeping the slithery intruders at bay.
Goats and Snakes – What To Know
Snake bites can be very serious in goats, so it’s important to know how to keep your herd safe from attacks and understand a little about the kind of behavior you can expect when these animals come into contact.
Do Goats Keep Snakes Away?
Unfortunately, no, goats do not repel or deter snakes. Aside from the foot traffic caused by a herd of goats, snakes are often not afraid to approach a goat.
Other animals can make far more effective snake deterrents on your homestead than goats (which we’ll discuss later on).
Do Goats Attract Snakes?
It is not so much the goats themselves that attract snakes, but their living situation can lure in slithering visitors. The goat’s grain and piles of hay, for example, can attract rodents, which is what the snakes are hunting.
Standing water sources like ponds and birdbaths in the vicinity of goats and other livestock can also attract snakes since they love sunken grass and wet spots where their prey may also be.
Are Goats Afraid of Snakes?
Yes, most four-legged grazing animals like goats have a natural fear of snakes. It’s crucial to their survival to possess four fully functioning legs, so any creature threatening this is perceived as a grave danger.
What May Happen When a Goat Encounters a Snake
If a snake approaches, goats may either run away or move closer to smell and inspect the snake, or if they feel especially spooked and threatened, they have been known to stomp down violently in sheer terror on a snake until it is dead.
According to homesteader Mimi from the adventure blog Outdoor Alive, subtle signs your goat is aware of a snake nearby are things like “stopping eating or sleeping normally, or possibly stopping roaming around as much as before.”
Will a Snake Bite a Goat?
Snakes rarely bite for no reason, so if the goat reacts in an excitable, unexpected way, a snake may feel threatened enough to bite in self-defense.
In most cases, the snake will realize that the goat is not a potential food source and will try to make a rapid escape from the area.
Can a Snakebite Kill a Goat?
A snakebite can potentially be fatal in goats if the wound becomes infected or if the snake was venomous, as the poison can travel rapidly through the body, resulting in nearly instant symptoms.
A goat is also unlikely to recover well from a non-venomous snake bite if it is bitten in the face, neck, or muzzle area compared with a leg bite, so it’s vital to treat your goat as soon as possible.
What To Do if a Goat Is Bitten
- Immediately call a veterinarian.
- Ensure all other animals are safe, and remove the snake from the area if possible.
- Tie a gauze bandage around the bite.
- Apply ice to the bite area to help reduce swelling, which could be making it difficult to walk or swallow.
- Provide your goat with plenty of fluids in the following days (a home-made electrolyte drink can be helpful in flushing a certain amount of toxins from the body too).
How To Keep Snakes Away From Your Goats
1. Keep Livestock Area Clean
An untidy goat shed/dwelling will accumulate debris and wasted feed, which in turn can attract small animals looking for food — animals that snakes happen to love.
Also, remove any brush piles or clutter from the area. Snakes prefer to take cover rather than be exposed out in the open, so remove as many hiding places as possible.
2. Repel Snakes With a Pungent Spray
Snakes detest strong, overpowering smells, so boiling garlic and onion together and putting the solution into a spray bottle does the trick! Avoid chemical snake repellents as this can harm your goats.
3. Spread Fox Urine Around the Perimeter of Your Farm
Foxes are natural predators of snakes, and many in-store and online garden centers sell fox urine in liquid and granule form to spread around your property.
4. Invite a Snake Predator to Your Farm
A natural way to protect goats is with a snake predator on guard – and there are various farm animals and household pets that fit the bill! Take a look at some below…
What Animals Kill Snakes?
The following are either natural predators of snakes or are animals known to harm and kill snakes when threatened:
- Guinea fowl
- Dogs – Some of the best dog breeds for actively chasing and killing snakes are German Pinschers, Yorkshire Terriers, Jack Russel Terriers, Dachshunds, Mini Schnauzers, and Rat Terriers.
What Animals Keep Snakes Away?
The presence of a strong natural predator like a fox or a dog breed that resembles a coyote (fearsome predators of snakes in the wild) can be effective at keeping snakes at bay.
Donkeys can also be effective animals to have around the farm, especially the more aggressive male donkeys or “Jacks.”
Donkeys can use their weight to create ground vibrations — snakes can sense this, and it encourages them to keep away from the area.
Younger donkeys with greater reflexes and sensory perception are also able to kick and strike at oncoming snakes with ease.
Do Chickens Keep Snakes Away?
Chickens will not actively keep snakes away. Though they are capable of attacking and killing small snakes, they will not go out of their way to do so unless they feel threatened and fearful for their eggs.
In actuality, chickens may attract snakes in two ways. Firstly, the feed they scatter attracts rodents, which are a favorite food of many snakes.
Secondly, many snakes, such as rat snakes, love to eat eggs, which are always plentiful in a chicken coop.
Do Pigs Keep Snakes Away?
Pigs have been known to stomp the ground and harm or even kill a snake in their vicinity, but this is more of an instinctual reaction to a perceived threat than an actual act of hunting the snake.
In defending their young, pigs will viciously attack a snake when forced to.
So, goats are not the best snake deterrent to have on the farm by a long stretch, but they can defend themselves and possibly kill a snake when they feel intimidated.
Goats can also be highly vulnerable to snake bites (venomous or otherwise), so a timely response is crucial.
To avoid the risk altogether, it’s best to keep your farm and pastures clean and to employ some form of snake repellent, such as a predatory animal better equipped to deal with snake intrusion.