Working Goats: Can you Train Goats to Pull Carts?

If you’re at all like me, you don’t want any animals just lazing about on the homestead. The most common ways we think of goats earning on the farm is as dairy or meat goats. But there are other ways your goats can pull their own weight. And a great way to do that is to teach your goats to pull a cart.

We’ll explain the best goats for pulling carts, how to train them, and what equipment you need. 

We even answer if miniature goats can pull a cart. Keep reading to learn more.

Best Goats For Pulling Carts

goat wagon

There’s a long history of goats being used to pull carts. Over time it has become less and less common. (Probably because of cars). But just because it’s uncommon doesn’t mean it’s not worth the effort to train your goats to pull a cart.

Unfortunately, not all goats are suited to pulling carts. Some goats are best at clearing brush but are too stubborn to pull a cart. So, the first step to successfully having your goats pull a cart is to choose the right goats. 

So let’s talk about what to look for in a cart-pulling goat.

Temperament

One of the key factors in training your goats to pull a cart is their temperament. If you’ve kept goats for any amount of time, you’ll know every goat is unique. Some are frisky, some are friendly, and some are just plain mean! 

You are looking to build a relationship with this goat, So obviously, you don’t want to choose a mean goat to pull your cart. But what traits are valuable?

To start with, look for a goat that enjoys being pet. Go out and spend some time with your herd. Watch which goats approach you. I have some goats that greet me every time they see me– looking for scratches and pets. 

While finding an affectionate goat is the first step, you are looking for more than that in your goat. You also want a goat that is easily led. While all goats are trainable, it is easier with a goat that wants to follow people even before you start training. 

Breeds, Size, and Sex

You may be wondering which breed of goats is best for training to pull a cart. The truth is all breeds of goats can be trained successfully. However, size is definitely a factor you will want to consider when deciding which goats to train. And breed certainly can affect how big your goats are.

The larger the goat, the more weight it can pull. You have to make sure that you include the weight of the cart as well as what’s inside when figuring out of it’s safe for your goat. So you should probably stay away from miniature breeds if you plan on pulling anything heavy, like an adult. However, you can train even miniature goats to pull a small cart for a child.

goat pulling a cart with woman

While both male and female goats can pull carts, pregnant and lactating goats aren’t the best choice. They already have a significant strain on their bodies, and you don’t want to add more. Also, it is essential to note that males can pull more weight than female goats of comparable size. 

But bucks also can present complications. First of all, bucks stink! And while they can be docile when they are young — bucks can be stubborn and aggressive as they get older. Never mind how they behave at breeding time. As we mentioned, a good temperament is the key to success. So that generally rules out bucks.

On the other hand, wethers (castrated males) are an excellent choice. They are free from the complications that come from breeding bucks. They are less stinky and overall better behaved. If you keep dairy goats, then you often have an excess of males. Rather than slaughtering them, you can train your wethers to pull a cart. 

Age

It’s best to start training your goats young. The earlier you handle your goats, the more affectionate they will be with you. Pet them and brush them to start. You’ll want to wait until they are around three months old before you begin any training. 

Now when I say you can start training, that doesn’t mean your three month old goat is ready to be hooked up to a cart. There are many stages of training your goat must go through before they are ready to actually pull. So be prepared to make a commitment because you shouldn’t hook your goat up to pull weight until it is one to two years old and has reached its mature size.

Even if your goat is at its full size, you want to make sure that you have properly trained your goat to pull before you add weight to your cart. So let’s take a look at the steps involved in training your goat to pull a cart.

Stages of Goat Training – Don’t Put the Cart Before the Goat

It is important not to try to rush the training process. While goats are intelligent animals, you want to train not only their minds but also their bodies. Before your goat is ready to pull a cart, they need to work out their muscles, just like we do at the gym. They also need to get used to wearing a harness and responding to commands. 

All of this requires time and patience from both you and your goat. Together you will be a team. You need to be prepared to spend about 15 minutes twice a day working on training with your goat. But all your hard work and dedication will pay off when you are driving around in your goat cart.

So let’s get started.

Harness training

Getting your goat used to wearing a harness is the first step towards getting your goat to pull a cart. First, you need to get a harness. You can either buy a pre-made harness or make one yourself. Either way, you want to make sure your harness includes all the necessary parts for pulling, as there are different harness designs for other purposes. You also want to make sure you are buying a harness that is appropriate for your goat’s size. 

There are a couple of stages your goat will go through before they are ready to wear their complete harness.  You can start to train with a collar and a lead. This really is just a test to see if you have chosen a good goat to train. Place a collar on your goat. Then spend about five minutes a day leading the goat around. If the goat follows you easily, then you can continue on to harness training. You can reward your goat with affection and treats. This will help build your relationship.

Assuming all goes well, your goat will be ready to move on to a halter in a couple of weeks. For the first few days, put it on for five to ten minutes at a time. At this point, all you want them to do is wear it. Once your goat is comfortable wearing the halter, you can attach a lead and begin to walk together. This is a great time to introduce commands to go forward, left, right, and stop. 

When teaching commands, it is essential always to be consistent.

Go slowly with your goat. Spend about 15 minutes a day working together. And expect that it will take several weeks to see real progress. It is vital that both you and your goat find training time an enjoyable experience. Again, affection and treats go a long way towards a positive training experience.

When your goat is responding to commands, you can move from standing next to your goat to a position more behind the goat. The ultimate goal is for you to be behind the goat, holding the reins as if you were driving. When the goat is fully trained in the halter, you can now put on the complete harness. Again with each stage, you want to allow your goat time to adjust. Working for at least two weeks on each new step isn’t unreasonable.  

Once your goat is entirely comfortable in the harness, you’re ready to move on to cart training.

Training To Pull – Cart Training

man in cart pulled by goats

Before your goat can pull you or anything else, they first need to adjust to pulling the cart. You want to make sure that you take care to make the first time you attach the cart a positive experience for your goat. If it doesn’t go well, the goat will always be nervous or frightened of the cart.

Some people suggest before actually hooking the goat up to the cart, you pull the cart alongside the goat. This can help them get used to the noisy clattering wagon near them. Once they are used to the noise, you can start your cart training. 

It can be helpful to have an assistant with you the first time you attach the cart to your goat. While you will be guiding the goat, don’t be tempted to drive from the cart. Your goat needs to do some weight training before it will be strong enough to pull you. For now, simply walk next to your goat, guiding with the reins. Your assistant can hold the lead connected to the harness to help.

Go easy at first while your goat adjusts to the experience. Five to ten minutes the first time is fine. You can slowly extend your training time as your goat becomes more comfortable with the cart. Thirty minutes is probably the maximum time you want to train with your goat. If you go much longer than that, they are likely to see it as work rather than fun and may begin to resist. 

Spend a week or two working with an empty cart. Then you can start the weight training. Plan a workout for your goat, just like you would for yourself at the gym. You want to slowly increase the weight in the cart to strengthen its muscles. 

You should have an idea of how much weight is the maximum your goat can pull. You base this number on the weight of your goat. Some people say a goat can safely pull up to twice its weight. However, the Harness Goat Society suggests less than that (1).

“A goat should only be asked to pull a maximum of one and half times its own weight.”

It is important to remember that this amount includes the cart as well as the load. So it is worthwhile to build your cart as light as possible, especially if you plan on riding in it. As long as your goat is strong enough, it can pull an adult. And if your goat isn’t strong enough to pull you, you can look into working with a team.

Which brings us to our last phase of goat cart training…

Driver’s Ed

Once your goat has successfully completed its workout plan and is strong enough to pull your weight, it’s time to start driving. This is the moment you have been waiting for.

While you are probably excited to be in the driver’s seat, letting someone else ride first can be a good idea. That way, you can be close to your goat while it gets used to the weight of the rider. Don’t worry– you’ll get your turn soon enough. After that first ride, you can hop right into that cart and drive away. Just don’t go too far at first. It can take a few tries to get the hang of it.

But soon enough, you and your goat will be ready to ride wherever you like.

Equipment

In addition to training your goat, you will need to purchase, make, or acquire specific equipment if you plan on training your goat to pull a cart. The most critical pieces of equipment you need are the harness and the cart. You can store your gear in your goat shelter if it’s large enough.

So let’s look more closely at what you want.

Harness

As we mentioned, you can either purchase or make your goat harness. However, unless you are an experienced seamstress, we recommend purchasing your harness to make sure it is strong enough. You don’t want your goat to get hurt because the stitching in your harness doesn’t hold. Harnesses are available for purchase on the internet, or you can have one custom made by an experienced harness maker. 

Whether you make or buy it, don’t be tempted to use a harness that was designed for another species, like horses or dogs. Make sure you are using equipment that is sized for goats. Different animal bodies are different shapes. Harness not designed for goats will not fit correctly and may injure your goat. Also, consider how big your goat is when sizing your harness — a miniature goat, for example, will need something extra small.

The other important factor to consider besides the size of your harness is the type of harness. You can choose an all purpose goat harness or a specific cart harness. Either way, if you plan to hook your goat up to a cart, you must purchase a harness that has breeching, as well as the other components like halter, lines, breast piece, and shaft loops. 

The breeching strap goes across your goat’s rump. This strap serves as the brakes and keeps your cart from running into your goat when you are traveling downhill or stopping. 

Never use a harness without a breeching strap to pull a cart or wagon. You could seriously injure your goat.

There are also harnesses designed to pull wagons. You will find pulling a wagon is different than a cart in a couple of ways. First, wagons have four wheels rather than two. This affects the balance. Second, the wagon shaft connects to the harness differently. This difference accounts for the main difference between cart and wagon harnesses. 

Cart

goat training to pull a cart

There are many varied designs available for goat carts. You can purchase one pre-made or design one yourself with materials you have on hand. The weight is a significant factor to consider when deciding which cart is best. You do not want your cart to be too heavy for your goat. The lighter your cart, the weight you can put in it.

Besides weight, you should also consider how you plan to use your cart. Are you planning on driving your goat in parades or using it to move firewood around the homestead? Maybe you want to do both and need two different carts. 

Goats can also pull wagons. Wagons differ from carts in that they have four wheels rather than two. If you plan on using a wagon, make sure you use the appropriate harness to connect the wagon to your goat. 

  1. Q and As. Retrieved from: https://harnessgoats.co.uk/qas/
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