Sheep vs Goat

Sheep vs Goat Comparison (what is the difference?)

Are you wondering what is the difference between a sheep and a goat? Many people do. After all sheep and goats are similar farm animals. But there are many important differences between these species. That’s why we’ve put together this simple sheep vs goat reference chart designed to help you quickly learn the difference between sheep and goats – two ruminant species that have a lot in common but which are easy to tell apart when you know what to look for.

Sheep vs Goat Comparison Chart

Our quick-reference comparison chart allows you to quickly learn the physical, genetic & behavioral differences between sheep and goats.

Goat vs Sheep
A sheep (left) and a goat (right) have several unique characteristics from one another

Learn about some of the major things which make these two very similar species unique from one another.

Species ClassificationOvis Aries (54 chromosomes)Capra Aegagrus Hircus (60 chromosomes)
Diet / Foraging BehaviorPrefer to graze on tender, broad-leafed grasses and naturally graze close to the ground, ignoring trees and shrubs.Require & select a more nutritious diet, preferring to graze from the top down and a goat’s diet can include leaves, twigs & shrubs
General BehaviorNatural flocking instinct – Sheep prefer to stay in a group and don’t mind weathering a storm in a tight group in open terrain. Sheep dislike getting their feet wet and males will back up and charge during confrontation.Naturally curious and independent, more likely to seek out shelter in inclement weather and will avoid getting feet wet. Males will rear on back legs to butt heads during confrontation.
Physical AppearanceMost sheep (excluding hair breeds) have a thick coat of wool covering their body.
Lamb tails are frequently docked.
Sheep have an upper lip which is separated into two distinct parts by a middle groove.
Sheep have tear glands below their eyes and scent glands between their toes.
Rams produce an odor during breeding season, bit it is less pronounced in sheep than it is in male goats.
Most goats have hair (not wool) covering their bodies.
Goat tails are not docked.
Goats have an upper lip which is not separated into two distinct parts by a middle groove.
Sexually mature adult male goats produce a strong odor and it is especially noticeable during mating season (rut). While some male sheep will produce a distinctive odor as well, it is much more noticeable in goats.
Appearance of TailA sheep’s tail goes down and is often docked at birth for health & sanitary reasons.A goat’s tail goes up unless it is sick, frightened or scared.
Appearance of HornsMany breeds of sheep are polled (meaning they do not have horns). When sheep do have horns those horns are often thick and curved tightly at the sides of their heads.Most goats have horns and these horns tend to be more narrow, upright and less curved than sheep horns.

What is the Difference Between a Sheep and Goat? A lot.

As you can see there are a number of key differences between sheep and goats which will allow you to easily tell the difference between these different species.

Difference Between Sheep and Goat
A young goat stands on a mature sheep’s back

I hope that this sheep vs goat comparison table has been a helpful resource and if you’re looking to learn more about raising sheep, we invite you to look around the site. Our basic sheep information page is a great place to start!