When people see our blog for the first time, they usually say something like this: How on earth did you get that name? Goats and Soda?!?
The answer: because goats and soda are pretty much everywhere in the developing world. Goats can be a force for good — some charities give them to families to provide nutrition and income. And soda's links to obesity make it an emerging health issue in middle-income countries.
So that's the story of our name. And one of the nicest things about it is that we get to cover goat news. So without further ado, let us present the year in goats:
We learned what might be going on in a goat's brain by interviewing Christian Nawroth, co-author of a new study that looked at the "cognitive abilities" of goats and how they interact with humans. The idea is to find out the best way to raise goats on farms. But he also gained insights into goat behavior. When a goat looks into your eyes, he says, it may be a silent plea for help! Bonus finding: Goats love pasta!
The French Red Cross announced plans to donate a male and female goat to 510 needy households in Cameroon, according to a Voice of America report.
Grammy-winning soul singer Anthony Hamilton sang a song called "Whose billy goat is this" to a goat standing on a rock at the Indiana State Fairgrounds and Event Center (although one goat expert told us that the goat in question looked like a female).
In December, a black goat was sacrificed on the tarmac of Islamabad airport. "It was done by some local employees as a gesture of gratitude over the clearance of the first ATR [for flying]," said a spokesman for Pakistan International Airlines, which had grounded its fleet of ATR planes after a Dec. 7 crash. Social media wags weighed in: "Good move. Fresh mutton on inflight menu."
Early this year, the Chinese government blamed goats for a drop in the birth rate in China in 2015. That was the Year of the Goat, according to some translations, and there's a saying that "nine out of 10 babies born in the Year of the Goat are unlucky."
We interviewed author Thomas Thwaites, author of GoatMan: How I Took a Holiday from Being Human. He put on a goat suit and climbed cliffs with a herd of goats for a "slightly different way of looking at the world." (One thing he learned: Humans are nowhere near as good as goats at descending a steep Alpine mountain.)
This year's winner in the annual contest is a 16-year-old ruminant named Demyte, which means "little spot." Her prizes included a tiara and a coupon for a free haircut.
In what was clearly the most "Goats and Soda" story ever, we wrote about a goat locked in a car in a Massachusetts parking lot who drank a cup of soda that was in the vehicle. Susan Schoenian, a goat specialist at the University of Maryland extension, had this explanation for the goat's choice of beverage: "Goats are very curious animals. If they see something to eat or drink, they're going to do it." The goat also pooped on the driver's seat and turned on the hazard lights — perhaps a bleat for help!
We should note that when it comes to livestock, we don't confine ourselves to goats and only goats. In 2016 we branched out, writing about efforts to improve conditions for working horses and for the disrespected donkey. In Ethiopia, these beasts of burden have a reputation as a lowly creature that's not exactly clean. But a nonprofit group, the Donkey Sanctuary, is educating owners to take better care of their animals. Gosaye Assef, a formerly neglectful donkey owner, said: "My attitude toward donkeys is completely changed."