On a (not so recent) tour, a woman asked me why the white pygmy goat was chasing the brown and white goat. I told her that Charlene, the pygmy goat, really liked Laura, the Boer goat. Really liked.
The woman gave me this look, a strange mix of fascination and horror.
Wait, you're saying that goat, who's a female, prefers other females?
Oh yes, I said. She's gay.
Horror won out. She sputtered for a moment, and told her child not to go near that goat.
Normally, most people who see Charlene in action find her amusing and interesting. This was the first person who was outright horrified by the prospect of a homosexual goat. In her mind, it was bad enough there were gay humans, but goats? Unacceptable. She did not pet any of the goats that day.
I do not know much about homosexuality across all species. While nonhuman sexual preference has been studied for a couple decades, it is not exactly a popular field. Few species are studied, and perhaps the most studied are sheep. Between 8-10% of rams are gay. They prefer sexual intercourse with other rams and will not willingly copulate with a female.
I do not find homosexual behavior in any species discomfiting. It is a normal divergence and is probably found in many species. It is not something to fear.
There is an interesting deviation in breeding cycles between goats bred for dairy and goats bred for meat. Generally speaking, goats are short-day seasonal breeders. Their breeding cycle lasts from Aug/Sep to February. During that breeding period, they go into heat (estrus) every 20 days or so. But goats bred for meat can cycle year-round. Boer goats are known for their year-round cycling. All the Boer goats at the sanctuary go into heat throughout the year, regardless of day length. Goats in good health, with good forage, and in excellent body condition tend to be more likely to cycle year round.
I point that out as a way to explain why Laura is in estrus today, out of season (I doubt you would have asked, but hey, now you know something new, right?) Charlene is the pygmy and Laura is the brown and white boer. It is hard to see in this picture, but Charlene is about to engage in the flehmen response. Lots of mammals have a specialized organ, called the vomeronasal organ, located approximately under their lip. In Charlene's case, she is using the organ to detect the scent of pheromones in Laura's urine.
Of the three Boer goats at the sanctuary, Laura is the most tolerant of Charlene's advances. When any of the does go into estrus, Charlene is more aggressive than any of the wethers (castrated male goats, no breeding allowed). She will mount the does and pursue them relentlessly. She will even attack the other males who try to intervene. Laura is the only doe who actually appreciates Charlene's advances. She will stand for grooming and will groom Charlene back. They will sleep next to each other and hang out comfortably, even with Charlene's pushiness. The other two Boer goats are as horrified by Charlene's pursuit as that woman was to find out gay goats exist. I think it is because Charlene is no romantic suitor, she's serious, aggressive, and pushy. Annie and Jessica (the other boers) prefer Gilbert or Jeffrey, who are much more gentle and less rude.
I wish I had gotten a shot of Nate, the dominant male. He was trying to court Laura, but could not get past the 70lb Pygmy goat. He weighs 150 lbs. It was comical.
As an aside, Charlene does not exhibit any estrus behaviors. I have never seen any of the male goats interested in her. I have never seen her exhibit the tail flagging and body movement of a female in heat.