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Each week, KCUR's Creative Adventure newsletter brings you a new way to explore the Kansas City region.

You herd it here first: A guide to Kansas City’s goat facts, history and fun

Goats
Jorge Salvador
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Unsplash
Kansas City's goat history goes far beyond the farmers' market, and you can still find references to that history across the metro.

You already knew Kansas City was the GOAT. But you might be surprised to know that the metro also has lots of goat attractions and pride, from farms and petting zoos to a whole mob history.

This story was first published in KCUR's Creative Adventure newsletter. You can sign up to receive stories like this in your inbox every Tuesday.

Domesticated over 9,000 years ago, goats are one of humankind’s favorite and most versatile animal companions. Folktales from around the world depict goats as sure-footed and quick-thinking, whether outwitting trolls or wolves or humans themselves.

They are a farmyard staple, valued for their milk, meat and hide, and are known for their voracious appetites, as well as their amusing antics. Goats never lost their instincts for king-of-the-mountain climbing stunts, head-butting, screaming and stiff-legged fainting spells.

Sure, goats are great, but what about the Greatest Of All Time? That’s a title contended with every generation, across every field (a certain No. 15 comes to mind), but the original GOAT is attributed to Earl Manigault, a New York City street ball player. Kansas City-born Don Cheadle played the character in the 1996 movie “Rebound: the Legend of Earl 'The Goat' Manigault." (Fun fact: GOAT Kareem Abdul-Jabbar stars as himself in the film, too.)

From natural beauty product to farmer’s market standard, agritourism darling to mob boss mascot (no kidding!), enjoy some goat facts and fun from around the Kansas City metro.

Get your goat... milk

Goat nose
Kiva Hirsch
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Unsplash
You can find goat milk products, including cheese, soap, candles and lotion, at most farmers' markets in the metro.

Goat milk and goat milk products are popular around the world and, in many countries, are more readily available than cow’s milk. Most farmers’ markets will have a booth or two with goat’s milk products, including cheese, soap, candles and lotion.

Even though goat cheese has been around for centuries, it became a dining trend in the mid-1980s and is a common ingredient today due to its creamy texture and tangy flavor.

Goat’s milk is also used in various beauty products. Legend has it that Cleopatra’s beauty was thanks in part to her daily goat’s milk baths, and that Queen Elizabeth I also partook. Some spas offer milk baths (with flowers for added elegance and fragrance) and there’s a growing trend in milk bath photo sessions for kiddos and mommies-to-be.

Goat’s milk soaps are found in stores throughout Kansas City. The product line of Zum, by Indigo Wild, started in 1996 at the kitchen table, selling at farmers’ markets. Today it ships nationwide from a factory in Midtown, with bars and balms made from goat’s milk, as well as other natural-ingredient household and beauty products. Bear Soap Company has products in the Made in Kansas City network of stores, as well as in Texas and California.

Many family-run companies, including The Goat Milk Soap Store in Ottawa, Kansas, started because goat’s milk is better for sensitive skin. The Store's soap is made from Lamancha goat milk. And check out their baby goat live feed!

Kinneman Farms, in Blue Springs, Missouri, runs an online shop year round and hosts a Day on the Farm on May 7, selling farm products and inviting folks to interact with the goats.

Madd Hill House, in Paola, Kansas, offers a variety of goat's milk products as well, including bath mix, lotion, soap and lip balm. In Atchinson, Kansas, Providence Hill Farm offers soap making classes as well as a wide range of goat-centered activities.

Just kidding around

Child feeding goat
Sydney Rae
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Unsplash
Goats' natural playfulness make them popular with the petting zoo scene.

Goats’ natural playfulness make them popular with the petting zoo scene, too.

The Kansas City Zoo has feeding stations at its Billy Goats Gruff Yard, which is home to 25 goats, including endangered Arapawa goats. In 2020, five kids were born in Kansas City due to a breeding cooperation with the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita. The community helped name a set of triplets: Popcorn, Crackerjack and Peanut.

Goats big and small are part of the experience at Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead in Overland Park, which opened for the season April 1. Pygmy goats caper in the petting zoo, baby goats can be bottle fed for $1 a bottle (two have already been born this year, with more expected), and American dairy goats fight each other over the chance to scarf kibble from your hand. Don't worry, there are frequent hand-washing stations throughout the farmstead.

Petting zoos are a common attraction at local agritourism businesses. Sometimes it's included with the ticket price, or for an additional fee. Some farms will even bring the petting zoo to your event.

Voracious and capricious

Goats and weeds
Margaret Chamas
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Margaret Chamas
Goats from Storm Dancer Farm head out to feed on weeds and undergrowth.

The idea that goats will eat anything (even tin cans) is false, but these rowdy ruminants do enjoy a variety of food sources, so much so that herds are farmed out for “vegetation management,” a growing trend in landscaping and weed control.

Not only will they eat many weeds including poison ivy and invasive species such as honeysuckle but as they roam they also, well, fertilize and aerate the soil.

Iowa-based Goats on the Go is one business that brings goats to you, with affiliates through local farms, including Storm Dancer Farm in Smithville, Missouri. The city of Lenexa used the farm's grazing services to clear noxious weeds from Sar-Ko-Par Trails Park in 2021.

Goats have also helped restore eco-balance in Missouri’s Mark Twain National Forest in 2020, reported by Harvest Public Media. Goats are able to more efficiently dispose of weeds than humans and, with their climbing abilities, get to tighter, steeped areas than humans, too.

Some goats even have a role in recycling Christmas trees, munching the needles, pine cones and bark until the trunk is stripped clean. Depending on the size of the herd, it can take a few hours to a full day for goats to completely strip a tree. It’s beneficial for the goats, too, as pine trees contain antioxidants and act as a natural de-wormer.

Na-MAA-AAA-ste

Goat yoga
Miki Jourdan
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Flickr
Spring is the best time of year to find goat yoga sessions around the Kansas City metro.

Goat yoga started in 2016 and hit the Midwest shortly thereafter. Goat yoga sessions often sell out, and they are often only offered during a short time frame — before the kids get too big and rambunctious. Babies are usually born in April and by May they are ready to play, though some places include adult goats, too.

KCUR’s Gina Kaufmann learned about goat yoga in a 2018 episode of Central Standard.

Sessions are meant to be fun and low-stress. Dress in clothes that can get dirty and nibbled — there’s a good chance your table pose presents a climbing challenge for the kids or your shoe laces get nibbled. Similar to dogs, some goats will insist on pets from their newfound friends.

There was a goat yoga hiatus due to the pandemic, but opportunities are picking back up, as most places offer outdoor experiences with their goats featuring trained yoga instructors. These events can serve as fundraisers, team building experiences, or just for fun.

In addition to yoga, some places offer “cuddle therapy,” a low impact/high dopamine activity.

Within the metro, iWerx hosts a session in North Kansas City on April 30 with Storm Dancer Farm goats, Falling Down Ranch starts sessions in May, and Faulkner’s Ranch has sessions in June. But there are a handful of farms within an hour of the city that offer sessions throughout the season, or will bring the goats to you.

Old goat Kansas City

Rosedale Memorial Arch decorative goat finials
Libby Hanssen
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KCUR 89.3
Decorative goat-head-shaped finials adorn the fence that surrounds Rosedale Memorial Arch, a possible reference to that past moniker.

Though there are a few urban farms in the metro and numerous places just outside the city limits, 100 years ago goats were a fairly common component of city livestock. Before it was turned into Penn Valley Park, there was a shanty town on what was called Vinegar Hill. Reportedly, goats capered from crag to crag in the hilly terrain.

Other areas were known for goats, too, with a “Goat Hill” designated in both Kansas Cities: on bluffs of the Westside in Missouri, due to the prevalence of backyard farms in the mostly Irish immigrant neighborhood, and, in Kansas, where the Rosedale Memorial Arch now stands in Mount Marty Park.

It was erected in 1923 to honor the 42nd Rainbow Division of World War I, and subsequent plaques honor military who served in later conflicts. Decorative goat-head-shaped finials adorn the fence that surrounds it, a possible reference to that past moniker.

Kansas City, Missouri’s Goat Hill is probably what gave name to the “Goats,” a faction of the Kansas City Democrats controlled by Tom Pendergast, rivaled by the Rabbits, supporters of boss Joe Shannon. Goats were featured in campaign posters and a crew even took their goat mascot on the train to try and enter it into the Democratic State Convention parade (they were unsuccessful).

This tidbit of local trivia weaves its way into the local culinary scene as well. A few places around town acknowledge that history, with Goat Hill Coffee & Soda on the Westside, The Goat Brewing Co. in Lee’s Summit and Goat & Rabbit, a coffee/cocktail bar near KU Medical Center. Tom’s Town Distillery in Midtown tastefully references these abutting gangs in its decor.

And if all this goat talk inspires you to get your own goat, check your local ordinances as each city has its own laws regarding livestock.

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Originally from Indiana, Libby Hanssen covers the performing arts in Kansas City. She's written for KCUR, KC Studio, The Kansas City Star, The Pitch, and KCMetropolis. Libby maintains the culture blog Proust Eats A Sandwich and writes poetry and children's books. Along with degrees in trombone performance, she was a Fellow for the NEA Arts Journalism Institute at Columbia University.
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