An Ode to the Magnificent Feet of Mountain Goats

By Mika McKinnon on at

This nanny mountain goat and her kid are both nimble and adorable as they scamper across the cliff-faces in Alaska. Like all mountain goats, they have have truly astonishing feet to allow them to be so impudent in such treacherous terrain.

Mountain goats aren’t truly goats at all, but are actually in the same family as antelopes, gazelles, and cattle. Like their kin, they have cloven hooves that split into two toes. These independently-mobile toes grant them impressive agility in the most difficult terrain. The pads of their feet have tough, outer shells to dig in, while the soft, rubbery innards increase grip on smooth surfaces. Their sharp, curled dewclaws add one last bit of protection against slipping, while their powerful shoulders allow them to haul themselves up even vertical cliffs. All four legs are relatively short, dropping their centre of gravity and increasing stability even further.

Mountain goats have thick, shaggy fur in two layers to stay warm in the winter: a fine, dense undercoat with with a thick outercoat that is shed in warmer summer months. Both nannies and billies have tufted beards, adding to their rakish appearance. Each year, their sharp black horns gain more growth rings, becoming ever more impressive over time.

But most importantly, they are seriously d’aww-worthy adorable.

Top image: Mountain goats in Glacial Bay National Park, Alaska. Credit: National Park Service/Richard Nelson


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