Mountain Goat Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jennifer Farrell

Jen has taught Science in accredited schools in North & South America for thirteen years and has a degree in Sociology (Epidemiology & Aids Research).

High upon the cliffs of mountains lives the most supreme of all animal mountaineers: the mountain goat. In this lesson, we will investigate the physical characteristics of a mountain goat, and talk about its habitat and its social behavior.

Amazing Mountain Climbers

For most people, scaling up steep, rugged mountain cliffs is about as difficult as getting out of bed for school on a Monday morning. But you've probably seen jaw-dropping photos of adrenaline-loving athletes hanging from the tops of mountains, and have heard of animals known for their rock climbing abilities.

The mountain goat, however, is the undisputed king of the mountain, spending most of its lifetime prancing around rocky ledges, at terrifying heights.

Mountain goats can jump nearly 12 feet in a single leap.
Mountain Goat

Physical Characteristics

Both male and female mountain goats have several key features that make them easy to recognize:

  • Two long black horns on the top of their head.

Fact: The sharp, pointed horns of a male can grow up to 12 inches long and a female up to 9 inches long.

  • Wooly white hair and a short tail.

Fact: During the winter, a mountain goat can keep warm at very high elevations because its coat has two layers.

  • A beard.

Fact: Their beards can grow up to five inches long.

  • Hooves.

By far, the most unique feature of a mountain goat is their hooves. Their four specialized hooves give them tremendous grip and traction, allowing them to move across steep rock faces. Traction is a force that pulls the mountain goat towards the rock so it doesn't slip. You can see an example of traction on the tires of a car. The traction of a tire is what helps the car to stick to the road when the streets are wet. Unlike horse hooves, the mountain goat has two toes that can spread wide, just like we can spread our toes.

Two toes helps them balance.

Where They Live

Mountain goats live in alpine areas. Alpine habitats are the regions high up on mountains, where no trees grow. These zones experience harsh extremes in weather. During frigid winter months, mountain goats find shelter amongst large evergreen trees. Their white coats help them go unnoticed by predators because they are camouflaged and look like the snow. In warmer summer months, they favor steep grassy ledges and cliffs.

Mountain goats are endemic to North America. In other words, they are unique and found only in this location. In the United States mountain goats can be found in many states, such as Alaska, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Washington, Colorado, and South Dakota.

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