Wattles and Goat Genetics

16 Mar

When I brought home my first five nannies, three of them were plain Janes, but two had decorations:  those cute fuzzy dangling flaps of skin called wattles.

I admit, I didn’t like the wattles on goats.  I thought it just looked weird.  Over time, however, I’ve learned to appreciate their goatie jewelry.

Minnie Pearl has long even wattles.  Yes, those little tags hanging down helped earn her name.

Meg has unevenly placed wattles, just a bit lopsided.

I noticed over time that the only goats with kids who had wattles were Minnie and Meg.  About half of Minnie’s babies have had wattles, but none of her daughters ever did.  Meg has had way more kids with wattles than without.  Below is her oldest daughter, Muffin, Meg in the middle, and Fancy, her youngest daughter, all showing off their wattles.

Muffin had wattles, but her twin sister didn’t.

Meg’s middle daughter, Jilly, has the cutest little fuzzy wattles.

Fancy is the only one we’ve had with these cute little ear wattles!

We are now getting into Meg’s grandkids, who are also showing that dominant trait.  It’s hard to see the wattles on Muffin’s daughter, Jetty, but she has them.

Because some people don’t like wattles, they remove them at birth.  This gives the inaccurate impression that goats randomly have wattles.  That really is not the case at all.

This year my science students were studying genetics–a simple Punnett square can explain the genetics of wattles.  Even though most goats don’t have wattles, they are the dominant trait.  It only requires one parent to donate the gene for having wattles for them to show up.  Not having wattles is recessive, and requires both genes from the parents to be that recessive gene.

W-dominant trait having wattles  (My girls are on the side)

w-recessive trait absence of wattles (Buck without wattles on top)






w ww



As you can see, statistically, about half of their babies should have wattles.  Although Meg really has had more like ninety percent of her babies with wattles.


Source of Information:  HERE

Minnie is retired from having babies, and we are waiting on Meg to have her final babies.  Soon we’ll know how many more little wattled kids we’ll have running around.  She’s in labor as I post this.  I was hoping to show you her adorable kids, but I guess I’ll have to name one Xena and introduce you next week.

If you haven’t commented to enter my giveaway for homemade bath salts and goat milk soap, there’s still time.  Just click on the picture in my sidebar.

Be sure to visit Jenny Matlock for more posts on the letter W.


72 Responses to “Wattles and Goat Genetics”

  1. The Wife of a Dairyman March 16, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

    I had no idea what wattles even were until now! Very interesting and informative!

    • Teresa March 16, 2011 at 4:00 pm #

      Thanks. I try to do my part with the goatucation of the world.

  2. Lola March 16, 2011 at 3:48 pm #

    Hi again!

    Great ‘W’ post -as always. So interesting and informative!

    Looking forward to *seeing* you again next time,


    Btw Alphabe-Thursday

    • Teresa March 16, 2011 at 4:01 pm #

      Glad you enjoyed your stop here.

      • Anonymous April 25, 2017 at 7:39 am #

        How is it so certain that wattles are a single-gene dominant trait? While your experience with Meg’s offspring, 90% of which had wattles, is POSSIBLE with a single-gene dominant trait, isn’t it more likely that something else is going on? Your article doesn’t include the genotypes (or phenotypes) of the various fathers, that I assume were responsible for half the kids’ genetics. IF a single-gene dominant trait, then how to explain goats with only one wattle, or three? A mama and papa goat without wattles would NEVER have a did with wattles … is this the case?

      • Dale April 25, 2017 at 7:45 am #

        How is it explained that although wattles are a dominant trait, that “most goats don’t have wattles”?

      • Teresa April 25, 2017 at 7:56 am #

        If you look back in the article, I link to my source. None of the bucks I had at the time had wattles. It sometimes might be confusing because people will remove wattles, so you can’t see that a doe had wattles. I have never had a kid born with wattles that did not have a parent with wattles. Again, if someone had wattles removed, it might be hard to know that they did have them. Now, I have a buck with wattles, and about half of his kids have had them.

        Most goats don’t have them because people remove them. Some breeds have selectively bred them out. It’s the same with horns. Being polled (not having horns) is a dominant trait; however, polled goats also have more defects, so people don’t necessarily keep polled goats as much.

  3. Rocky Mountain Woman March 16, 2011 at 3:49 pm #

    Darling as usual! Can’t wait to see “x”!



    • Teresa March 16, 2011 at 4:01 pm #

      I admit I’m getting anxious to meet the little x as well. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Sharon March 16, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

    Honestly, I never knew about wattles until you started talking about them, I never noticed them either. I’m looking at goats in a whole new way.

    Interesting post.

    Oh, DH says we don’t have enough land here for more than 3 goats, (like he knows) it’s not quite 1/2 acre that we could fence in and he says it would cost too much to make it worth while. 😦

    • Teresa March 16, 2011 at 4:30 pm #

      But think of all the goat kisses you could get from three goats! Not to mention milk.

  5. Mary March 16, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

    Ear wattles! How great~ Love all your nannies’ names…Muffin, Jetty, Jilly 🙂

    • Teresa March 16, 2011 at 4:30 pm #

      I’m really having to start to be creative to find new names. Aren’t those little ear wattles the cutest?

  6. Janis March 16, 2011 at 4:09 pm #

    I learned about wattles last year when my youngest daughter bought two pygmy goats. They are just the cutest little things. I love how you name all of your kids…so cute.

    • Teresa March 16, 2011 at 4:31 pm #

      Well, you have to name family members don’t you? We don’t do the whole number them thing.

  7. texwisgirl March 16, 2011 at 4:23 pm #

    I’ve seen them on some pigs too. I think they’re so odd… 🙂

    • Teresa March 16, 2011 at 4:31 pm #

      I didn’t know pigs had them! I got to learn something today too.

  8. Judie March 16, 2011 at 4:34 pm #

    Wattles!! I love that word! Thanks for all the interesting info!

    • Teresa March 16, 2011 at 5:39 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by. Glad you found it interesting!

  9. Honey March 16, 2011 at 5:09 pm #

    Well I certainly learned something today about wattles and goat geneology! Fun!

    • Teresa March 16, 2011 at 5:40 pm #

      You’d be amazed at all the science lessons I can incorporate goats into!

      • Margaret Sonnenfeld August 31, 2015 at 11:56 pm #

        Hi Teresa, thanks for the informative lesson on the Mendelian inheritance of goat wattles. I was looking at two little babies today and we were noticing the wattles. I now am going to incorporate it into my lecture in Dec. I am a genetics lecturer. This will be fun! I also think there must’ve been a use for them once upon a time. Do you know what their function could’ve been? Thanks so much.

      • Teresa September 1, 2015 at 7:55 am #

        To the best of my knowledge, they have no purpose other than decoration.

  10. JDaniel4's Mom March 16, 2011 at 5:42 pm #

    I love getting to see your goats and their wattles.

    • Teresa March 16, 2011 at 6:19 pm #

      I’m so glad you enjoy the goats because I LOVE talking about them!

  11. EG Wow, Canada March 16, 2011 at 6:01 pm #

    How interesting about the wattles. I had no idea that some goats have them.

    • Teresa March 16, 2011 at 6:19 pm #

      I think it’s so weird that the dominant trait is the one people don’t know about.

  12. Angela March 16, 2011 at 6:27 pm #

    Hi there,

    I’m passing the Versatile Blogger award to you

    • Teresa March 16, 2011 at 6:46 pm #

      So very kind. Thank you. 🙂

  13. Chai Chai March 16, 2011 at 6:41 pm #

    Not to get off topic but is that a water hand pump I see? If it is is it from a well or a tank? I would love to get a hand pump here but it is hard to find any information on how well they work in the Winter or cost.

    • Teresa March 16, 2011 at 6:48 pm #

      The hydrant is hooked to a well that is run by an electric pump. You could run it off of rural water too. I have had no problems with it freezing–I did buy the more expensive frost free hydrant. You could get it at most farm supply stores.

  14. Polly (5th Sister) March 16, 2011 at 6:54 pm #

    I adore genetics! Thank you for the wonderful lesson and the awesome photos.

    • Teresa March 16, 2011 at 7:02 pm #

      I have to admit, genetics is my favorite unit to teach in life science.

  15. Darrell March 16, 2011 at 7:34 pm #

    First of all I wanted to say that I love goats. I think that wattles on a goat are really cute, but I’ve had some get them caught on briers and other things and I was just wondering how much feeling they have in them. My goats were bleeding and needed some treatment but they didn’t seem like it affected them.

    • Teresa March 16, 2011 at 7:56 pm #

      I don’t know about that. I’ve never had anyone ever have a problem with their wattles. I’ve had more problems with them getting rose thorns stuck in their ears.

  16. Jackie March 16, 2011 at 8:35 pm #

    Wow this is fascinating. I learnt a new word today : wattles. I enjoyed reading your post and seeing your goats firsthand like that . I wonder if Xena will have wattles . …

    • Teresa March 16, 2011 at 8:52 pm #

      Um, well, she has two boys. Both have wattles, but I’ll have to think of boy names that start with X. No problems there!

  17. Jingle March 16, 2011 at 8:48 pm #

    very entertaining ..

    cute family there, thanks for sharing..

    • Teresa March 16, 2011 at 8:52 pm #

      Thanks so much for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed.

  18. Cindy Adkins March 17, 2011 at 12:17 am #

    Oh my gosh, Teresa, this is an amazing blog and I love all your pictures…I just looked at the pics of when they were even younger–how adorable!!!

    • Teresa March 17, 2011 at 7:03 am #

      That’s quite the compliment. Thanks so much, and I’m glad you enjoyed your visit.

  19. Pondside March 17, 2011 at 6:46 am #

    My girls have always had wattles, so I just assumed they all did. Thanks for the lesson!

    • Teresa March 17, 2011 at 7:04 am #

      My pleasure! I love the genetics part of animal husbandry.

  20. Theresa March 17, 2011 at 7:04 am #

    I’d never heard of wattles either! Thanks for sharing your goat family. Neat names and endearing photos!

    • Teresa March 17, 2011 at 7:05 am #

      It’s always my pleasure to share my goatie family! Thanks for stopping.

  21. Tracy March 17, 2011 at 7:30 am #

    This is a great blog! Our one goat has wattles and that was the reason I got him. They’re so soft and they sure do make a great conversation piece. After reading your blog, I can explain them a little better now.

    • Teresa March 17, 2011 at 7:47 am #

      I have to admit, I love to just feel Minnie’s wattles–very silky. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  22. crystalrainbow March 17, 2011 at 8:03 am #

    beautiful pics 🙂 beautiful goats wattles and all x x x x

    • Teresa March 17, 2011 at 8:05 am #

      Thank you. I think my girls are beautiful, too.

  23. Mimi Foxmorton March 17, 2011 at 10:13 am #

    Wattles make me nervous.
    Kind of like dangly earrings.

    • Teresa March 17, 2011 at 10:28 am #

      They are awfully cute once you get over the loose flaps of fuzzy skin concept.

  24. Wanda Metcalf March 17, 2011 at 10:37 am #

    I had fun learning all about Wattles. Apparently it is a gene someone in my family has because it was passed on to me! Sad to say it’s not as cute as it is on the the goats. They are so sweet I love the banner at the top of the page too.

    Looking forward to meeting the new kids on the block!

    Happy St. Pat’s Day

    • Teresa March 17, 2011 at 10:43 am #

      That’s too funny! Yes, wattles are much better on goats than people. So glad you stopped by.

  25. Gattina March 17, 2011 at 11:59 am #

    A goat looks cute with a wattle, men not ! Looks awful !

    • Teresa March 17, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

      I would certainly agree with that!

  26. Sue Anderson March 17, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

    Interesting genetic lesson on wattles. I never even knew what they were called, but they remind me of “the three billy goats gruff” pictures in story books.


    • Teresa March 17, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

      Yep. But all my goats with wattles are girls!

  27. Elaine March 17, 2011 at 8:59 pm #

    ….i have to admit that i didn’t know what a wattle was before today! Lovely pics of all the nannies, too!

    • Teresa March 17, 2011 at 9:10 pm #

      Thanks so much. They are one of my favorite photographic subjects.

  28. taylorsoutback March 18, 2011 at 9:24 am #

    Another informative posting – and a perfect W word! Enjoyed your photos – the nannies look like they are soaking up warm sunshine…hope we can soon.

    • Teresa March 18, 2011 at 9:38 am #

      They spent the entire day out there basking. It’s one of their favorite activities!

  29. Alison March 18, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    Three cheers for Punnett squares! Love the Wattle post – perfect for ‘W’ – and a fun word to say over and over. Thanks for sharing such fun pictures –

    • Teresa March 18, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

      I just love sharing pictures of my goats! So glad you stopped by.

  30. Cheryl D. March 19, 2011 at 12:27 am #

    Wow, you already have you X post taken care of! I like wattles. I’m very proud of mine!

    • Teresa March 19, 2011 at 8:39 am #

      Is that cheating? Very proud of yours–too funny!

  31. Jenny Matlock March 20, 2011 at 8:50 am #

    You are a genius. I love the way you describe things so that people like me can actually understand them. Please send this to Hobby Farm are one of those publications…Your writing style and simple explanations seem like they would make you a very popular writer.

    I really enjoyed this little wander through wattles with you for the letter ‘W” this week.

    I think I would leave the wattles…it feels odd that people would remove them!

    Thanks for linking!


    • Teresa March 20, 2011 at 10:31 am #

      I get a lot of practice explaining things in as simple a manner as possible since I’m a special education teacher! True scientists make things way more complicated than they need to. Thanks so much for visiting.

  32. Christina September 30, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

    As a “true scientist” I have spent over 30 years explaining concepts using a hands-on approach. So all true scientists do not make things way more complicated than they need to be. Some think outside the box and let the student explore and experience science.

    • Teresa September 30, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

      Sorry you seem to be offended by my comment. I was referring more to scientific writing that is very difficult to comprehend. I’m sure as a teacher you do a wonderful job of helping your students understand those difficult concepts.

      • Anonymous April 3, 2015 at 1:13 pm #

        Wheat breed of goats are these?

      • Teresa April 3, 2015 at 3:13 pm #

        My herd is largely a combination of Saanen and Boer with a bit of other stuff mixed in.


  1. Xander and Xavier « Eden Hills's Blog - March 23, 2011

    […] twins were born last Wednesday about an hour or so after I posted W for Wattles.  Well, she didn’t have a little girl to name Xena, so I had to be more creative.  Her […]

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