Goat jewellery: what are wattles for?

Here’s an update on my previous post about goat anatomy.  It seems no one really knows what wattles are for!

A Toggenburg dairy goat.

A Toggenburg dairy goat. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These fleshy, hair-covered appendages have no obvious purpose, though there is some German research by C. Gall suggesting they are an indication of good milk production potential. It is true that they are mostly seen on dairy goat breeds such as the Saanen or Toggenburg.

In other species such as some birds, wattles are organs of sexual dimorphism – that is,  they differentiate between males and females.  Some are erectile tissue used as ornaments in courtship, and large avian wattles are possibly correlated with high testosterone levels which potentially indicate a suitable mate. They may even be associated with genes coding for disease resistance.

Sorry not to be more helpful.  But here are some really nice pictures of goats’ wattles.

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