Tiffany Breindel, program and summer camp director of Chapel Hill's 1870 Farm, said the farm began offering goat cuddles for Valentine’s Day last year. The event sold out despite a short-notice advertisement it put out. The farm hosted a few more events that spring and are planning on doing the same this year.
The cuddles are a smaller-scale event. Visitors come in very small groups and are given 30 minutes with the goats.
“They just play with the goats, feed the goats, cuddle the goats and so it really socializes our little babies to be super calm around people and really gentle in general,” Breindel said.
Right now, 1870 Farm has Boer goats, Pygmy goats and Fainting goats. There are 18 full-grown goats, a couple of 3- to 4-month-old goats — and they are expecting nine babies.
“All of our animals at the farm are living posh lives; they don’t really have to work too hard for their keep on the farm,” Breindel said.
Goat cuddles is the only goat-specific event 1870 hosts right now, but Breindel said they will probably expand.
“Goats are like dogs, except that they’re almost full of more energy,” Breindel said. “They all have their own different personalities — they like to be really silly, especially as babies, and they like to climb on things, so it’s always funny to have obstacles or picnic tables out, and the goats climb right up and get in people's faces.”
Abby Jones, assistant park manager at Historic Oak View County Park, also said goats each have unique personalities.
The park has five goats — Walt, Elliot, Levi, Leroy and Felix. Jones said they live in a livestock barn built in the 1900s and have a veterinarian who checks on them regularly to make sure they are happy and healthy.
Jones said visitors can come to Oak View to feed the goats treats and pet them, and every May they can come and celebrate the goats' birthdays at the Barnyard Birthday Bash.
“I think our goats have always been popular from visitors who meet them because they’re so friendly and fun to be around,” Jones said.
She said the goats have been a great addition to the educational mission of Historic Oak View.
Crihfield said he thinks people are drawn to these events because they long for that connection humans once had with animals, when they were a part of everyone’s daily life.
“I think it’s just a unique experience that a lot of people — especially being in our city areas — a lot of people don’t get to experience all the time,” Breindel said. “So I think that kind of unique experience type of draw is what has made these goat events so popular.”