Judas goat

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A Judas goat is a trained goat used in general animal herding. The Judas goat is trained to associate with sheep or cattle, leading them to a specific destination. In stockyards, a Judas goat will lead sheep to slaughter,[1] while its own life is spared. Judas goats are also used to lead other animals to specific pens and onto trucks. They have fallen out of use in recent times,[citation needed] but can still be found in various smaller slaughterhouses in some parts of the world, as well as conservation projects.[2]

Cattle herders may use a Judas steer to serve the same purpose as a Judas goat. The technique, and the term, originated from cattle drives in the United States in the 1800s.[3][4][5]

The term is a reference to Judas Iscariot, an apostle of Jesus Christ who betrayed Jesus in the Bible.

Project Isabela in the Galàpagos Islands[edit]

Project Isabela was a goat extermination initiative in the Galápagos Islands that started in 1997 and ended in 2006.[6] Approximately 140,000 goats were living in the wild on the islands and threatening the local ecosystem. Goats were killed by gunmen in helicopters and by foot. Judas goats were used to lure the remaining goats to their death.[7] The project cost 6 million dollars.[8]

Goats tracking feral goats[edit]

The phrase has also been used to describe a goat that is used to find feral goats that are targeted for eradication. The Judas goat is usually sterilised, outfitted with a transmitter, painted in red and then released. The goat then finds the remaining herds of feral goats, allowing hunters to exterminate them.[9] The popular podcast Radiolab dedicated a portion of its episode on the Galápagos Islands to how feral goats affected the environment on the islands and how Judas goats were used to help return the islands to nature.[10][11] This technique is now used to target other invasive species, such as camels in Australia, pigs in America, rats in Mexico and raccoon dogs in Europe.[12]

Popular culture[edit]

A Judas goat appears in the 1959 film Compulsion.

A reference to a Judas goat was included in the Star Trek original series season 2 Episode 9 "Metamorphosis".

In the Cannon episode "Vengeance", the ex-wife of the hunted main character tries to refuse a mafia killer's attempt to use her as a "Judas goat" to lure her ex to his death.

The main character of Octavia E. Butler's novel Dawn refers to herself as a Judas goat.

A reference to a Judas goat is included in the television series The Exorcist Season 1 Episode 9 "Chapter Nine: 162".

In Terry Pratchett's Feet of Clay there is a satirical version called a yudasgoat.

Judas Goat was the title of Gabrielle Bates' 2023 poetry collection, published by Tin House Books.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dockter, Mason. "Untold story of the Stockyards: Judas goats". Sioux City Journal. Retrieved 2020-09-06.
  2. ^ "Eliminating Goats and Donkeys from Isabela, the Largest Galapagos Island". Galapagos Conservancy, Inc. Retrieved 2020-09-06.
  3. ^ Popik, Barry. "Entry from January 02, 2007 Judas Steer". Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  4. ^ Jeffrey Kacirk (2005). Informal English: Puncture Ladies, Egg Harbors, Mississippi Marbles, and Other Curious Words and Phrases of North America. Simon and Schuster. p. 113. ISBN 978-0-7432-7195-0.
  5. ^ "The Original". Westworld. Season 1. 2 October 2016. HBO.
  6. ^ "Project Isabela". Galápagos Conservancy. Retrieved 2022-07-18.
  7. ^ Romero, Simon (2007-05-01). "In the Galápagos Islands, a battle between man and goat". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-07-18.
  8. ^ "On the Galapagos, The Betrayal of Judas Goats". Culture. 2014-09-02. Retrieved 2022-07-18.
  9. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). www.dpi.nsw.gov.au. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 March 2011. Retrieved 12 January 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ "Galapagos | Radiolab". WNYC Studios. Retrieved 2020-09-06.
  11. ^ "Exterminating the Goats of Galapagos". Modern Farmer. 2013-09-18. Retrieved 2020-09-06.
  12. ^ Keith Moore (7 May 2016), The cute creature Sweden wants to wipe out, BBC