Judas goat

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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, a disciple of Jesus Christ who betrayed him.[6]

Different meanings[edit]

A B-24 Liberator configured as a Judas Goat

Leader bombers[edit]

The phrase was also used in World War II by the 8th Air Force, U.S. Army Air Forces B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator crew members. Each bomb group employed a nearly worn-out bomber known as a formation, lead, or assembly ship. These aircraft were brightly painted with group-specific high-contrast patterns in stripes, checkers, or polka dots, enabling easy recognition by their group of bombers to form up from various airbases over England and fly strategic bombing missions over Europe.[7] After guiding their own combat bombers into the appropriate formation groups the assembly ships would return home—thus their poor condition and lack of camouflage and weapons mattered little.

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.[8] 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.[9][10] 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.[11]

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. ^ Judas Iscariot - Definitions from Dictionary.com
  7. ^ Corgi 1/72 Consolidated B-24 Liberator You Cawnt Miss It 448th BG (AA34007) | Antics Online Archived 2009-04-03 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20110317065527/http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/57263/goa-005.pdf
  9. ^ "Galapagos | Radiolab". WNYC Studios. Retrieved 2020-09-06.
  10. ^ "Exterminating the Goats of Galapagos". Modern Farmer. 2013-09-18. Retrieved 2020-09-06.
  11. ^ Keith Moore (7 May 2016), The cute creature Sweden wants to wipe out, BBC