Parents shower love upon their children by kissing and cuddling them. Children are energized by that love and cuddle their stuffed animals and pets. Interestingly, there is a modern form of cuddling that is perfect for families and children of all ages and abilities. It is called goat cuddling, and yes, it’s a thing!
What is goat cuddling?
Typically, the human act of cuddling is to hold a person or thing in one’s arms or hug them as a means of showing love and affection. Goat cuddling is exactly the same, though with unique origins! Sometimes, goat cuddling is referred to by different names, including goat therapy and goat yoga, but it’s all related to showing affection to goats.
In the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area, it is believed goat cuddling began in 2016 with an innocent social media call for help.
Farm owner Gail Hobbs-Page from Caromont [cheese] Farm in Esmont, Virginia (Albemarle County) was preparing for the birth of 100 goats. Since her sparse staff was tired, she requested help on social media to help the newborn goats. She asked for “volunteer baby goat cuddlers” because “when they become milkers for the cheese operation, they’re easier to handle. If we didn’t do this [goat cuddling] on some level, you couldn’t get your hands on them. They’d just run away,” notes Hobbs-Page.
While Hobbs-Page’s intent was to encourage goat cuddling to facilitate milking them to make goat cheese, goat cuddling became incredibly popular, almost overwhelming the entire farm. With an increase in goat cuddling volunteers on one farm, the popularity and public interest in this new and unusual activity eventually spread to other farms in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area and eventually, throughout the United States.
Today, goat cuddling is still the same holding, hugging and tenderly embracing of goats, though its known benefits far outweigh Hobbs-Page’s initial desire to facilitate the production of goat cheese.
What are the benefits of goat cuddling?
When adults and children cuddle goats, it is not just the act of giving simple hugs that is helpful. It is being in a safe, enclosed environment where the focus is on the goat and its interactions with humans.
How does the goat perceive humans? How does the goat react to smiles? What happens when children extend their arms to indicate nonverbal love in the form of a hug? What happens when people pet the goats on their heads or massage their fur? All forms of careful, conscious touching and purposeful interactions are different ways of cuddling goats.
Goat cuddling, considered to be a form of animal-assisted therapy, offers important benefits that boost physical health and mental wellness. By choosing to spend time with goats and bond with them through presence, touch and meaningful interactions, people can benefit immensely.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of goat cuddling is the release of oxytocin, commonly known as the love hormone, which helps adults and children relax, and be happier and more confident with themselves and social relationships.
Goat cuddling also helps people by lessening the damaging effects of many common ailments including high blood pressure, increased heart rates, anxiety, symptoms of depression, and the physical and mental effects of social isolation and loneliness. Goat cuddling is also highly beneficial because it gives people the opportunity to connect with nature in a peaceful, rustic environment.
By being in the presence of goats, even for short increments of time, people benefit from goat cuddling by improving their self-awareness and self-confidence, building upon compassion, respect and understanding, and moving closer to self-actualization through communication, trust and kindness.
There are special benefits of goat cuddling for children.
Goat cuddling helps people of all ages, but it offers children special benefits. Cuddling goats is an easy outdoor activity that helps children get fresh air and natural sunlight. It is also a fun educational activity that teaches children all about the lives and maintenance of goats, fun things to do on a farm and proper behavior with goats.
Goat cuddling is a serene activity that is perfect for children of all ages and ability levels. As per Matthew Boyer, owner of Charming Hill Farm in Brandy Station, Virginia, “Our farm often receives visits from children with intellectual and developmental disabilities … goat cuddling is an escape in education for them.” Boyer is confident that goat cuddling is safe and appropriate for all children because it encourages love, friendship and positive interactions with humans and goats.
Indeed, even children who may be shy, nonverbal, or otherwise have difficulty with socialization benefit from goat cuddling. Words are not necessary when it comes to goat cuddling – only a positive mindset, a smile, and an eagerness to be with the goats and express affection through touch are all that is needed.
How can children prepare for a goat cuddling session?
Local farms throughout the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area offer goat cuddling sessions at specific times of the year. Adults and children may cuddle with goats for 30 minutes up to two hours per session. Some farms offer goat cuddling as a special event as a free add-on as part of their paid admission to the farm. Other farms charge a set price per person. Either way, there are a few simple things children can do to prepare for goat cuddling.
The best preparation children can have is a quick educational lesson from a parent or teacher. Children should be familiar with the setup of a farm and should be aware that being around animals is usually an experience that may impact their sense of smell and touch. Children should also have a basic understanding of typical goat behavior and things they can do and shouldn’t do when interacting with goats.
Getting ready to cuddle goats!
Now that you know the basics of goat cuddling, the next thing to do is experience it in person. Goat cuddling is a therapeutic and happiness-boosting activity that is perfect for families. Check the sidebar for great options on where to cuddle goats locally!
Local Farms for Families to Celebrate Togetherness by Cuddling With Goats
- North to South Farm, LaPlata. northtosouthfarm.com
- Goat’n Around, Sandy Spring. goatnaround.com
- Goat for the Soul, Union Bridge. goatforthesoul.com
- Strohmer’s Farm, Woodstock. strohmersfarm.com
- Silver Maple Farm, Berryville. silvermaplefarmgoats.com
- Charming Hill Farm, Brandy Station. charminghillfarm.com
- Pactamere Farm, Glen Allen. pactamerefarm.com
- Little Goat Farm at the Lake, Nokesville. littlegoatfarmva.com