Home Greek islands Greece has the highest number of goats in Europe

Greece has the highest number of goats in Europe

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A goat on the Greek island of Amorgos. Credit: Zde /Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

Greece is known for its adorable goats, especially on the islands.

According to a recent study conducted by the European Union’s statistical authority, Eurostat, Greece is the undisputed champion in the EU when it comes to its number of resident goats.

Specifically, according to the European Union’s report on agriculture, forestry and fisheries for 2020, Greece is at the forefront of the EU for the largest number of goats in its territory, possessing approximately 3,625,000 goats.

Second place goes to Spain with almost a million fewer goats than Greece.

The nation of Spain has up to 2,765,000 goats while Romania comes third with around 1,539,000 goats.

Grecian Delight supports Greece

France follows in fourth position with approximately 1,252,000 goats on its territory.

It is worth mentioning that the other aforementioned EU member states have a much larger land mass than Greece, but the mountainous countryside of Greece has somehow always proven to be a much more hospitable habitat for these adorable animals. .

Goats Greece
Goats in Halkidiki. Credit: Rosa-Maria Rinkl /Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

Goats feature prominently in Greek folklore, history

This news sparked a wave of humorous posts on Greek social media, as Greek folk tradition has always portrayed goatherds as quaint and outdated characters, synonymous with poverty and lack of education.

Of course, the country has a long agricultural tradition, no doubt dating back to ancient times, with goats being central to the production of various cheese, dairy and meat products.

Scientists say that goat’s milk has great medicinal qualities due to its high digestibility and hypoallergenic qualities, and they recommend it to people with cow’s milk allergy. Research results show that 40-100% of people with cow’s milk allergy can consume goat’s milk without any problem.

Most important is the traditional custom of having roast goat with spit roast lamb on Easter Sunday.

However, such a large population of these helpful animals comes at a cost.

Overgrazing could have a negative environmental impact

On the Greek island of Samothrace, for example, in the northern Aegean, goats now pose an imminent threat to the natural environment due to overgrazing.

Remarkably, goats far outnumber humans on the island.

Goats Greece
Goat in Samothrace. Credit: S.Nikolakakos /Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

While there are only 3,000 permanent inhabitants on Samothrace, the island currently contains over 45,000 goats, meaning there are 15 goats for every human on Samothrace.

This has created a real environmental emergency on the island as tens of thousands of goats have already eaten almost all of Samothrace’s precious wild vegetation.

For this reason, many of these animals are now malnourished and cannot even be marketed for their meat.

Thus, it seems that the traditional love that the Greeks historically have for goats might have reached its practical limit.

The unchecked goat population could lead to catastrophic loss of valuable hillside vegetation in places such as Samothrace Island, damaging its natural environment for decades.