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,[2] but can still be found in various smaller slaughterhouses in some parts of the world, as well as conservation projects.[3]

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.[4][5]

The term is a reference to Judas Iscariot, an apostle of Jesus Christ who betrayed Jesus according to the New Testament.

Goats tracking feral goats


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.[6] The 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.[7][8] 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.[9]

Goat eradication on San Clemente Island


Endemic species on San Clemente Island have been degraded by feral goats since 1875.[10] Under the administration of the United States Navy, a program of intensive eradication between 1972 and 1989 eliminated 28,000 goats on the island. Some feral goats were able to find cover in the rugged terrain and eradication efforts were hindered by frequent naval bombardment operations. Between 1989 and 1991, a dozen radio-collared Judas goats were used on the island to locate the remaining feral goats. 263 goats were killed.[11]

Project Isabela in the Galápagos Islands


Project Isabela was a goat extermination initiative in the Galápagos Islands that started in 1997 and ended in 2006.[12] 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 on foot. Judas goats were used to lure the remaining goats to their death.[13] The project cost 6 million dollars.[14]

See also



  1. ^ Dockter, Mason (31 March 2018). "Untold story of the Stockyards: Judas goats". Sioux City Journal. Archived from the original on 2020-10-30. Retrieved 2020-09-06.
  2. ^ "Whatever Happened to the Judas Goats? | Ambrook Research". Ambrook. 2023-08-10. Retrieved 2024-03-02.
  3. ^ "Eliminating Goats and Donkeys from Isabela, the Largest Galapagos Island". Galapagos Conservancy, Inc. Archived from the original on 2020-09-22. Retrieved 2020-09-06.
  4. ^ Popik, Barry. "Entry from January 02, 2007 Judas Steer". Archived from the original on 3 October 2016. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Sharp, Trudy; Saunders, Glen. "GOA005 use of Judas goats" (PDF). www.dpi.nsw.gov.au. NSW Department of Primary Industries. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 March 2011. Retrieved 12 January 2022.
  7. ^ "Galapagos | Radiolab". WNYC Studios. Archived from the original on 2020-08-06. Retrieved 2020-09-06.
  8. ^ "Exterminating the Goats of Galapagos". Modern Farmer. 2013-09-18. Archived from the original on 2020-11-09. Retrieved 2020-09-06.
  9. ^ Keith Moore (7 May 2016), The cute creature Sweden wants to wipe out, BBC, archived from the original on 29 November 2017, retrieved 21 June 2018
  10. ^ Keegan, Dawn R.; Coblentz, Bruce E.; Winchell, Clark S. (1994). "Feral Goat Eradication on San Clemente Island, California". Wildlife Society Bulletin. 22 (1): 56–61. ISSN 0091-7648. JSTOR 3783223. Archived from the original on 2017-03-05. Retrieved 2023-06-03.
  11. ^ Seward, Dawn R'Lene (9 December 1991). Use of the Judas Goat Technique to Eradicate the Remnant Feral Goat Population on San Clemente Island, California (Thesis). Oregon State University. Archived from the original on 14 June 2021.
  12. ^ "Project Isabela". Galápagos Conservancy. Archived from the original on 2022-07-18. Retrieved 2022-07-18.
  13. ^ Romero, Simon (2007-05-01). "In the Galápagos Islands, a battle between man and goat". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 2022-07-18. Retrieved 2022-07-18.
  14. ^ "On the Galapagos, The Betrayal of Judas Goats". Culture. 2014-09-02. Archived from the original on 2022-07-18. Retrieved 2022-07-18.