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Anyone know where the myth that goats eat tin cans originated?
August 26, 2005 4:30 PM   Subscribe

Anyone know where the myth that goats eat tin cans originated?

It's become such a part of popular culture, when you think goats, you think of them eating tin cans. Why is this? I'm in a debate with someone about whether or not it came from old Loony Tunes cartoons or somewhere else, but neither of us can get to the bottom of it.
posted by scallion to Pets & Animals (15 answers total)
 
I've heard that the notion that goats ate tin cans originally started when people saw them eating the paper off the front of the cans. Apparently, goats will eat just about anything.
posted by MrZero at 4:35 PM on August 26, 2005


I once read (in Bernie Smith's The Joy of Trivia) that it stems from the fact that goats like glue and nibbled at cans when they had glued-on adhesive labels.

More likely, I think it's pure comic exaggeration-- goats will eat and digest anything marginally edible, including garbage. So it's kind of funny to think of them eating literally anything, including the most undigestable things. And a can is about the most impossible thing to eat in household garbage.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:38 PM on August 26, 2005


With Billy Whiskers?
posted by caddis at 4:42 PM on August 26, 2005


Oh, my. I never questioned the idea that goats ate tin cans until now.

I probably shouldn't admit that.
posted by evariste at 5:29 PM on August 26, 2005


I've seen goats eat entire pairs of jeans, including zippers and rivets.

I'll test this, if I ever have goats again, but it wouldn't surpise me at all to see a goat chewing on a tin can to get to the remnants of some tomato paste.
posted by snsranch at 5:40 PM on August 26, 2005


Wow! I was going to ask this question about a week ago!
posted by tomble at 5:59 PM on August 26, 2005


Goats eat all sorts of things.
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:00 PM on August 26, 2005


I've never heard of this. Cool
posted by jikel_morten at 6:02 PM on August 26, 2005


Similar: TV documentaries always just looooove to tell the audience that sharks eat just about anything, and for some reason they ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS mention automobile license plates. It's true, but I don't know why license plates are worth mentioning.
posted by davidmsc at 7:14 PM on August 26, 2005


Ha! I love Billy Whiskers!
posted by scallion at 8:24 PM on August 26, 2005


I've always thought that it didn't originate but was spread through Looney Tunes cartoons 50 or 60 years back. That's the first place I remember seeing it, probably because the Sunday at 6:00pm Bugs Bunny/Road Runner hour was a ritual in my house when I was a kid.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:39 PM on August 26, 2005


Old Hiram's goat was feeling fine,
Ate six red shirts right off the line.

Old Hiram got mad and broke his back,
He tied that goat to the railroad track.

Goat gave one shriek in mortal pain,
Coughed up the shirts and flagged the train.
posted by Cranberry at 10:59 PM on August 26, 2005


It's definitely much older than Looney Tunes, though stavros may be right about propagating / popularising the idea. Somewhere in my cupboard I've got an original newspaper cartoon from 1903 with a goat eating a can.

But they are highly inquisitive animals without hands, so they use their lips and mouth for touching everything, and seem to enjoy eating paper. Funny, because they can be picky buggers about eating their real feed.

For trivia buffs: tin cans were developed in the early 19th century.
posted by Pinback at 2:35 AM on August 27, 2005


When I was in East Berlin, I saw a goat that had half-finished a Trabant. Mind you, they're mostly particle board.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:50 AM on August 27, 2005


Similar: TV documentaries always just looooove to tell the audience that sharks eat just about anything, and for some reason they ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS mention automobile license plates. It's true, but I don't know why license plates are worth mentioning.

maybe cause they pulled a license plate outta that shark in Jaws?
posted by fishfucker at 8:52 AM on August 27, 2005


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