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New Zealand Arapawa Goat Association

New Zealand Arapawa Goat Association

(Incorporating the International Arapawa Goat Association)

Book cover

The Goat Who Sailed the World

by Jackie French

The following letter from Jackie French, author of 'The Goat Who Sailed the World', was written to the New Zealand Arapawa Goat Association (NZAGA) in July 2011. Note that the little goat illustrated on the cover of her book is the late 'Hemmingway', an Arapawa buck who was owned and loved by the Willowbank Wildlife Park in Christchurch (his photo was taken by Karen Nicoll).   Jackie writes:

I fell in love with Arapawa goats while researching The Goat Who Sailed the World, the true story of Captain Cook's goat.

When James Cook and the Endeavour sailed from Plymouth in 1768 on the voyage that would first map eastern Australia (and lead to the British settling a colony there twenty years later) the tiny ship carried seventy-one crew, twelve marines, eleven scientists and their servants, seventeen sheep, a small mob of cattle for meat, four ducks and five chickens for eggs, a boar, a sow and her piglets for meat too, and three cats to catch the rats that swarmed on every ship. It carried a goat too. This was a famous goat. She had already sailed around the world with Captain Wallis, providing milk for the captain and his officers. Now she was going to face three years of storms and exploration, shipwreck, fire and plague. But the goat survived it all - and gave milk for the entire three year voyage. And when the Endeavour got back she was the most famous goat in history. The British government voted her a pension. The lords of the Admiralty signed a warrant, giving her the privileges of an in-pensioner of Greenwich Hospital - the only time such an honour has ever been given to an animal. The Royal Society gave her a silver collar. And Captain James Cook was so fond of her that he took her home with him.

When I began researching the goat I thought her breed was extinct. It was only part way through that the New Zealand editor came up with the wonderful news - a small number of this hardy, intelligent, self possessed, productive and most individual of goats survived.

When any breed dies, the world loses. The Arapawas aren't just a link with our past. They are a gene stock that needs to be preserved because ... well, perhaps because we don't know what the future may bring, but whatever it is, a gene pool of goats so tough and so productive may be needed. And Like Captain Cook, and his officers, many lives, too, will be made richer by sharing them with goats of such glorious individuality.

Captain Cook's goat wasn't a sweet little nanny. Her first claim to fame was when the Dolphin had first reached Tahiti - the first European ship to reach the islands. The goat took a dislike to Tahitian royalty stepping onto 'her' quarterdeck. The unfortunate man bent down ... and the goat butted him and sent him flying. The poor man dived overboard to get away from her - followed by every other Tahitian. How can you not love a goat who butts royalty overboard?

The goat died the year after the voyage, in April 1772, only two days after Parliament had voted give her the State pension. The Latin poem by the famous Dr Johnson (inscribed on her silver collar) was her epitaph:

'Perpetua ambita bis terra praemia lactis'
Haec habet altrici Capra secunda Jovis.'
'In fame scarce second to the nurse of Jove,
This Goat, who twice the world had traversed round,
Deserving both her master's care and love,
Ease and perpetual pasture now has found.'

May all the other Arapawas find 'ease and perpetual pasture' too, with those who will love them and preserve them.

Jackie French

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