Disneyland’s best attraction. Instagram’s top photo spot in the world. A trending topic on Twitter for a record 37,945 days. The sole subject of an upcoming edition of the Guinness Book of Records. Yes, of course I’m talking about The Goats of Disneyland. Officially, it’s known as The Goats of Disneyland Park® at the Disneyland Resort® in Disney Big Thunder Ranch® Presented by Brawny®, aka Goat Galaxy. What more can be said about the Goats of Disneyland that hasn’t already been said? Welp, hopefully something, as I have a ton of photos of them to share and need to surround them with some words.
To start, yes, there are actually goats in Disneyland, and not just the Audio Animatronics ones on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The live goats are located in Big Thunder Ranch, along with a slew of other animals, including cows and those cocky sheep. The goat portion of this attraction is informally known as “Goat Galaxy” by its many fans and anyone who is even remotely cool. If you’ve missed them on your past visits to Disneyland (shame on you) don’t feel too bad, as most guests overlook this hidden gem of an area.
At this point, some of you might be thinking, “gee, Tom, why would I take time out of my limited vacation schedule to go see goats, when I can see them literally just about anywhere?” You can also play Wii carnival games at home and get pineapple ice cream all over the place, but that doesn’t stop you from waiting in long lines for Toy Story Midway Mania or Dole Whips, does it? As with those things, there’s something to be said for the Disney experience of interacting with goats. If that’s not enough to sell you on seeing the goats…uhh…they are magical goats that poop pixie dust?
Honestly, this isn’t so much an “Ultimate Guide” as it is a bunch of photos of Goat Galaxy with me making attempts at humor that will probably fall flat. You’re probably wasting your time by reading the rest of this article…
Before this devolves into nonsense, let’s delve into some history of Big Thunder Ranch so this post is actually marginally useful. Big Thunder Ranch originally opened on June 27, 1986 and operated until February 1996 when its animal inhabitants were evicted in favor of the “Festival of Fools”, a stage show based on the Disney movie Hunchback of Notre Dame.
I can’t find any information as to what animals were present at Big Thunder Ranch prior to 1996 besides Mickey Moo, who was the famous cow with spots shaped like Mickey Mouse ears on her side. Obviously, the Ranch needed an E-Ticket draw (or should I say, G-Ticket) even back then, so presumably, there were goats. When Festival of Fools rolled into town, I’m guessing the animals at Big Thunder Ranch headed to Circle D Ranch or were set loose on the mean streets of Anaheim.
Also of tangential historical interest to the land now occupied by the Goats of Disneyland in Big Thunder Ranch is an extinct attraction called Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland. I’ve gushed over my interest in this attraction on the blog more than once, so I won’t rehash that, but take a look at this map by Imagineer Chris Merritt (credit: Gorillas Don’t Blog–if this interests you, take a look at their full blog post on the map):
While not totally accurate in terms of layout, basically, Big Thunder Ranch more or less exists on the yellow “Living Desert” area in the top right. Many of the buttes, rockwork, and arches can still be found in Big Thunder Ranch, and are climbed on by the Goats of Disneyland to this day as they play classic games of “King of the Butte.” I think there’s some irony in the remnants of an attraction that used to feature Audio Animatronics goats now being utilized by real-life goats.
In terms of history, that’s about it. I wish I could say that Walt Disney once walked the pens of Big Thunder Ranch and his favorite goat still works at Disneyland to this day, but I can’t. However, like everyone else on the internet who claims to know what he would or wouldn’t approve of decades after his passing on a decidedly different era, I can say with complete authority that Walt would love Goat Galaxy because he had a deep and abiding love of goats. In fact, Walt Disney’s true vision for his Florida Project was E.P.C.O.G. – “Experimental Prototype Community of Goats.” All that stuff you’ve seen about EPCOT was merely the rough draft.
Another piece of information that’s actually educational: the goats at Disneyland are pygmy goats. Now, for those of you, like me, wondering if this is some sort of half-goat, half-pigman invented by Al Gore, it’s not. I checked into it.
Rather, per the internet, pygmy goats are a breed of miniature domestic goat. They tend to be kept as pets primarily, but are also milk producers and working animals. The pygmy goat is an asset in a wide variety of settings and can adapt to virtually all climates.
Working animals? Assets? No wonder the Goats of Disneyland are such great Cast Members! This post isn’t about learning, so if you want to know more about pygmy goats, check out this page.
Since this post does purport (at least in the title) to be an “Ultimate Guide,” let’s start by dispensing a little info about Goat Galaxy. First, the above sets forth some rules. No strollers? Now this is my kind of theme park land!
Although not listed, the other major rule is no climbing on these barrels. Believe me, I’ve tried to battle the goats in games of “King of the Barrel” and have always been admonished by Cast Members. It’s not worth it. Plus, the goats are way better than any humans at this game, and they will knock you flat on your rear.
Finally, the last rule is to wash your hands when you’re done. Like the Pirate’s Code, this is more a guideline than an actual rule. In my opinion (and I’m sure the science backs me up on this), washing your hands after playing with goats eliminates key nutrients and awesomeness molecules that are beneficial to human prosperity and funliness.
Although Bernard and Bianca won out (Bianca is an elegant, respectable name, no doubt), I was vindicated by the actual behavior of the goats. It turns out, Bernard is a mischievous little guy. Here he is pictured headbutting Bianca off of the barrels. He is also known to attempt escaping from the Goat Galaxy area, and often can be seen on a leash as a result.
Due to his demeanor quite clearly being that of a “baller and shot caller,” I have decided to refer to him as KRONK. I use the all-caps stylized spelling not as an acronym, but because KRONK has so much street cred that he dictates as much.
By contrast, Bianca is a perfect name for the female baby. She can typically be found lying gracefully atop this barrel, sometimes for hours at a time.
Like most pygmy goats, Bianca and KRONK love salt licks. They just have to watch out for those bullies, the sheep.
Among weirdos like myself who spend way too much time at Goat Galaxy, the youthful exuberance and playful attitudes of Bianca and KRONK have quickly won many a heart.
They both have tons of energy, and are quite fun. They run around, rising up on their back legs and coming down to butt heads with one another.
In terms of the other goats, Penny is my favorite. I’ve found this goat to be the most friendly and active of the bunch and inquisitive when it comes to cameras.
Penny loves to interact–and by interact I mean be pet–and will paw at you with its hooves or bump you if you stop petting.
As with the rest of the goats, Penny is pretty chill, spending approximately 87% of the day lying around.
Lock is another of my favorites. I’m not really sure why, but this goat is a frequent photo subject of mine. Whether it be weird wide angle shots like this or selfies, Lock always delivers as a photogenic subject.
In goat culture, long beards are viewed as a sign of sage wisdom.
Goats are festive creatures, celebrating all of the major holidays, such as Halloween and National Pizza Day.
For the photographers out there, I highly recommend using wide angle and fisheye lenses at Goat Galaxy. It might get you some weird looks, but what’s life without that? (I wouldn’t know.)
Leota is another all-star among the goats. One thing to note: don’t go by the goats names as indicative of gender. Aside from the new goats, it seems that other names are assigned without regard for sex. Progressive.
When the goats are sick of being poked by small children or otherwise want a respite from people, they head on the other side of this fence, which is the exclusive goats-only lounge.
Much like Club 33 members, the goats look out upon the general public with a contemptuous eye, laughing at us unwashed masses who are not allowed in their posh area.
HIDE YO WIFE, HIDE YO CLOTHES, CUZ’ A GOAT MIGHT STEAL BOTH.
Pausing the jokes for a moment, I love Goat Galaxy because it’s one of those things that makes Disneyland retain the charm and intimacy of a small, family-run theme park. Things like this petting zoo, Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes (really, all of the Rivers of America), and other Walt-era attractions feel like vestiges of a bygone time, and make the park feel less of a part of a massive entertainment conglomerate. But perhaps that’s just me.
As my early comments alluded, many of you from the middle of the country might be unimpressed by goats, having encountered them regularly. Keep in mind that in the greater Los Angeles area–the region from which Disneyland draws most of its guests–farms are far from the norm. Goat Galaxy may be many guests’ first encounter with farm animals.
Even if you’re familiar with goats, I think the goats have great therapeutic value. Many out of town tourists rush around Disneyland trying to cram as much as possible into the day due to their limited vacation time. While fun, this can also be a stressful proposition, leading to meltdowns. A visit to Goat Galaxy (hardly a popular attraction, despite my promotion of it) is a great way to slow down in the middle of the day and decompress.
Plus, it’s a must-do photo op. This generation’s National Pastime is not baseball, but rather, taking selfies. Goat Galaxy is a perfect place for the fabled “Goat Selfie,” one of the most sought-after selfies in the Western Hemisphere. Like any proud narcissist of my generation, I regularly partake in this time-honored tradition. Here’s one of my favorite Goat Selfies.
Sometimes, Goat Selfies go wrong. This is Barrel (left). As you can see, he’s a happy, free spirit. He’s also a rotund little pygmy goat. One day, I overheard a stereotypical Valley Girl telling her friend that she didn’t want her selfie with Barrel because he’s too fat. Then, she asked one of the Cast Members if he were pregnant. I kid you not. The Cast Member’s response? “No, it’s just his family shape. His brother is like that, too.” Fortunately, goats don’t speak dumbass, so he was not shamed by her degrading body image comments.
It goes without saying that Goat Galaxy is the greatest attraction at Disneyland, but the greatest part of Goat Galaxy is the “Running of the Goats,” which occurs at closing time (exact time varies–usually 30 minutes to an hour before sunset, but check with Big Thunder Cast Members on the day you visit). This is when the goats move from Goat Galaxy back to Circle D Ranch for dinner.
Friend of the blog and Pokemon aficionado Guy Selga captured a brilliant video of this daily occurrence…
It’s a simple thing, but it’s actually quite fun to watch, and one of those “little things” that makes Disneyland a special place (I’m being serious here). The half-hour before Running of the Goats is a great time to visit Goat Galaxy, as the goats are much more active and rambunctious as they are aware that dinner time is soon.
If, at this point in the article, you are so enamored with the Goats of Disneyland that you feel compelled to build your own Goat Galaxy, here’s a great resource on buying goats. Whether you live on a rural Midwestern farm or in a cramped Manhattan studio apartment, experts widely agree that goats make amazing pets and companions.
That covers it for this coverage of Goat Galaxy. Hopefully you’ve learned something been entertained slightly and this piques your interest in taking some time to visit Big Thunder Ranch! If you do make the wise decision to visit Goat Galaxy at Big Thunder Ranch, make sure to use the #GoatGalaxy hashtag on Instagram and Twitter!
Are you a fan of Goat Galaxy? Do you have a favorite Goat of Disneyland? Are you pissed that you wasted 10 minutes of your day looking at this post? Please share your thoughts or questions in the comments section below!