Meet the goat who ran away from slaughter and won his freedom

This is Braveheart—the famous @Lowellgoat who spent a month last year on the lam in New England’s brutal winter wilderness, now living it up at a farm animal sanctuary.

The legend of the @Lowellgoat, aka Braveheart, began last Boxing Day on a small Massachusetts farm: Oliveira’s Piggery in Tewksbury. The Piggery supplies the region’s Muslim community—and anybody else with a taste for goat—with live specimens for New Year’s celebrations, to be slaughtered and cooked according to custom. What began as a fairly routine case of missing stock transformed into a tale that won that hearts of many, and ultimately the runaway’s liberty.

Steve Rayshick of Sunny Meadows Sanctuary in Holden, Massachusetts—where Braveheart’s spent the last year or so after his capture late last January, precisely a month after his breakout—says initially the intent was to return the goat to its owner. But quickly the survivor’s story spread, enrapturing residents.

‘I think after a month spent living in the wilds of Massachusetts all on his own, there was a lot of public pressure to save him from his original fate,’ says Rayshick.

The goat had eluded capture in part by keeping on the move, spotted in quite a few towns throughout the surrounding Merrimack Valley. Rayshick says the goat also threw off a pack of coyotes that followed him for a period. He even got his very own twitter account and a thousand or so followers, @LowellGoat.

Talks of a rescue really began in anticipation of a massive snowstorm, explains Rayshick, predicted to drop some 34 inches. The wanderer’s journey had come to a necessary conclusion; the likelihood of him surviving the blizzard was low.

‘We’d worked with the Animal Rescue League of Boston before, the ones legally allowed to trap him, and they knew we had experience with big-horned male goats like this,’ says Rayshick.

Rayshick says the group kept Braveheart for a few weeks post-capture, to begin his rehabilitation and prepare him for arrival at the sanctuary. This meant a few adjustments, specifically being neutered, as he’d be sharing his new digs with two female roommates. And putting on some weight, the Massachusetts winter doesn’t exactly offer grazers much.

Almost a year later, Rayshick reports that Braveheart is doing very well. At the time of the interview, he was frolicking out in the sunshine with his pen mate Chloe—a younger female, suspected of having been beaten before coming to Sunny Meadows.

Yet despite his fantastic recovery, Rayshick says there are still reminders of the brave goat’s past, like the deep scar tissue rings around his neck from a green hanging noose he donned throughout his time in the woods. Braveheart also had a rough summer, mourning the death of his elder female roomie.

Braveheart bonds with Helen. Photo courtesy of Helen and Steve Rayshick
Braveheart bonds with Helen. Photo courtesy of Helen and Steve Rayshick

But Braveheart’s future looks bright, with a permanent home in the sanctuary started by Rayshick and his wife in 2007, after the pair deemed they had enough property, inclination, and outside support to open a farm animal safe haven in their backyard. Today Sunny Meadows Sanctuary has about 50 animals and 11 species, a mix of larger animals like horses, cows, and of course goats, plus smaller residents like chickens, ducks, and rabbits.

Part of the sanctuary’s aim is to show people that farm animals aren’t really different from cats or dogs, complete with moods, emotions, and needs, explains Rayshick. Braveheart is a perfect ambassador for this message.

‘His story teaches people these animals can be resourceful, courageous, and very smart,’ says Rayshick. ‘Before he came to us he’d already been named Braveheart, which seems right. His trials proved he truly had a brave heart.