You’ve probably already heard about goat yoga, the nationwide phenomenon that lets participants practice their poses alongside tiny, spirited, cloven-hoofed friends. What is it about these notoriously playful farm animals that makes so many people – city dwellers included – want to be around them?
Barbara Derecktor Donahue founded Goatopia last year, a sprawling rentable space for parties and overnight stays in Tiverton. She describes the effect of being won over by goats as “becoming goat-ized” – and she never dreamed it could happen to her.
“I never even looked at them, I never thought they were cute – nothing!” Donahue says. She and her husband Mark already owned chickens, a German Shepherd, and other typical house pets on the large waterfront property they’ve inhabited for 33 years. But when sons Adam and Jaeke surprised their mother for her birthday in 2015 with two baby meat goats rescued from a slaughter auction, she had no idea how much her life was about to change.
A lifelong dancer, Donahue had just been starting to wind down her belly dance instruction studio, the Dancing Spirit, when Abraham and Jebediah pranced into her life. She began researching and observing her charges and, over the course of a year, learned more about their intriguing personalities. Within three years, the adopted goat family had grown to six, including Oberhasli and Nigerian Dwarf breeds.
In the neighborhood, “I became known as the lady who walks her goats,” Donahue says. She noticed that, unlike most dogs, her goats patiently waited for her whenever she stopped walking. “I thought, ‘Okay, so these guys are trainable. Maybe I can dance with them.’”
Inspired by Polish ballet dancer and choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky – ”the great jumper, the clown of God” – and his legendary “Afternoon of a Faun,” Donahue began to craft a brand-new dance: “The Goat Ballet.”
The Donahues cleared land and erected an “obstacle course” out of old building materials and discarded objects; as world music plays, Donahue leads her six “dancers” through the routine as they fearlessly climb up and down the various towers. (It should be noted that these are full-grown animals, much larger than the baby or pygmy goats often featured in YouTube videos.) When visitors come to stay at Goatopia, they can watch this one-of-a-kind spectacle and befriend the performers too.
Goatopia comprises two living spaces that visitors can rent for up to a week: the colorful, open Goat Cottage (former home to the Dancing Spirit studio) and the more stately, nautical-themed Captain’s Quarters, an offshoot of the 150-year-old main house. A wall in the Goat Cottage proudly displays guest drawings and paintings – usually of the goats – and visitors are often treated to fresh eggs, flowers, and vegetables from the garden when in season. An outdoor picnic space with hanging lights is now rentable for “Goat Parties.” There’s even a pool and a fire pit.
On May 26, Goatopia will host an all-ages Spring Flow class (a combination of stretching and gentle movements) and Goat Expression Celebration. Tiverton