Calgary

'Goatman' inspired by shaman joins herd, eats grass in week-long experiment

Have you ever wanted to take a holiday from being human? Thomas Thwaites did just that, spending a week living as a goat and foraging in the Swiss Alps.

Author pens book on making goat friends and frenemies, grass diet, walking on all fours

Thomas Thwaites, a 35-year-old researcher from London, England, lived as a goat in the Swiss Alps as part of an experiment. (Supplied)

Have you ever wanted to take a holiday from being human?

Thomas Thwaites did just that, spending a week living as a goat foraging in the Swiss Alps.

The 35-year-old researcher from London, England, spent three days living among a herd before wandering off on his own for another three days.

He's recounted his adventures in a new book published this week, Goatman: How I Took a Holiday From Being Human.

"Basically a shaman told me that I should be a goat," he told The Calgary Eyeopener.

"I had been considering other animals and I had kind of decided I was going to become an elephant, mainly because I thought it would be more practical to transform myself into an elephant.

"I did a bit of research and came across all this information about how elephants are one of the only other species on the planet that may have some sense of their own mortality and they exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress and so on, and I was kind of trying to escape all those worries and ideas."

Artificial stomach to help digest grass

To make the experience as immersive as possible, Thwaites wore a specially designed exoskeleton suit that included a helmet and chest protector along with extensions on his arms and legs, allowing him to walk on all fours.

Thwaites had a special suit designed to help him walk on all fours. (Supplied)

He also used a pressure cooker to help digest his diet of grass.

"I went to a prosthetics clinic and they agreed to make me some goat limbs and I went to a kind of rumen (stomach) biology lab and made an artificial rumen so I could digest grass then headed to the Alps where I'd contacted a goat farmer and said 'I'd like to join your herd, please.'"

He even managed to make some new goat friends.

"It was odd but a particular member of the herd, me and her, we kind of hung out together," he said.

"She was the first one who came over once I reached the pasture and sniffed my beard trying to work out what I was."

Researcher Thomas Thwaites says he made some amicable 'goat friends' among the herd he joined. (Supplied)

"I would walk off to another patch of grass then turn around and there would be my goat friend behind me."

He also made some goat frenemies.

"Goats are very hierarchical, they aren't a social animal, so you need to work out where you are in the pecking order," he said.

"That was a slightly scary moment when those horns started looking a little more spikey than they had."

Lessons learned

Overall, Thwaites called it an ultimate learning experience.

"A few practical things like what sweet grass looks like versus horrible grass," he said about what he took away.

"Also it was kind of a spiritual thing, at least meditative.

"I think maybe, as human beings, we forget we are animals at some point." 

"Goats are very hierarchical, they aren't a social animal, so you need to work out where you are in the pecking order," Thwaites says. (Supplied)

With files from The Calgary Eyeopener

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