As It Happens

Swedish town's arson-prone Christmas goat stands strong amid heightened security

With less than a week until Christmas, Sweden's arson-prone Gävle goat has yet to be burned down.

In past years, the Gävle​ goat has been obliterated by fire, dismembered or otherwise destroyed

The giant version of the traditional Swedish Yule Goat figure is made of straw and is known for being a frequent target for vandalism since it was first erected in 1966. (Mats Astrand/AFP/Getty Images)

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A historically unlucky straw goat in Sweden has evaded a grisly demise this holiday season — for now. 

Every Christmas season, the town of Gävle erects a giant "Swedish Yule Goat" figure in its town square. But during its 52-year history, the Gävle​ goat has only survived unscathed a dozen or so times.

Over the years, it has frequently been obliterated by fire, dismembered or otherwise destroyed. That's why As It Happens checks in on the Gävle goat every year. 

"He's still standing," Gävle​ goat spokesperson Maria Wallberg told As It Happens host Carol Off on Friday — just four days before Christmas. "He looks very good this year."

At about 13 metres high, this year's goat is still standing strong — and Wallberg said she hopes the vandals who torched it in the past have finally moved on.

"He has a sad history. He's got 29 fire attacks and seven other attacks," Wallberg said. "But last year, we kept him standing over the Christmas and New Year. We hope that we can do that this year, too."

This year's Gävle goat in all its glory. (Mats Astrand/AFP/Getty Images)

Wallberg admits that part of the reason the goat is so popular are the creative ways vandals have found to destroy it — and the suspense that creates each year.

"It's amazing that the Gävle​ goat has so many fans around the world. There are 120,000 people that watch it on the livecam from 120 countries — and that's every year," Wallberg said.

"Most people want him to stay from the City of Gävle​. We need him to stay because people want to come here and visit him."

One of the most dramatic attempts at burning the goat was when a group of people dressed in Santa and gingerbread men costumes in 2005 went after the goat with flaming arrows. 

"I remember that, of course," Wallberg said. "There are many stories."

One of the most notorious attacks was when an American tourist was arrested in 2001 after setting the goat on fire.

The 2001 Gävle goat up in flames. (Andreas Bardell/Associated Press)

"He thought that this was a tradition to burn down the goat," Wallberg said. "But it isn't legal to do it, so he went to the police."

There was also an attempt to steal the goat with a helicopter in 2010.

'The small goat' goes down in flames

There are various conspiracy theories that swirl around the goat and the people who try to destroy it.

But Wallberg said she thinks future would-be attackers will have a difficult time now that the city has added an extra fence, 24-hour security and guard dogs.

"Many, many times, it has been drunk people going home from parties," Wallberg said.

"It's very, very hard to get in and get out from the Gävle​ goat. So that is very successful. I think and I hope that it will continue like that."

The Gävle goat's companion, however, hasn't been so lucky.

Called "the small goat," it was set aflame on Saturday night, the Local reports. A man was arrested near the scene of the crime.

Written by John McGill. Produced by Sarah Jackson. 


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