Goat packing was popularized in the U.S. in the 1980s and 1990s by John Mionczynski of Atlantic City, Wyoming. He developed a herd of large mixed-breed goats and used them as early as the 1970s to pack supplies for scientists working in the mountains and later to carry food and gear for tourists on hiking trips. Goat packing is popular with both young families, and older individuals who want to be able to go into the wilderness and need help carrying all their gear. Goats are herd animals and also easily socialize to people. When grouped together they will naturally establish a lead "boss" goat who rules the group and the others will follow that lead goat.
In the U S, goats used for packing are usually tall and lean; belonging to one of the larger dairy goat breeds such as Alpine, Toggenburg, Saanen, Lamancha, Oberhasli or a crossbreed thereof. In recent years, Boer/Dairy crosses have become popular. Goats are natural browsers, similar to deer and can utilize more plants than a horse could and don’t require as much water. A healthy and fit adult pack goat can carry up to 25 percent of its weight and walk up to about 12 miles per day depending on its load weight, the terrain, and the animal's conditioning. The loads are put into specially designed saddle bags that attach to goat-specific saddles that are strapped into place on the goat’s back. They are designed to stay in place when going over steep terrain.
Pack goats don't take much training, but it is important that they be properly socialized to humans. Training generally involves starting with a baby goat.
A good pack goat is comfortable around people, which allows a pack goat handler to strap the saddles on to them without much fuss. Goats are naturally inclined to herd and will stay grouped together and follow their handler by instinct. They develop a very distinct pecking order with each group of goats having a leader "boss" goat. When out hiking, the goats will typically follow in the same order every time, with the boss goat in front and the rest falling into their spots behind. Besides their natural inclination to stay grouped together and follow their handler, goats are well suited as pack animals due to their natural athleticism. When comfortable and happy, goats keep their tails up and will often wiggle them like dogs.
Some public lands require permits for the use of goats as pack animals. Concerns have been raised about the disease-spreading potential that domestic goats may pose to wild animals, such as and mountain goats.