Wikipedia says, "A Judas Goat is a term used to describe a trained goat used at a slaughterhouse and in general animal herding. In stockyards, a Judas goat will lead sheep to slaughter." Other sources indicate that the animals, agitated in unfamiliar surroundings, become calm in the goat's presence.
If that's the case, the term must surely predate 1941. In past times meat production was largely a local matter, and animals were slaughtered at the local butchershop. But around the 1870s it became centralized, with animals shipped in mass, by rail, to central slaughtering plants. (The industry originated and grew in my home town, Chicago.) So that would be the time when a Judas goat would be needed, when multiple animals were gathered for slaughter at a single place. Surely the term Judas goat arose around then.This message has been edited. Last edited by: shufitz,
Another useful employee is the Tennessee fainting goat. It has a genetic defect that means its legs lock and it falls over when startled. So when a wild dog or something makes for the herd... "Yoo hoo, I'm over here."
hic: "Its [OED's] earliest cite is from 1941." shufitz: "the term must surely predate 1941"
Here are cites from 1930 and, if you're willing to stretch the phrasing a wee bit, from 1910.
The Judas goat of the packing centers has competition ... - AP story, taken from Lima (Ohio) News, July 17, 1930, p.11, but probably in other papers too
The Union Pacific Railroad has discovered a new use for billy goats and every day ..., solemn goats with long white beards act the part of Judas, luring unsuspecting sheep to their doom. - Goats Assist Railroad, Sheboygan (Wisc.) Daily Press, June 16, 1910, p. 16
The latter story makes it clear that the practice (and presumably the metaphor) was not new. The writer notes that the railroad is using the goats to help it move sheep in response to new regulations, but he concludes by noting, "The facility of the goat for this work has long been known at the packing houses, where they are utilized to lead animals to slaughter."
I assume it relates to the biblical Judas, but how?
So how come this rendering of the name gets such a bum rap? Isn't it the same name as Judah, or Jude, both of which are thought of in a positive light? For that matter, aren't Jesus and Joshua (Yeshua) the same?
So how come this rendering of the name gets such a bum rap?
Dante puts traitors, such as Judas Iscariot, Brutus, and Cassius in the very center of Hell. While Judas, Jude, and Judah all come from the same Hebrew name, they do have subtle formal distinctions to keep them strtaight in English. I've never heard of a St Judas, but St Jude is the patron saint of hopeless causes. (I always assumed the name was chosen because Judas is similar to Yehudi 'Judaean, Jew' in keeping with early Christianity's anti-Semiticism and Romanophilism.) The Jesus / Joshua / Yehoshua thing is pretty much the same thing. In the Talmud, Jesus' name is different, based on the Greek form, rehebreicized, so folks don't get him confused with Rabbi Yehoshua around about the time of the macabees.
Originally posted by Hic et ubique: From the web: "The origins of the Fainting Goat can best be traced to the hills of Tennessee and the County of Marshall. It was here that a drifter named Tinsley arrived in about the year 1880."
Wow! This is interesting to me, since my last name is Tinsley. Here are some links: