The first mention of the Regimental Goat is in Lt. Frederick MacKenzie’s diary for St. David’s Day 1775 when the Regiment was quartered in Boston prior to the onset of the American Revolution. The Goat is described as
“…with gilded horns and adorned with ringlets of flowers.”
At the feast,
“an handsome drum boy, elegantly dressed mounted on the goat richly caparisoned for the occasion, is led thrice around the table in procession by the drum-major.”
As MacKenzie’s diary also notes
“the ancientness of the custom,”
it is probable that the custom of having a regimental goat may date to to 1689 when the Royal Welch Fusiliers were formed. It is known that they wore the leek in their cap from an early period as a distinguishing mark, and it is possible that the goat may have also originated in that manner.
In 1844, while on station in Grenada, the regimental goat died of heat prostration, and upon hearing of this misfortune, Queen Victoria presented the regiment with a goat from the Royal Herd which had been a present of the Shah of Persia. The custom has continued to this day, one being flown into Berlin in 1949 during the Soviet blockade of that city.
During the Crimean War, the Goat passed away once again just prior to St. David’s day and the colonel’s grief was so great that a replacement was deemed necessary by whatever means possible.
“The drum – major came in with the leeks, and to our surprise a goat (our old goat had died) led by a chain. After he had presented the leeks to the young Welshmen, the goat sat up on his hind legs and drank a glass of champagne, much to the amusement of the company. He proved to be Styles, my groom, dressed up in a sheepskin coat, with the old goat’s head stuck on his cap.”
The present day goat is given the full honors of an officer by all ranks and is tended to by the Goat Major.
Note: First World War postcard from author’s collection