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Goats work as caddies at this Oregon ranch
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To most, goat is simply the name for a horned ruminant mammal. For those in sporting circles, it’s a four-letter acronym bestowed upon the greatest of all time.

Venture through the myriad pine forests and winding creeks into the Blue Mountains of Eastern Oregon though, and both apply simultaneously.

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Silvies Valley Ranch offers a slice of Wild West luxury to travelers and – for the golfers among them – the opportunity to be caddied for by a rigorously trained team of goats.

A world first when launched in 2018, the current team is the best to ever do it, as far as Silvies owner Dr. Scott Campbell is concerned – and they have even convinced some initial skeptics.

“A lot of people said it was a stupid idea,” Campbell told CNN.

“They thought it would make people call us a goat track. Nothing could be further from the truth. Everybody has a good time … People come from all over the world.”

New career path
The radical setup was born from a practical problem.

McVeigh’s Gauntlet – Silvies’ seven-hole challenge course – was far too steep for golf carts to safely traverse. With players only requiring a few clubs to play the course, carrying such a load was well within the capabilities of the ranch’s 3,000 grazers, whose ancestors were transporting cargo long before golfers were planting tees.

“The goats were asking for different career opportunities, and as an equal opportunity employer, we developed a new career path for them,” Campbell joked.

A three-month evaluation process sees potential caddies as young as six months old scouted on their friendliness and physical aptitude. Those that progress to the next stage are fitted with a custom-made golf bag – tailored by Oregon-based company Seamus Golf – to see if they’re comfortable carrying it.

The bag is near-empty for training, but for full-time caddies contains six clubs, extra balls and tees, six drink cans and their daily wage: a few dozen peanuts.

Chosen candidates are taught the course and put on a carefully monitored physical and nutrition regime before starting their new role from two years old, working six-hour shifts three to four days a week. An on-site vet visits the caddy shack – situated next to the club house and open to visitors throughout the day – on a weekly basis.

Eight goats make up today’s caddie team – Chunky, Mulligan, Harry, Bogey, Birdie, Charlie, Carrot and Jack – with nine yearlings in training and 10 three-month-old prospects waiting in the wings.