Why Does the Devil Look like a Goat? How the Symbolism Miscasts Goats as Evil

Eva Hagan - Author

Feb. 8 2024, Published 2:52 p.m. ET

Two statues of Baphomet, a pagan deity that resembles a goat, stand next to each other.
Source: iStock

Two statues of Baphomet.

Have you ever noticed that imagery of the devil often has hooves and horns like a goat? If you look up satanic images online, you will likely see pictures of goats, or goat-like creatures. A goat isn't the scariest animal out there, not even the meanest, so why is this the case?

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There is a debate among historians about when exactly goat qualities became associated with the devil, and what religion it originated from. Here's a look into why a goat is often seen as satanic.

A photo of a young brown goat standing in a field.
Source: iStock
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Imagery of Pan and Baphomet often resembles goats.

You may notice that satanic and devil symbolism often includes goat-like features such as horns and hooves. Which begs the question, why is a goat connected to satanism? Well, the answer depends on who you ask.

According to Live Science, one hypothesis as to where the association came from is Pan, the god of the wild in Greek mythology, who is often depicted as a satyr, which is a human with with hooves, horns, and possibly other horse-like features. Christians took to calling Pan a demon to deter people from other religions, which is where the devilish connection comes in.

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A close-up photo of the face of a Baphomet statue.
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A Baphomet statue.

Another hypothesis comes from Baphomet, a pagan deity with a goat head, wings, and human body. The earliest mention of Baphomet was in 1098, in a letter describing events of the First Crusade (1096 to 1099), per Britannica. In the letter, author Anselm of Ribemont accused people of worshipping Baphomet, which threatened the purpose of the Crusades: to spread Christianity, and slow the spread of Islam.

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Many believe the name Baphomet is derived from "Mahomet," which refers to the Prophet Muhammad, who was the founder of Islam, per BBC News.

The link between goats and satan may also stem from the bible.

In Matthew 25:31-46, a story called "The Sheep and the Goats" tells the tale of Jesus putting "the sheep on his right and the goats on his left."

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He then says to the goats: "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me."

The chapter then states: "Then they [the goats] will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous [the sheep] to eternal life."

Three small goats stand in a field during the day.
Source: iStock
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Are goats satanic?

Goats are far from satanic creatures. Besides the theological link between goats and satan, goats have a lot of great qualities that are far from evil.

If you have a farm or a large yard that is in constant need of trimming, a few goats out there could do the trick. It's a win-win, the goats get the foliage and energy, and you get a fresh plot of land, per Cy-Fair Animal Hospital.

Research suggests that goats can also be great companions, comparable to dogs. According to Texas A&M, goats are naturally social creatures, both with each other and with humans, and they can form a strong bond with humans.

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A little boy with glasses allows a brown goat with a collar to smell his face.
Source: iStock

As one of the first domesticated animals, goats have been found to display a lot of the same behaviors as dogs. One study found that when given problem-solving tasks, goats demonstrated "human-directed" gazing. This is common among companion animals, where dogs and horses use this look to humans often as a way to communicate.

Goats are also consistently abused in the animal agriculture industry, where they are bred, raised, and killed for their flesh, milk, and wool. Fortunately, there are many goat rescue organizations and sanctuaries that rescue goats, and give them happy homes.

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