Leave it to the “Subway Goats” to miss their own birthday party.
A year after the pair escaped a live market and were rescued from the subway tracks in Brooklyn, Farm Sanctuary caregivers entered the goat barn to wish Taylor and Reiman a happy “rescueversary.”
True escape artists by nature, they were nowhere to be found. The clever duo had slipped through the fence and were prancing around the pasture next door. But this escapade was a joyful one, vastly different from the initial escape that saved their lives.
When we first met Taylor and Reiman, they were scraggly, weak, and very, very frightened. New York City in itself is a scary place for farm animals with its noise, crowds, and limited green space; it is a far cry from where most goats most feel at home. That fear magnifies exponentially at live markets—places where people purchase living animals and then have them slaughtered onsite for a meal.
We believe Taylor and Reiman escaped from such a place. They bore the telltale signs of live market escapees. First, they are Boer goats, a breed typically raised for meat. They had notches cut into their ears, likely for identification purposes. Together, they found a way to evade slaughter ran for their lives, winding up on the tracks of Brooklyn’s N train.
Media picked up on the story quickly, with punny headlines ala “baaad boys on the wrong side of the tracks.” But as word spread about their ordeal, and how terrified they both were, New Yorkers and fans nationwide began to rally behind the pair now dubbed the “Subway Goats.” City-dwellers cheered as authorities caught the escapees and brought them to our rescue partners at the Animal Control Centers of NYC (ACC) who in turn released them to Farm Sanctuary.
Taylor and Reiman required routine medical care for parasites and respiratory issues common among farm animals (which you can read about in their rescue story). But the truly difficult challenge of gaining their trust was just beginning.
When animals are rescued from traumatic pasts, they can remain guarded and shy for months or even years. The important thing to us is that they feel safe, and can experience life on their own terms. To minimize distress in particularly shy animals, we only approached them as needed to administer their care; any further interactions are up to them.
In the past year, Taylor and Reiman have slowly begun to feel at ease, in large part because of their trust and friendship in one another. It took months before Reiman would comfortably let us touch him, but eventually, he began approaching our staff—cautiously at first—and with more vigor as time went by. Sometimes, the more nervous Taylor would hesitantly sniff at our hands, before returning to his best friend’s side. They were healing.
A bond with human caregivers is important, but bonding with a herd of their own is critical. Goats are herd animals and feel best when surrounded by a group. As Reiman and Taylor grew stronger and more confident, we started thinking about whom they would fit with best.
So began what became a series of “musical barns.” We tried them in the sheep barn first, but they were a bit too rough for our elderly sheep. We tried mingling them with several of our established goat groups, but they were butting heads. As the “new guys,” they were the often bullied. We watched on like nervous parents.
We decided it was best to give Taylor and Reiman space to themselves for the winter where they could be fully relaxed and continue feeling more at ease at the sanctuary. They began letting their guard down and would run and play in our presence, leaping from the boulders in their pasture and headbutting each other as goats love to do.
Come springtime, it was time to try them out with a group again. First, we revisited the sheep barn, where Taylor and Reiman once again displayed their Houdini-like escapist skills; we soon spotted them running around with a herd of goats! No matter what we tried—placing hay bales against the gates, and even replacing our gates with new ones—they always found a way to slip through and explore new horizons. So, we decided to honor their wishes and moved them into the goatherd, nicknamed “Roger’s group,” permanently.
Much to our befuddlement, however, they continued escaping—spending some days with one herd of goats, some days with a different herd, and some days with the sheep! The once shy pair have become the curious socialites of Farm Sanctuary.
The boys have grown so comfortable here that they often venture out alone; gone are the days where they spent every moment together. They remain bonded and prefer each other’s company best, but they will also explore on their own accord; it’s not unusual to find Taylor in one pasture, and Reiman in another! When in the sheep barn, Reiman now approaches people on tours, and cries out for attention if the petting stops.
“My favorite [moments] usually revolve around Reiman and Taylor together,” says one explore.org user. “While it has been fun to see them develop some independence it is always great to see them together, especially when they run down the hill back to the barn at night. They are best friends forever.”
For these two incredible goats once stranded on the subway tracks, we’re so grateful that the last stop on their journey was Farm Sanctuary.