July 01, 2014

The Drama of Llamas vs. the Gloating of the Goats

It should be no surprise to anyone that we're interested in sheep. But today we want to continue to mine the possibilities of our IronSheep 2014 dataset to bring you an alternative geography of animals as they are discussed and represented in social media [1]. Focusing on the global level and using a 10% sample of all geotagged tweets created between July 2012 and March 2014, we sought out to understand the global distribution of goats as opposed to llamas. 

Because, you know, it's important. Or perhaps because we're a bit bored.

While goats and llamas don't carry the same inherent antagonism as, say, bronies and juggalos [2], we thought it might be interesting to see how the two compare across the world since they are both major competitors to our favored sheep in the world of livestock [3]. At the most general level, llamas are absolutely dominant, with nearly triple the number of tweets as those mentioning goats, with 63,606 references to llamas and 24,322 references to goats. Of course, one does wonder, what all this llama/goat discourse is about? Are people extolling the virtue of their animal, or mentioning a chance sighting, or perhaps talking about what's on for dinner? Or perhaps someone has finally invented a hoof-accessible mobile device and the animals are taking to the net?

In any case, these raw numbers certainly don't tell the whole story, although arguably llamas are much cooler and more interesting than goats, so as to warrant significantly greater tweeting about them.

Global References to Goats and Llamas, July 2012-March 2014

Indeed, by mapping the concentrations of each term relative to the other, we can see that while llamas are dominant overall, their spatial distribution is much more concentrated, while goats, though in smaller numbers, are much more widely dispersed throughout the globe. 

Llamas dominate livestock-related tweeting in Latin America. While perhaps unsurprising given their offline manifestation throughout South America, Spain and Mexico actually have the highest number of both absolute and relative references to llamas, despite neither being a native habitat for the animal. Further, only two countries in the top 20 for relative references to llamas are not predominantly Spanish-speaking: Brazil has 1,189 more references to llamas based on our 10% sample, good for 8th most, while France has 82 more references to llamas, making it the 20th-most llama-est country in the world. Also interesting is the fact that the only three countries in Latin America and the Caribbean which do not favor llamas over goats are not Spanish-speaking: Guyana, Suriname and Haiti.

Meanwhile, the United States and United Kingdom are the only countries worldwide to display significant preference for goats over llamas, with over 10,000 and 3,000 more references respectively, while Nigeria, Canada and Australia all show some moderate preference for goats. The fact that the US also has the fifth-most absolute number of references to llamas just goes to show how much people in the US love their goats. I mean, who doesn't love goats, especially when they sound like humans? Plus, they can eat all of your leftover beer cans!

While much of Africa's preference for goats is also largely unsurprising given that it has some of the highest levels of global goat production next to China and India (which are likely lower on the goat rankings due to linguistic differences), we are somewhat baffled as to why most of Europe has a preference for llamas. But then again, after watching the goat screaming video for awhile it all seems to make sense.

[1] But definitely not an animal geography.
[2] A quick Google search for "goats and llamas" will likely return a number of results for how farmers can use llamas to protect their goat herds. Should these results not show up for you, blame Google and their never-ending drive to collect massive amounts of personal data about you in order to create a personalized experience of the internet for you that never exposes you to such oddities or anything else you might find unseemly.
[3] The less said about cows the better.


  1. Nice map. I'm especially glad to see that the results aren't influenced in any way by the conjugation of the Spanish verb 'llamar'

    1. Or the fact that "llama" in spanish means also flame.

  2. Yeah, that makes the map definitely wrong for Spain


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