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While hiking in the Ruby Mountains of Nevada, I came around the corner and saw several mountain goats who had made several fairly large scrapes (3-4 ft long and a couple feet wide) in the ground.

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Why would the mountain goats have done this?

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    One thing that hasn't been mentioned in the answers below is that they may be trying to access salts/minerals to ingest. I know deer and other animals do this in different locations. – That Idiot May 15 at 14:18
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Because they like it. It feels good, so they do it.

Many mammals roll in sand or dirt, presumably to keep parasites away or to help dry themselves after exercise or becoming wet. A sand roll, which is a stall or yard covered with deep sand, is traditionally included as part of stable complexes for use by racehorses after exercise.[20]

Dust bathing has been suggested to have a communicatory function in several mammals source

When I raised goats I don't recall ever seeing a goat take a dirt bath. But Googling around finds several accounts of it.

  • Could also be that they were going to lay there, as the ground underneath the first layer is generally cooler, or a combination of both. – Nate W May 14 at 22:46
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I have observed these, I have seen dogs, goats, cats, wolves, etc scraping the ground. In some cases they sat onto it. In some cases they didn't. Following are cases where it makes sense:

  1. Sharpening their hooves - Thats one way they sharpen their hooves periodically. I have seen our dog and cat scraping the ground, possibly with an intention to make the nails blunt (If we don't cut them first!).
  2. Marking - I am not sure about goats, but many mammals use this to mark their presence.
  3. A little scraping of ground allows the animal to sleep/sit on the surface which is comparatively softer, warmer or cooler (depends on season/geography)
  4. A very common but rarely noticed scenario: Talking to villager who had 100s of goats, I asked him why a goat is seen stamping the ground or scraping the ground. Stamping had multiple meanings. He told me that sometimes something gets stuck in their hooves, and scraping a surface helps them get rid of it.
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Goats are mineral deficient and will often scrape and lick areas that contain urine to acquire needed salts. https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/olympic/home/?cid=stelprdb5412239

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