Fortune-telling goat is a real star
Think of performing animals and lions, tigers or elephants may come to mind, but what about a goat?
Well, Boots, a two-year old billy goat, has been wowing crowds across the country with his performances in a Jedburgh-based performance troupe.
The Golden Guernsey goat is often the centre of attention when the troupe, Les Amis D’Onna, perform, standing out alongside dogs, jousting knights and stunt horses.
Boots can put on a show with the best of them, able to stand on two feet, jump through hoops and negotiate see-saws.
Owner Sue Zacharias says that Boots has become “a really important part of our team.
“I first met him when I was on a trip to buy a cart. It was kind of like, ‘Would you like a goat to go with the cart?’
“I certainly didn’t intend to leave with one of them but there you go! He has these hairy, golden feet, which is how he got his name.
“And it has worked out brilliantly - I don’t know what we would do without Boots.”
Sue said that training Boots has been no problem, having been working with him since he was three months old, when she would bottle-feed him.
“He’s quite similar to horses and dogs in the basics - we can even walk him on a lead like a large dog.
“He does think a lot, and to start with he’s quite slow.
“He doesn’t want to rush into anything but once he understands what you are telling him he is very good and picks it up well.
“He learns to copy what the dogs do, so I’m in the middle of training him how to give a paw, now, just like they do.
“He really likes working for treats, so he earns his rewards. And in terms of training there has to a certain bond between trainer and the animal, as with all creatures.”
That bond can be very much in evidence when Sue and Boots travel together doing the rounds of shows with Les Amis.
“He likes to be able to see me,” said Sue, who has been in the animal entertainment industry for 24 years.
“In fact, when he’s tied up and I go away, if I get just a bit out of his sight, he starts to make a bit of noise, and call to me. He likes to be able to hear me, he reacts to the tone of voice more than anything.
“I think he thinks I am his real mum . If he hears my voice he’ll look up and come running over to me, just like a pet!”
Sue’s actual children, Bethany and Jacob, grew up working with animals from the time they were children.
Sue and her husband Andrew started the family business in France in 1994, before moving back to the Borders, basing themselves at Lanton Farm, which she describes as a perfect space for their animals.
Years on, the troup performs at shows up and down the country, and they also provide animal-based stunts for TV shows such as Outlander and Game of Thrones.
But Boots, even if not onscreen, has his own personal showstopper - telling people’s fortunes.
Sue said: “Boots has his own trick during shows - fortune telling.
“From his box, he is given two fortunes written on pieces of paper and chooses one for a special audience member.”
She continued: “He always thinks about it very hard before picking one.
“And everybody loves it.”