“Billie’s Morning Bath.” Sailors wash their goat mascot on board a U.S. Navy battleship, circa 1907-1908. This view may have been taken during the Great White Fleet world cruise. Collection of Chief Quartermaster John Harold (NH 101549)

Sailing animals are most often dogs or cats, but historically there were also numerous pigs, chickens, and goats on Navy ships.

Livestock on board a ship before refrigeration would have been a source of fresh meat and milk. Goats were a logical choice because of their size. They were

also able to maintain “sea legs,” in any weather. The Navy’s first goat mascot, El Cid, was the pet on board the cruiser New York (Armored Cruiser No. 2).

Into the 19th century, goats continued to be useful aboard ship. Rear Adm. Robley D. Evans gave an account of the time when, as a junior officer, he was ordered to milk a very agitated goat onboard Shenandoah in 1873.

“I found her in a very excited state of mind apparently, having butted out the captain’s steward and a marine orderly who had attempted to relieve her of her milk. One of them had tried to hold her while the other went for the milk. . . . procuring some warm water and exercising a little patience in the premises, [we] soon relieved her of the milk, which was evidently giving her pain.”

In 1893, New York crew members brought El Cid to Annapolis for the Army-Navy game—which the Navy won. Midshipmen attributed the victory to the presence of the goat. From this point onward, the U.S. Naval Academy’s tradition of having a goat as a mascot was born.

Pictured: Bill the Goat leading team in 1970.