Why One Man Abandoned His Life As A Human Being To Become A Goat

Life can be tough. But when the burdens of his nine-to-five job finally became too much for Thomas Thwaites, he went a hoof further than just complain about it and turned himself into a goat.

On his "holiday from human worries", the British writer built prosthetic limbs and visited a behavioural psychologist and neurologist to study turning off parts of his brain to become more goat-like.

He even met with a rather helpful biologist who had made him an artificial rumen, the part of a goat's stomach which helps breaks down grass.

(Photograph: Tim Bowditch)

Thwaites studied the cognitive aspects of what it's like to be a goat and spoke to an expert in animal locomotion to perfect their movement (Photograph: Tim Bowditch)

For three days in September, Thwaites lived amongst a herd of goats.

The idea initially sounded like an interesting concept (he tells us over an email) but before long "the Wellcome Trust called my bluff and awarded me a small grant to try it."

Becoming a different animal is a really common dream, an "archetype in fact". Many people think of becoming birds so they can fly, or a cat so they can laze about all day.

But more than that, he explains, human-animal hybrids are "firmly embedded in our culture."

(Photograph: Tim Bowditch)

"Though they were wary of me at first, some of the goats became curious, and gradually I was able to just hang out" says Thwaites (Photograph: Tim Bowditch)

Greek mythology honours the centaur, half-human half-horse and the most ancient piece of figurative art is a statuette of a human with a lion’s head.

This is why, considering the media shitstorm that engulfed the project, people seem to resonate with the idea, Thwaites said:

"Becoming a goat is funny, but also perhaps is a bit profound too."

(Photograph: Tim Bowditch)

The farmer who owned the goats later said that "the herd had accepted me, which was really gratifying, as I thought they had too" (Photograph: Tim Bowditch)

But it wasn't all jokes. Spending all day on four legs takes its toll on a person. As doctors predicted, it got "extremely painful" – especially when going downhill as more weight was put on the arms.

There was even a moment - because Thwaites tended to go uphill faster and unintentionally become head of the head - where one alpha goat decided to challenge him.

"Everyone had stopped chewing and was staring at me," he explains.

"But before it came to a fight, luckily a goat that I had been hanging around with a lot sort of diffused the situation by walking through the herd, and we all sort of moved along the hillside together.

(Photograph: Tim Bowditch)

Grazing alongside a good friend (Photograph: Tim Bowditch)

Thwaites says becoming a goat was kind of a "meditative experience" – akin to some mental health techniques, like mindfulness, which teaches you how to disregard past, present and future.

Aside from bridging links between spirituality and being a goat, he came to another thought-provoking revelation: "Some grass tastes better than others"

Thwaites describes himself as a designer "of a more speculative sort", who is interested in technology, science and future research.

You can find more about his experience in Goat Man: How I Took a Holiday from Being Human.

(Photograph: Tim Bowditch)

Thwaites found residency as a goat with a farm in the Swiss Alps (Photograph: Tim Bowditch)

(Photograph: Tim Bowditch)

Tantalized by the idea of being close to galloping and just eating grass, Thwaites said it could turn into an ongoing project (Photograph: Tim Bowditch)

(Photograph: Tim Bowditch)

Reaching his goal of crossing the Swiss Alps with a goatherd (Photograph: Tim Bowditch)

Writer and photographer from South London, UK. If you want to get in touch please email me at: matthew.kirby@konbini.com