My fellow Americans, we are a nation divided. Democrats and Republicans. Rich and poor. But perhaps the biggest divide of all? Goats versus sheep.
2012 data from the USDA Agricultural Census trace the distinct geographies of American sheep and goat production, which you can see below. Goats rule the pink counties, sheep are plentiful in the green ones, and there are plenty of both in the pinkish-greenish places in between. Hover over a county to see the raw numbers.
American Sheep and Goats
For the map nerds, this is what's known as a bivariate choropleth map. I used the technique and excellent color scheme outlined by NASA data visualizer Joshua Stevens in this blog post, which is an entertaining read if you're in to this sort of thing.
Looking at the map, the plains and mountain states are Sheeplandia, where sheep generally outnumber goats. The southeast, on the other hand, is a veritable Goatopia. The two animals live in harmony on the west coast, Southwest and Texas.
This map has special salience today, at the dawn of the Chinese New Year. As you might have heard there's some confusion in the English-speaking world as to whether we've entered the year of the sheep, goat or ram. It all hinges on how you translate the Chinese character yang (羊), which can be used to refer to any one of those animals.
If this uncertainty has been causing you distress, I suggest you simply refer to your county in the map above and call it the year of whatever farm animal is more numerous where you live. But if you happen to live in one of the 109 sheep- and goat-free counties: sorry, I've got nothing for you.
Overall, there are about twice as many sheep (5.28 million) as goats (2.68 million) residing in the U.S. If goats and sheep were their own state, it would be the 13th largest in the nation, right between Virginia and Washington.
The sheep-and-goat capital of the U.S. is Weld County, Colorado, with 204,694 sheep and 4,272 goats. Looking at the top 10 sheep-and-goat counties, 4 are in Texas, 4 are in California, and Arizona and Colorado are represented by one each.
|Weld County, CO||4,272||204,694||208,966|
|Kern County, CA||2,841||114,571||117,412|
|Tulare County, CA||1,204||93,479||94,683|
|Apache County, AZ||26,123||63,942||90,065|
|Crockett County, TX||24,349||55,085||79,434|
|Fresno County, CA||7,109||67,212||74,321|
|Val Verde County, TX||31,273||41,840||73,113|
|Sutton County, TX||55,139||11,785||66,924|
|Edwards County, TX||45,699||17,338||63,037|
|Solano County, CA||3,753||58,338||62,091|
Goats and sheep outnumber humans in 85 counties. 29 of these counties are in Texas, 13 are in Montana, and 12 are in South Dakota. In Edwards County, Texas, there are 32 goats and sheep for every human being.
I've documented previously how goats are making their mark on American culture. While the internet is awash in videos of screaming goats, goats climbing on things, and goats being jerks, sheep tend to keep a lower profile. If goats are party animals, sheep are all business: American sheep produced 26.7 million pounds of wool last year, worth about $38 million. Factor in lamb, mutton and assorted other sheep-related goods and you've got a total annual economic impact of about $2.7 billion, according to the American Sheep Industry Association.
What goats lack in economic impact they make up in personality. That said, my favorite breakout YouTube star of 2015 so far is this sheep, who was orphaned, raised by dogs, and now evidently thinks its one of them.