Exploration

The Man Who Turned Himself into a Goat

Thomas Thwaites wanted to take a break from the worries of being human, so he became a goat for a few days.

<p>Photo: Tim Bowditch</p>

How would it feel to be free of the stress and worry so inherent to being human? That's what London designer Thomas Thwaites asked himself before starting his most recent project. Frustrated with things like making money, finding his next job and, well, the pressure to achieve success and happiness that most people feel, Thwaites aspired to take a little vacation from living life as a human being.

Realizing non-humans likely don't feel this same angst, Thwaites decided for his next design project he would turn himself into an animal, so he could experience a different way of looking at the world. Originally he planned to become an elephant, but when faced with the logistical nightmare of designing and building a massive, functional exoskeleton, he sought out inspiration for a more practical animal instead.

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After a shaman told him he was meant to be a goat, he felt as though nothing in the world had ever made more sense.

"A goat -- a goat is so much more my level," Thwaites writes in a book about the project titled, GoatMan: How I Took a Holiday From Being Human. "Sure elephants have conveniently short necks, but what connection do I have with them?" Thwaites concluded that he already had a connection with goats because there's an entire herd of them just down the road from his house.

From there, he ran with the idea. Thwaites spent months talking to goat experts on everything from the animal's cognitive abilities, to the design of their skeleton, to their behavioral habits. He went to the Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats to research and observe them, and he even dissected a dead goat with the help of evolutionary biology experts from the Royal Veterinary College, to gain insight into a goat's structural makeup.

Eventually, Thwaites settled on a design for his very own goat exoskeleton, complete with a prosthetic rumen -- a sort of paunch in all ruminant animals like goats, sheep and cattle -- that would allow him to properly digest grass. He spent three days in the Swiss Alps following a herd of goats along the steep and treacherous mountain paths, praying that his "hooves" wouldn't fail him.

He may not have been able to entirely escape the headspace of a human being, but overall Thwaites' GoatMan project was largely successful. Take a look at some of the highlights from his adventure.

Thwaites visits the goats at the Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats to research their behavior.

Thwaites' first goat exoskeleton prototype turned out to be not so practical for his intended Swiss Alps expedition.

The second prototype he built wasn't all that practical either...

Finally Thwaites designed a goat costume that had the best chance of functioning properly for the duration of his goat journey.

The portion of the costume that fit over Thwaites' hands wasn't the epitome of comfort after walking in a quadruped position for hours a day, but they served their purpose well enough.

Much of Thwaites' journey across the Alps involved climbing in his goat costume over mounds of ice and snow for miles at a time.

Although the design of his costume allowed him to move very similar to the way a goat moves, there was little Thwaites could do about his short neck. Bending down to eat grass was more or less like doing a full face plant.

Tim Bowditch

After a while the goats seemed to accept Thwaites as one of their own. Either that or they were just ignoring his presence all together.

One of the goats in particular took quite a liking to Thwaites -- and he considered this interaction an indicator of the project's success.