Separating the Sheep from the Goats

Good thing I'm not sitting on a throne on Judgement Day. When I first came to Niger, I had a hard time separating the sheep from the goats. In Niger they have some resemblances, both being rather small and undernourished with small heads. All goats and all male sheep have horns, so at first sight you might be confused. See if you can do any better than me. Can you distinguish sheep from goat in the following photos?

Now goats are a lot smarter than sheep. That's one way you can distinguish them. During our years in Niger and especially going back and forth to Tera from Niamey, we would often run into a herd of sheep or goats (or a mixed group) crossing the road (it's open range everywhere you go in Niger, even in the city). Normally, the goats are quite cautious. When they
hear the sound of the car coming or the sound of the horn blaring, they'll move quickly to get off the road and out of the way. Sheep are another thing altogether. They may stare dumbly at the approaching car, all the while standing their ground. They may double back on themselves, first swerving to one side of the road and then suddenly reversing course and running across the road directly in front of you. Or they may develop a herd mentality, where they all have to get to the same side of the road together regardless of the obstacle in their path. So they may all try to run to the farthest side of the road, again right in front of you. You wonder where their brains are. It also makes you wonder why Christians are so often compared to sheep! Are we that dumb? Non-believers are sometimes compared to goats. Do they have more cunning and sense than we do? Sometimes I wonder. But the sheep are the ones who get the most attention because they make more noise and are more numerous. They also stand out on the road more often.

So how did you do? Can you separate the sheep from the goats? Hint: if you're still having problems, look not only at the head but also at the tail. The tails of all goats are short while a sheep's tail is long.