Every now and then I find a quirky little article on Wikipedia that captures my imagination or fires me up or makes me go ‘Whaaat?’ or just makes me smile. I love quirky stuff. And the Gävle Goat (Gävlebocken in its native Swedish) is certainly that.
The Gävle Goat in snow, 18 December 2014. Photo from the Gävle Goat Twitter account.
The Gävle Goat as pictured on the webcam, 11.49 am Swedish time on 22 December 2014. Still here!
Every year, a giant version of the traditional Yule Goat is erected in the Swedish city of Gävle, in time for Advent. And every year, people try to burn the goat down.
The Gävle Goat is made of straw, is 13 m tall, 7 m long and weighs 3.6 tonnes. The first Goat was built on 1 December 1966, and was burned down on New Year’s Eve that year, starting a tradition of festive caprine arson. Since then the Goat has been protected by a fence, been given security guards and in 1996 a webcam was installed. But despite all this, the arson and other attacks on the Goat continue.
It has been hit by a car, kicked to pieces (several times—that’s some dedicated kicking), hit by fireworks, attacked by Santa Claus and the Gingerbread Man, scaled by drunks, collapsed due to sabotage, and of course burned, a total of 27 times. One year in particularly cold weather the guards popped into a nearby restaurant to warm up, and almost inevitably they weren’t the only thing that warmed up—the arsonists struck in their absence.
The Gävle Goat of 2009. Photo by Apeshaft.
There have been Goat Wars between the two rival goat-building groups, international attacks on the Goat (a Norwegian was arrested and an American jailed for attacking the Goat), and bribery attempts on the guards, who were asked to turn a blind eye to a planned theft by helicopter (Yes. Seriously).
One that didn’t make it … the 1998 Gävle Goat. Photo by Adent.
You can watch the Goat on its dedicated webcam, at least until it is burned down or if it survives, is dismantled some time after Christmas. And this being the age of social media, of course the Goat has a blog and a Twitter account …
Update 29 December 2014: The Goat is being dismantled as I type: apparently it is off to China, where the Year of the Goat starts on 19 February. Sad to see it go, but at least it survived this year! Hurrah!