The history of the Towpath Trail goat

The history of the Towpath Trail goat
Lori Feeney

Tami Asher’s goats at home in East Sparta include Yuki (on the ground), Peanut (foreground on spool) and Lightning.


Like Paul Harvey, Tami Asher has “the rest of the story” on Gruff, the Goat. Before his name was Gruff, before he lived in the woods for more than a year and before he found a loving, new home, Gruff was adopted by Asher and taken home to her small farm in East Sparta.

Asher had purchased Gruff and another goat from an organic farm in Stark County in November 2019. One of her two goats at home had died, and the remaining goat was mourning. She was going to name the pair Abbott and Costello, so Gruff, as he’s now known, would have been Costello. That’s if he had stayed put.

When Asher asked her husband, Kim, to come see the two goats she had brought home, Gruff decided to jump ship. He leapt over a 5-foot-tall gate, ran through a wire fence on the property and was gone, leaving nothing behind but a huge hole in the wire fence.

“I was heartsick,” Asher said. “I worried and wondered for more than a year about what had happened to him.”

What happened is Gruff traveled from the Asher farm near Canton about 12 miles to finally settle in the woods near the Towpath Trail in Bolivar. Frequent goat sightings were posted on Facebook, and a number of people fed Gruff while he lived in the wild.

“Every time I saw a Facebook post or someone told me about him, I would go look for him,” Asher said. “I looked and looked. I couldn’t believe he made it as far as Bolivar, but when he was seen in the area, I went over there more than once, but I could never find him. When winter came, I just thought he couldn’t possibly be alive.”

But alive he was, and he was garnering attention from all corners including the Bargain Hunter. After we ran a story on the little guy, a family living nearby found him and was able to get him to come home with them. And that, we thought, was the happily ever after of the story.

Chapter two

Asher’s sister sent her a copy of the story in the Bargain Hunter, complete with Gruff’s photo. Asher alerted us because she wanted to share Gruff’s history with the family that adopted him.

“I don’t want him back,” Asher said. “I wouldn’t take him away from a happy home where he has bonded with people. I’m just so relieved he has a good home.”

But the story, of course, doesn’t end there.

On Feb. 16, 2020, Asher got a big surprise. “I came down to feed the goats, and I heard a really odd noise,” she said. “I looked in the goat pen, and there was a baby goat.”

It seems the other goat Asher brought home from that farm in Stark County was pregnant. The previous owner had no idea, nor did Asher. “Bonus,” Asher said.

Both mother goat, Yuki, and baby Peanut are doing very well.

Other things we’ve learned about Gruff

Gruff was born at the Stark County farm in September 2018, making him a little over 2 years old now. He is a purebred Nigerian Dwarf.

“I was attracted to him right away with his pure white coat and beautiful blue eyes,” Asher said. “I told my husband if he ever came back, I was going to rename him Houdini.”

Yuki, Peanut and Asher’s other goat, Lightning, have yet to pull a disappearing act and seem quite happy in East Sparta. They live in a barn with three horses, some geese and a number of cats. And now you know the whole story.

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