Phytobezoariasis (Plant hair balls)
By Dr Mackie Hobson BSc(Agric),BVSc

Monday, 26th November 2018

The formation of plant-hair balls (phytobezoars) in the abomasum of Angora goats is an occasional problem in the karoo region. More commonly in the mountain areas of the southern Karoo. Goats are more susceptible than sheep and Boer goats more than Angora goats.


These bezoars are 1-15cm in diameter. They are compact and dense with a velvety texture. They are usually khaki-dun in colour. Phytobezoars must be distinguished from tichobezoars (hair) See

Prof Bath concluded in experiments that several Karoo bushes may be involved in the formation of bezoars. Fatalities usually occur in goats  3-15 months old while goats showing clinical signs with having hair-balls range from 1-10%. The number of goats with these plant-hair balls is difficult to determine as most don’t show clinical signs.

Where clinical signs occur these may include:

  • Loss weight and poor appetite
  • Enlarged abdomen
  • Rumen content is watery
  • Death occurs from obstruction

On Post Mortem:

  • Plant-hair balls found in abomasum (not rumen, reticulum or omasum)
  • Papillae of rumen are atrophied and rumen content watery and foul-smelling.
  • Small phytobezorars may pass into intestine and form obstruction.

There is no effective treatment other than surgery.

Plants involved may be  Chrysocoma ciliate/tenuifolia (Bitterbos), Eriocephalus ericoides (kapokbos), Gnidia polycephala (turpentine bush), Stipagrostis obtusa (kortbeen boesmansgras), Aristida ciliate (langbeenboesmansgras)


Plant Poisonings and mycotoxicoses in livestock in Southern Africa, Kellerman, Coetzer, Naude, Botha

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