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The Gävle Goat (known in Swedish as Julbocken i Gävle or Gävlebocken), located at Slottstorget ("Castle Square") in central Gävle, is a giant version of a traditional Swedish Yule Goat figure made of straw. It is erected each year over a period of two days by the group Southern Merchants in time for the start of advent.
Another version is erected by a group of students from the Natural Science Club of the School of Vasa. The Natural Science Club's goat holds the world record for the largest Yule Goat.
In 1966, an advertising consultant, Stig Gavlén, came up with the idea of making a giant version of the traditional Swedish Yule Goat and placing it in the square. The design of the first goat was assigned to the then chief of the Gävle fire department, Gavlén's brother Jörgen Gavlén. The construction of the goat was carried out by the fire department, and they erected the goat each year from 1966 to 1970 and from 1986 to 2002.
A group of businessmen known as the Southern Merchants (Söders Köpmän) financed the building of the goat in subsequent years, many of which were also subject to arson attacks. In 1971, the Southern Merchants stopped building the goats. The Natural Science Club of the School of Vasa began building the structures. Their goat was around 2 metres (6.6 ft). Due to the positive reaction their Yule Goat received that year, they built another one the following year and from then on. The Natural Science Club's Yule Goats were also burnt and vandalised; one year it was run over by a car.
The Gävle Goat is erected every year on the first day of Advent, which according to Western Christian tradition is in late November or early December, depending on the calendar year. Because the fire station is close to the location of the goat, most of the time the fire can be extinguished before the wooden skeleton is severely damaged. If the goat is burned down before Lucia (feast day of Saint Lucy, 13 December), the goat has been rebuilt. The skeleton is then treated and repaired, and the goat reconstructed over it, using straw which the Goat Committee has pre-ordered.
From 1988 onward, English bookmakers took bets on the goat's survival. In 1996 the Southern Merchants introduced camera surveillance to monitor the goat 24 hours a day. On 27 November 2004 the Gävle Goat's homepage was hacked into and one of the two official webcams changed to display "Brinn Bockjävel" (translation: Burn, fucking goat) in the left corner of its live feed. One year, while security guards were posted around the goat to prevent further vandalism, the temperature dropped far below zero. As the guards ducked into a nearby restaurant to escape the cold, the vandals struck.
During the weekend of 3–4 December 2005 a series of attacks on public Yule Goats across Sweden were carried out; The Gävle Goat was burnt on 3 December. The Visby goat on Gotland burned down, the Yule Goat in Söderköping, Östergötland was torched, and there was an attack on a goat located in Lycksele, Västerbotten.
The cost of the 1966 goat was SEK 10,000. The price tag for constructing the goat in 2005 was around 100,000 Swedish kronor. The city pays one-third of the cost while the Southern Merchants pay the remaining sum. Since 2003 the construction of the goat has been undertaken by a group of unemployed people (known as ALU workers).
Four people have been caught or convicted for vandalizing the goat.
The Christmas season of 2006 marked the 40th anniversary of the Gävle Goat, and, on Sunday 3 December, the city held a large celebration in honor of the goat. The Goat Committee fireproofed the goat with "Fiber ProTector Fireproof", a fireproofing substance that is used in airplanes. In earlier years when the goat had been fireproofed, the dew had made the liquid drip off the goat. To prevent this from happening in 2006, "Fireproof ProTechtor Solvent Base" was applied to the goat. Despite their efforts, the goat has been destroyed a total of 27 times up until the most recent incident on 21 December 2013 where the goat was torched by vandals once again.
Since 1986 there have been two Yule Goats built in Gävle: the Gävle Goat by the Southern Merchants and the Yule Goat built by the Natural Science Club of the School of Vasa.
Until 1985 the Southern Merchants held the world record for the largest Yule Goat, but over the years the Natural Science Club's goat increased in size, and in 1985 their Yule Goat made it into the Guinness Book of Records with an official height of 12.5 metres (41 ft). The creator of the original 1966 goat, Stig Gavlén, thought that the Natural Science Club's goat had unfairly won the title of the largest Yule Goat because the goat was not as attractive as the Southern Merchants' goat and the neck was excessively long. The next year there was a Goat war: the Southern Merchants understood the publicity value, and erected a huge goat, the Natural Science Club erected a smaller one in protest. The Southern Merchants had intended that their huge goat would reclaim the world record, but the measurement of the goat showed it fell short. Over the following seven years there were no further attempts on the world record, but there was some bad feeling between the Natural Science Club and the Southern Merchants, evidenced by the fact that the Natural Science Club put up a sign near their goat wishing a Merry Christmas to everyone, except the Southern Merchants.
In 1993 the Southern Merchants again announced that they were going to attempt the world record. The goat stood 10.5 metres (34 ft) when completed. The Natural Science Club's Yule Goat that year measured 14.9 metres (49 ft), which earned them another place in the Guinness Book of World Records.
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