Globally, pastoral practices have transformed habitats, which often lead to desertification. With climate change predicted to exacerbate desertification, adaptation provides the best survival strategy for agriculturally important herbivores. We investigated body temperature, water turnover, physical activity and microclimate selection of Angora goats inhabiting transformed and intact sites in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. Although goats on both sites responded similarly under most environmental conditions, when goats were subjected to a thermal stress, imposed by shearing, those inhabiting the transformed site had a faster rate of rise in abdominal temperature (0.38 versus 0.31 degrees C h(-1), P = 0.0009). displayed an increased 24-h abdominal temperature amplitude (1.8 versus 1.6 degrees C, P = 0.01) and were generally less active (3.9 versus 5.2 activity units) compared to goats inhabiting the intact site. Post-shearing, goats inhabiting the transformed site had higher water turnover rates (P <0.0001) and selected more variable microclimates (P <0.0001) than goats inhabiting the intact site, despite obtaining less water from their diet (P = 0.01). Goats inhabiting the transformed site were more water dependent and more susceptible to thermal stresses in their environment than were those inhabiting the intact site. Coping with thermal challenges will be essential for Angora goats if the mohair industry is to thrive under future climate change scenarios. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.