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The Myth of the Goats: How Many People Have Fingerprints that are Hard to Match?



R. A. Hicklin, Craig I. Watson, Brad Ulery


The proportion of people who have fingerprints that are particularly hard to match (also known as "Goats") is a topic of great interest in biometrics, especially for those involved in the design, development, or evaluation of fingerprint-based identification or verification systems. There have been a variety of statements made in the recent past that a small percentage of people (usually 2 %) cannot be fingerprinted due to poor quality fingers. This study shows these statements are based on misconceptions: the fact that some small percentage of fingerprints may be hard to match does not mean that a corresponding percentage of people are hard to match.
NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR) - 7271
Report Number


fingerprints, goats, quality, verification, hard to match


Hicklin, R. , Watson, C. and Ulery, B. (2005), The Myth of the Goats: How Many People Have Fingerprints that are Hard to Match?, NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online], (Accessed April 15, 2024)
Created September 12, 2005, Updated October 12, 2021