The remains of a dead goat were found hanging on a fence yesterday outside Dunster House, one of the oldest dormitories at Harvard University, but showed no signs of abuse or cruelty, a Cambridge animal control official said.
The animal had already been slaughtered when it was brought to Dunster House on Memorial Drive for an annual goat roast organized by anthropology majors, the official said.
"The animal was already killed by a reputable company," said Mark McCabe, director of the Cambridge Animal Commission, a city agency. "We have no reason to believe any cruelty occurred."
McCabe said an inspector from his office visited the scene yesterday, after being contacted by Harvard police. The goat's head and pelt were found hanging from the fence, he said.
Lauren Marshall, a Harvard spokeswoman, said last night that campus police were investigating. She declined further comment.
McCabe said the goat roast is part of a spring ritual at Dunster House, a stately, red-brick building overlooking the Charles River. "My understanding is the anthropology department has a goat feast," he said. "I guess this is part of what they do. The byproducts get used as a display."
He said the commission has never responded to an incident at Dunster House before yesterday.
A goat roast was scheduled to be held there from 3 to 7 p.m. yesterday, according to the dorm's website. There was no sign of the pelt hanging from the iron fence early yesterday evening. A tent was set up in the courtyard, where students could be seen eating, drinking, playing whiffle ball, and dancing to music.
Several students declined to comment about the incident.
Globe correspondent Richard Thompson contributed to this report.