The Fainting goats (myotonic goat), is a domestic goat breed that temporarily seizes when it feels panic. If startled by sudden movements or loud noises, they will attempt to escape from the disturbance, generally followed by a startle reaction.
In more severe cases, this reaction results in strong tetanic contractions of the agonist and antagonist muscles, causing an uncontrolled stiffness that may cause the goat to remain “frozen” in the position that it was in previous to the attack, or cause it to fall to the ground on its side.
During an attack, which may last from 5–20 seconds, the goat can often be picked up without any bending or movement occurring in its body. In the case of goats that are less severely affected with the condition, there may be some minor localized stiffness observed in the legs, however, they are still capable of running away.
This behavior is caused by a hereditary genetic disorder called myotonia congenita. The myotonic goat, similar to humans with congenital myotonia, exhibits no obvious muscle wasting, is rarely incapacitated by the condition, and lives a normal and healthy life span.
Fainting Goats History
The goats of this breed have a host of names: Myotonic, Tennessee Fainting, Tennessee Meat, Texas Wooden Leg, Stiff, Nervous, and Scare goats. The names refer to a breed characteristic known as myotonia congenita, a condition in which the muscle cells experience prolonged contraction when the goat is startled.
The transitory stiffness associated with these contractions can cause the goat to fall down. This is not a true faint, but a muscular phenomenon unrelated to the nervous system. The degree of stiffness varies from goat to goat, with some showing a consistently stiff response and others exhibiting stiffness only rarely.
Fainting Goats Uses
- For meat: As are the primary use for most farm goats, the fainting variety is often raised for slaughter. Goats are natural climbers and jumpers, so they’re also natural escape artists when fenced or penned in. Extra effort is often needed on the part of farmers to keep the animals enclosed. Myotonia congenita, however, tends to curb the animals’ natural inclinations, as the acts of climbing and jumping can also trigger fainting. Additionally, the excessive muscle tensing tends to result in greater muscle mass, less body fat and a higher meat-to-bone ratio than other breeds of goat.
- For amusement: Like many animals, fainting goats are also sometimes raised as pets. Some owners raise them for the uniqueness of their fainting spells, while others choose them simply because they’re easier to keep in an enclosure. Like other breeds of goats, their temperaments and physical appearance often make them good companion animals.
- To accompany herds: Since a fainting goat would fall over or be reduced to a hobble following a fright, many farmers saw them as an excellent form of protection for sheep herds. If a predator such as a wolf or coyote were to attack the herd, the non-myotonic animals could run away, leaving behind any fainting goats either immobilized or hobbled by the fright. The herd would escape and the predators would focus on the easiest kill. But this use has largely fallen out of practice, and the degree to which it was actually used is uncertain.
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Fainting Goats Video / GIF
Watch this Fainting goat video from youtube below: