Fainting Goats 101, What is a Fainting Goat?

Raising fainting goats can be challenging and rewarding no matter what your age is, but finding resources to common questions (or sometimes not so common) can be challenging as well. Believe us! We have searched and not found a large amount of helpful websites on this!

This site is designed to provide a variety of information about fainting goats to help anyone form the newbie to the more experienced. In this site there is information on the goats’ habitats, health care, medications that are commonly used, breeding, kid care, and much more. We hope you find a great deal of useful resources for raising and caring for your animals and encourage you to join our mailing list to keep updated on new articles and upcoming events.

Well, we told you that this site is aimed toward fainting goats, but exactly what are they?

Fainting goats courtesy of Little Prairie AcresFainting Goats, or myotonic goats, are a domestic goat that appears to faint when the animal becomes panicked. The goat doesn’t actually faint though. Due to a genetic disorder, the animal’s muscles freeze up, which will usually cause the animal to fall over. When the animals “faint” they do not, in fact, lose consciousness but remain aware of what is going on while they are in that state.

These “fainting” spells are caused by the hereditary genetic disorder called myotonia congenita. Myotonia congenita is a disorder that affects the skeletal muscles–the muscles that are used for movement, causing them to experience delayed relaxation after contraction, which accounts for the stiffness of the animals after being startled. This condition affects more than just goats, however, as it can affect other types of animals and even people. The journal Neuromuscular Disorders estimates that 1 in 1,000,000 people worldwide suffer from myotonia congenita.

The fainting goat breed may have originated in the 19th century in Tennessee when a farm hand came to Tennessee from Canada. The farm hand brought with him three goats that fainted when startled. The man later moved away, but not before selling the goats to a local doctor, who wanted to study the animals because of their unusual disorder.

It has been observed that younger goats, when startled, will stiffen and fall over, while older goats have learned to spread their legs for stability or lean against something when startled. Older goats may even continue to run around in a stiff-legged shuffle.

Aside from their tendency to freeze up when startled, fainting goats are slightly smaller than standard breeds of goat. Fainting goats are usually 17 to 25 inches (43 to 64 cm) tall and will typically weigh between 60 and 174 pounds (27 to 79 kg). It is possible for bucks (males) to reach up to 200 pounds.

The animals have large, prominent eyes that are in high sockets. They can have short or long hair, with the most common colors of black and white (although most of the spectrum of goat colors are seen in this breed). During the colder months, some individual animals can produce large quantities of cashmere, however, there is no noted strain of angora in this breed.

Aside from Myotonic Goats, Fainting goats are known by several other names, including Nervous Goats, Wooden-leg Goats, Stiff-leg Goats, Tennessee Goats, and Tennessee Fainting Goats.

Fainting goats are smaller than, and considered easier to care for and maintain, than larger meat goat breeds. This characteristic makes the fainting goat more desirable for breeding on smaller farms. The goats can also be raised as pets and as show animals.

The goats have drawn attention from the curious and have been featured on popular programs such as Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe, Mythbusters, National Geographic, and Outrageous Acts of Science from the Science Channel.

The fainting goat is classified as a meat goat (versus a dairy goat), however, the breed is considered a threatened species by The Livestock Conservancy, so it is not used for chevon (goat meat) as regularly as other breeds of meat goat. The fact that meat from myotonic goats is rare makes the live goats more valuable. Due to their smaller size, fainting goats may be sought out by smaller production farms. Their smaller size, in combination with their myotonia, can make them easier to corral as they are not able to overcome fences as easily as larger breeds of goat. Some of the smaller individuals of the breed may even be kept as pets.

Despite the element of novelty surrounding fainting goats, myotonia congenita is a disorder that some breeders try hard to keep out of the bloodlines of their stock.

Check back regularly for more information about this interesting and unique breed of animal.