Fainting goats are small-statured, American domesticated goats raised primarily in the Southern US. They are known by numerous other names, like Tennessee Scare Goats, Tennessee Meat Goats, Nervous Goats, and Stiff-leg Goats. Although fainting goats are in the meat goat class, they tend not to be raised for meat, but rather to keep open areas free of brush and nicely chewed down.
Fainting goats come by their many peculiar names because they all suffer from a condition called myotonia congenita. This causes the fainting goats to have all their muscles lock up for about 10 seconds when they become startled or excited. In young goats, this condition usually results in the goats toppling over for a few seconds numerous times a day.
The strange behavior of fainting goats often endears them to their owners, and since it does not harm the animals, it can be somewhat amusing to watch. Numerous YouTube sites feature the fainting goats, and it truly does not take much to startle them. In fact owners often report that even feeding time can make the fainting goats so excited that they will momentarily fall over, usually with an accompanying bleat or two. The fainting goats quickly get back on their feet to pursue their favorite activities of munching on feed or landscape.
Adult fainting goats often learn to cope with this sudden locking up of the muscles, and may simply prance at a stiff gait for a few seconds while the muscles remain locked. However, invariably, until the kids learn to cope with the condition, they roll over for a few seconds when startled. Some adults are not very adept at coping, and if exceptionally startled, may still drop to the ground.
Even though fainting goats are classified as meat goats, they are almost never raised as meat animals because the breed is considered very rare. Sometimes they are merely bred as pets, or for animal shows. Owners also boast of the friendly and intelligent personality of these goats, who seem to take life’s tumbles with great forbearance. Some people call them doglike in their devotion to owners and other farm animals.
Fainting goats are one of nature’s peculiarities in mildest form. Myotonia congenita does produce strange results. It fortunately does not harm the fainting goats in any other way than the above mentioned. In fact with the exception of these 10-second muscle locks, fainting goats have a normal life expectancy and excellent health.