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What are Fainting Goats?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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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.

All Things Nature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a All Things Nature contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By Rotergirl — On Oct 29, 2014

Fainting goats usually aren't quite as vocal as other goats, I don't think. My neighbors have a whole herd of them and except during feeding time, you'd never know they were around.

They are very friendly, and not at all aggressive. When my daughter was little, she would go to the fence and feed them grass or whatever, and they would just seem thrilled to see her. None of them ever offered to charge her or butt her. Even when she was in the fence with them (supervised, of course), they never seemed interested in anything but getting petted and being given treats. Now that she's older, she still loves to go outside with the goats. She says they have a calming effect on her.

By Pippinwhite — On Oct 28, 2014

I have some friends who raise fainting goats, and they are hilarious to watch. Sometimes, the kids will be playing and butting each other -- just doing normal goat things -- and bang! One will get too excited and just fall over. You don't have to startle them.

They are very intelligent and they know their owner's voice and will come in from across the field when called. They're packed with friendliness and curiosity and are a lot of fun to have around.

Obviously, you need some room for them to roam, but if you have a large yard in the country, having two or three fainting goats is an amusing hobby. They're just big pets.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a All Things Nature contributor, Tricia...
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