Fainting goats are domestic goats also called Myotonic goats, or wooden leg goats. They suffer from a recessive genetic condition where a fright causes the muscles in their legs to freeze. The goats fall over for 5 to 15 seconds and then get up as though nothing happened.
This is more easily observed in young goats as mature ones learn to steady themselves because they do not particularly enjoy the feeling of being vulnerable and on the ground. In fact, although called “fainting” the goats do not actually faint at all, they are awake the whole time.
These goats are mostly a novelty pet now but were once commonly kept as food animals they would be intentionally tricked into fainting simply because it would add more muscle (meat) to their legs.
Some mytonic goats have produced cashmere fiber in the winter which is more valuable than meat.
Myotonia congentia, the condition that causes these goats to faint, is also seen in humans, it is recessive so part bred goats do not have the same condition.
Myotonic goats originated in North America, when a man from Nova Scotia traveled to Tennessee in 1880 with his four goats and abandoned the goats in Tennessee. Although those goats did not have the trait their offspring did and soon passed it on for further generations.
Some people have suggested the trait is a survival advantage because the falling animals confuse predators who would instead chase the running ones, but this is not necessarily so as a goat that falls is certainly put further behind and much easier to catch. The are vulnerable to predation by coyotes and dogs as well as any other large predator.
Fainting goats are playful but not as apt to climb fences as other goats, additionally their smaller size makes them well suited to be kept as pets. They are friendly and easy to care for and the does make good mothers.
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