Myotonic Goat

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Other common names: Fainting Goat; Fainter; Tennessee Goat; Tennessee Scare Goat; Wooden-Leg Goat; Stiff-Leg Goat; Nervous Goat; Tennessee Meat Goat; TMG

The basics:
According to the International Fainting Goat Association, the Myotonic Goat "traces back to the early 1800's when a farm worker appeared in Marshall County, Tennessee, with three does and a buck that fainted. It was thought by his dress that he might have come from Nova Scotia. He was a quiet man and wouldn't talk to anyone so whatever he knew will remain a secret forever. He eventually parted from Marshall County but before he did he sold his goats to Dr. H. H. Mayberry. Fortunately Dr. Mayberry propagated them and tried his best to research their history. He could find no evidence of such a breed anywhere else in the world. He was convinced they were a breed because their unique traits are hereditary."

Today, Myotonic Goats are mostly raised as pets and show animals. The defining genetic trait of the breed is a neuromuscular condition which causes them to stiffen and sometimes fall over when startled. Respiration, heart function and other body functions are not affected, and the goat does not lose consciousness, and does not really "faint". The condition lasts for ten to fifteen seconds after which time the animal rises and is able to walk stiffly. Myotonic Goats are said to have been used by sheep farmers to distract predators from their flocks. When a predator appeared, the Myotonic Goats would startle, experience their temporary paralysis, and become the first, and easy, prey, allowing the sheep to run off to safety.

Appearance / health:
Myotonic goats are small-sized and seen with various hair colors and coloration patterns, but commonly black and white. The hair can be short or long, with cashmere undercoats in the winter months. The back and legs are straight. The eyes are protruding. What gives the goat its name is its tendency to “faint” or fall over when startled or threatened, an involuntary reaction caused by myotonia or the temporary stiffening of the leg muscles.

Goats are sensitive animals that can suffer from various infectious and chronic diseases that are sometimes undetected until too late. Vaccinations, as well as de-worming and de-lousing applications must be conducted as needed. Milking goats should be checked regularly using prescribed mastitis tests for udder health. Milking areas should always be clean and the goat’s teats treated with teat dip after milking to prevent mastitis.

Goats must be inspected frequently to detect any signs of poor health, infections, or other ailments. Signs include cloudy or teary eyes, dull or fluffed up coat, droopy tail, hunched back, or poor appetite. A veterinarian should always be on call to address health concerns.

Behavior / temperament:
Goats are inherently curious, active, intelligent, and social. They are known to have the ability to overcome enclosures by unraveling the gate, climbing over the mesh, or pushing and ramming the fence down. Goats have good coordination and balance and can manage to climb low trees, ledges, and overhangs. Their curiosity leads them to constantly investigate items with their mouths; most items get chewed and swallowed. With a little patience, goats can be taught to carry or pull loads, respond to calls, and lead a herd. As social animals, they easily get along with other farm animals.

Myotonic Goats are favored as pets and show animals because of their small size, intelligence, docile and friendly nature, and ease of care.

Housing / diet:
As herd animals, goats are best kept in pairs or groups. As grazers, they require an outdoor habitat that is securely fenced to prevent escape or foraging in restricted areas. The area should be large enough to allow the goat to roam. The recommended habitat per goat is 200 sq. ft. of yard or pasture plus a sheltered or indoor area of about 15 sq. ft. The sheltered area should be adequately built to keep the goats safe from rain and strong winds.

Keeping goats inside the house is not recommended because of the pet’s tendency to gnaw and chew on furniture and furnishings. Goats are also not known to adhere to toilet training.

The ideal food for domesticated goats is alfalfa hay and grass hay. This should be available daily in quantities of at least 3% of the goat’s body weight. Small quantities of feed grain and concentrates (often protein-enriched) like goat show or goat grain can also be given to add nutrition. Supplements are often used to address deficiencies inherent to local habitats.

Clean water is essential to a goat’s daily diet. It should always be available and provided where it cannot be soiled. Dirty and moldy water is hazardous to the goat’s health. Milking goats should be kept away from aromatic or strong-tasting foliage like garlic, onions, mint, and cabbage, which could taint the flavor of the milk.


fewer hoof issues, disease resistance, favorite breed, good pets, easiest breed, gorgeous color patterns


myotonic condition, nervous goats, expensive fullblood myotonic, strong fences


myotonic condition, myotonia, stiffness

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