A myotonic goat, otherwise known as the fainting goat, is a domestic goat whose muscles freeze for roughly 10 seconds when the goat feels panic. Though painless, this generally results in the animal collapsing on its side. The characteristic is caused by a hereditary genetic disorder called myotonia congenita. When startled, younger goats will stiffen and fall over. Older goats learn to spread their legs or lean against something when startled, and often they continue to run about in an awkward, stiff-legged shuffle.
Slightly smaller than standard breeds of the goat, fainting goats are generally 43 to 64 cm (17 to 25 in) tall and can weigh anywhere from 27 to 79 kg (60 to 170 lb). Males, or bucks, as they are often referred to can be as heavy as 200 pounds. They have large, prominent eyes in high sockets. Their hair can be short or long, with certain individuals producing a great deal of cashmere during colder months. There appears to be no angora strain of the fainting goat. Common coat colors are black and white; however, most possible coat colors are found in this breed.
Fainting goats have many other names, including Myotonic Goats, Tennessee (Meat) Goats, Nervous Goats, Stiff-leg Goats, Wooden-leg Goats, and Tennessee Fainting Goats. They are smaller and somewhat easier to care for and maintain than larger meat goat breeds, which makes the fainting goat desirable for smaller farms. They are also raised as pet or show animals as they can be friendly, intelligent, easy to keep, and amusing. The "Fainting Goat" myth was tested on the U.S. television show Mythbusters.
Fainting goats have a muscle condition, which is called myotonia congenita. This is a condition which occurs in many species, including humans. The goats do not truly "faint" in any sense of the word, as they never lose consciousness because of their myotonia. They remain fully conscious.
Classified as a meat goat as opposed to a dairy goat, it can be raised for chevon (goat meat). This breed is listed as threatened by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy so the fainting goat is not used as often for chevon as other meat goat breeds; its rarity makes the live goat more valuable. The fainting goat is specifically specialized for smaller production operations as they are unable to challenge fences as vigorously as larger meat goat breeds. This is due in part to their smaller size and also because of the myotonia. Their size makes them easier to care for during chores such as foot trimming and administering medication. Smaller specimens of fainting goats are frequently kept as pets.
Besides the myotonia, another distinguishing feature of the fainting goat is their prominently set eyes. The eyes protrude from the eye sockets, as opposed to recessed eyes seen in other breeds. The profile is straight as opposed to the convex or "roman" profile.
Even though some people breed these animals for pets or to have smaller sized meat goats, "fainting" is a disorder that producers of other breeds try to keep out of their herds' bloodlines, unless they are purposely raising goats to have the fainting trait.
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