Myotonic Goat Facts and Links


Fainting Goats are also known by other names, such as nervous, stiff legged, wooden legged, Tennessee mountain, etc.

History of the species is sparse and mostly anecdotal. One story is that sometime during the early 1880's a stranger, John Tinsley, appeared at the home of J. M. Porter in TN, in Marshall County Tennessee. He carried nothing with him but the clothes on his back and a few animals. These animals included a sacred cow (Zebu?) and four “bulgy eyed” goats who displayed strange characteristics of having seizures or fainting spells.. It was assumed, by his dress, he came from Nova Scotia or somewhere within that region. He was also said to have worn two hats with the possibility of the smaller one being a fez. He later moved to the farm of Dr. H.H. Mayberry who had expressed an interest in buying the goats. He sold his goats to Dr. Mayberry (supposedly for $36). He then left the county with his sacred cow but left his wife behind. The Dr. fortunately bred them and tried to research the goats but could find no evidence of such a breed.  He was convinced that they are a breed because of their unique traits are hereditary. It is assumed that these four goats are the original propagators of all such goats in the country.

Myotonia is the condition (myotonia congeita) which causes these goats to appear to faint.  When they become excited or startled they will stiffen and possibly fall over, appearing to faint.  They remain stiff for about 10-15 seconds.  The are fully aware of their surroundings and are in no pain. This is a condition which occurs in many species, including humans. (Myotonia in man is referred to as Thomsen's disease).  The myotonia condition is strictly muscular, and does not involve the nerves nor the brain.

The original fainting goats were white and black heads, necks and shoulders.  Today they are seen in black & white, brown & white, grey & white, red & white, solid black, solid white, solid grey, solid red, tri color, chocolate brown, tan & white. Some also have blue eyes.

Distinguishing characteristics are pop eyes, long & wide muzzle, long ears that stand out to the side, not erect. Fainting goats can be horned or polled (naturally hornless) or disbudded. Hair coats can be long or short. Temperament is very laid back & gentle. The Tennessee Meat Goat (TMG)TM developed by Onion Creek Ranch has been selectively bred for stout compact musculature which produces more meat.

Gestation period is around 145 days and they are easy kidders.  Myotonic Goats are easy to train, require minimum facilities, and are unique enough to be conversation pieces.  They can be profitable to raise and work well on small acreage. Their antics are fun to watch. Sometimes they fall over for no apparent reason and will make you laugh.

Myotonic (fainting) goats can be registered with the IFGA-which is the International Fainting Goat Association.


Onion Creek Ranch has a host of articles on goat raising and care.
Fainting Goat Lovers Web Ring has links to many fainting goat breeders. Not an all inclusive listing, for more links do a Google search.