Myotonic Goats, also known as
Wooden Leg, Stiff Leg, or Tennessee Fainting Goats are one of the few goats
that are indigenous to the U.S. There are two strains of this animal. Most of
those found in Tennessee and the eastern U.S. are smaller. Most Texas herds
tend to be somewhat larger, probably due to selective breeding for the meat
market. In fact, some ranchers have renamed them Tennessee Meat Goats.
Myotonic Goats are often sold
as pets because they are unique. Myotonic means when they are frightened or
excited they "lock up" and often fall over (faint) and lie very stiff
for a few seconds. It is an over-simplification, but the chemicals which are
rushed to humans' muscles and joints to prepare them for "fight or
flight" are withheld in the Myotonic under exciting or frightful
No one really knows their
origin. There are two theories. One of the possibilities is that a private herd
sold to a Tennessee farmer around 1880 was the beginning of the breed. A man
named John Tinsley arrived in Marshall County, Tennessee, with four goats, a
billy and three nannies, which he had brought from Nova Scotia. When he moved a
year later, he left his goats behind. It is believed that all the Fainting
goats in the U.S. can trace their origins back to these four goats.
The other theory is that there
was a spontaneous mutation of a herd in Tennessee about 1885 which resulted in
the recessive gene.
Myotonic goats which have been
selected for meat production are heavy rumped, deep chested animals. Most are
black and white but multi colors are not uncommon. They breed aseasonally, are
easy kidders and have good milk production. Many breeders have noted the breed
has the capability to produce two kiddings a year. They are good mothers so in
most cases a bonding pen is not needed. Since they are not good climbers and
jumpers they are somewhat easier to keep than other goats.
The American Livestock
Breed Conservancy has placed this breed of goat on their "rare" list,
with an estimated world population of under 10,000. They have now been
discovered as excellent crossbreed stock for the Boer goat, a meat goat which
was imported from South Africa. The "fainting" gene is recessive;
therefore it is usually not expressed in crossbred animals.