Myotonic Goat History

Legend has it that in the early 1880's, a strange dressed man named "Tinsley" appeared in Marshall County Tennessee with three does and a buck that "fainted". It is unknown where or what county "Tinsley" was from but he traded the goats to Dr. H.H. Mayberry who saw this interesting trait and started breeding it. 

Legend also states that farmers used the myotonic goats as decoys to protect their more valuable livestock from predators. When a predator would come after their livestock, the goat would faint and the predator would kill the goat allowing the more valuable livestock to escape. This practice was used until the myotonic goat was nearly extinct. Thanks to groups of breeders dedicated to preserving this wonderful breed of goat, the breed is well on its way to a full recovery. 
Why Does a Myotonic Goat "Faint"?

Myotonic goats are also known as nervous goats, wooden leg goats, scared goats and most commonly fainting goats. In case you're wondering, No, myotonic goats do not really faint and become unconscious. They are not having seizures and it does not hurt them. They remain fully conscious and once they relax (10-15 seconds), they get up and go on their merry way. Myotonic goats get their name from a condition known as myotonia congenita. This condition presents itself when the goat is startled or excited. The goat's leg muscles stiffen causing them to walk with stiff legs and/or on occasion fall over to the ground with their legs rigid. The degree of myotonia can range from a mere stiffening of the legs to a complete stiffening of the body, where if the goat is off balance it will fall over. This stiffening actually builds muscle. This high muscle mass along with their smaller bones yields a higher meat to bone ratio which make this breed desirable to the meat goat breeder.  
Fainting Goat Characteristics

Myotonia is not the only characteristic of this breed. Just because a goat displays myotonia does not mean it is a fainting goat. Myotonic goats are a medium size goat compared to other breeds. There is no one color or hair length that is specific for the breed. However, the original fainting goats were said to be black and white but there is nothing documented to prove this. This breed can be horned or polled (naturally hornless). Some of the important characteristics specific to the breed are the facial features (eyes, ears, and muzzle) and the body conformation. 

Eyes: Many of these goats have eyes that appear to protrude from the socket "bug eyes". It is the structure of the bone that causes the eyes to look this way. The eyes are also wide apart and often more forward than other breeds.

 Ears: There are three types of ears that are acceptable to the breed standard.   However, all ears are medium in length and width and are horizontal from the side of the head but turned slightly forward "airplane ears". 

Head/Muzzle: The head of the myotonic goat is short to medium length but fairly straight. The muzzle is medium in length and wider, flatter and more rounded than other breeds.

These are just some of the characteristics of the myotonic goat. You can find out more about the breed on the myotonic goat registry's website.  
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