The Mystery of the Fainting Goat

 “Faitning goats vs Exercise Ball” by Peahill Farm (Standard YouTube License)

Myotonic goats, or more commonly known as the fainting goat, are a popular pet becuase of their hilarious fainting behaviors. This is due to a genetic condition called myotonia congenita. Although they are called ‘fainting’ goats, they remian conscious during the experience [1]. This condition is also found in other livestock and sometimes in humans. It is a recessive genetic disorder that affects skeletal muscles in the organims by mutating the CLCN1 gene and inhibiting chloride channels [2].  This gene is responsible for muscle contractions and relaxations, and it is thought that mutations in the gene cause the muscles to become tense during the ‘Fight-or-Flight” response.  Whenever this goat becomes starled by something they tense up and fall to the side. This condition has the potential to cause harm if the goat is on top of a structure when this occurs.

This is a maladaptive trait that would lead to the goat becoming prey in natural environments. These goats have been bred as livestock for their meat since the late 1800’s and with the rise of the internet have become an entertaining spectacle. They are believed to have come to North America from Nova Scotia and are found  primarily in Tennessee. By the late 1900’s these goats had spread to Texas and were being bred for their size and reproductive rates. The larger goats weighing up to 175lbs are selected for as meat while smaller goats are bred as pets  [3]. Many people enjoy these goats as meals while other enjoy chasing them and the laughs that follow as they topple over.

“Tennessee Fainting Goat” by The She-Creature (CC by 2.0)


[1] Gibbens, Sarah. “Why ‘Fainting Goats’ Really Collapse in Fear.” National Geographic, National Geographic Society, 16 Feb. 2017,

[2] NIH. “Myotonia Congenita.” U.S National Library of Medicine , 11 Apr. 2018,

[3] Walker, Ryan. “Myotonic or Tennesse Fainting Goat.” The Livestock Conservancy,



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