About Fainting Goats

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Where did they come from?

History is sketchy at best but most will agree that things date back to  1880’s. Story tellers believe that a man named John Tinsley traveled from place to place. It was believed that he was from Nova Scotia, Canada but no one knows for sure. He was a migrant farm worker. He arrived at a farm in central Tennessee with (4) unusual goats, (1) buck & (3) does plus a sacred cow. The goats would often get stiff and fall over. He stayed at J.M. Porter’s house which was next door to Dr. Mayberry’s farm. Dr. Mayberry was very interested in these goats and offered to purchase them from Tinsley but Tinsley wanted to hang onto them for the time being.  Tinsley stayed in the area for about a year and in that time it was thought that he married a local girl. He decided to move away and he sold the goats to the good doctor for $36. It is rumoured that he left his wife behind but took the sacred cow!

Dr. Mayberry began to breed the goats and discovered that all of the offspring also stiffened up and “fainted”. The doctor realized that he had a new breed on his hands. The breed soon became known as the Tennessee Fainting Goat as they were becoming well known in Marshall County as well as Giles, Lawrence, Maury and Coffee Counties. They were referred to as the stiff, nervous, scared goat.


This breed is renown for their calm disposition and easier to contain for fencing compared to other breeds.  The original breed were smaller in size weighing somewhere between 50-170 lbs and stood between 17-25” at the shoulder. They came in both short and long coats and a variety of colours.


Sometime in the 1950’s(possible the 1930’s)  the breed was taken into the hill country in Texas. Here they were selected for their meat qualities and selective breeding done to increase their size. Some refer to these bloodlines and the “Texas Line”. In the 1980’s the breed is rediscovered but at this time is considered a rare breed and almost extinct. Some say the conditions in the foothills wandering wild was too tough on the breed subject to the weather,  coyotes,  bob cats, stray dogs etc.

what makes them "faint"?

Well, technically they actually don’t “faint” or even loose consciousness. Myotonics are born with a congenital condition called myotonia congenita, which is also known as Thomsen's disease. This condition causes their muscles to seize up when they're startled for between 5-20 seconds of time. You can pick them up during this time and they will remain stiff as a board.