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Myotonic Goats

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  • November 2010
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Myotonic Goats

Myotonic goats, also commonly referred to as “Fainting goats,” “Nervous goats,” and “Wooden-leg goats,” are a very unique and intriguing breed of livestock. Myotonic goats are thought to have originated in Tennessee sometime during the 1870’s. As the story goes, a transient farm worker named John Tinsley showed up on a farm in Marshall County, Tennessee, with three does and one buck. He sold his unique herd to the owner of the farm, Dr. H. H. Mayberry and then mysteriously left a few days later. No one knows where the farm worker came from, where he went, or how he got the unique goats. To this day, that story is the best record of the origination of Myotonic goats.

It is also said that these goats are the reason for the popular term “scape goat.” Myotonic goats were used by shepherds as protection for their flocks. A few goats would be mixed in with the sheep so that when predators would attack; the goats would get startled and fall, giving the chance for the sheep to escape. However, this practice led to the near extinction of the breed which is now listed as Threatened on the American Livestock Breed Conservatory Priority List due to the work of a few dedicated breeders. This heightened awareness led to the increase of the numbers and use of the breed. Today, they are most commonly produced for commercial meat production and for use as companion animals. Myotonic goats are also frequently crossbred with other breeds of goats to increase growth traits. With a very small pure bred population, about 10,000 in the world, they are used frequently to breed with Boer goats. Boer goats are another meat breed and since the Myotonic gene is recessive it is rarely passed on to the crossbred offspring.

Myotonic goats are most known for their unique genetic condition, myotonia congenita. This is a hereditary genetic mutation causing muscle fibers to have unusually exaggerated responses to stimulation. Common symptoms of the condition include muscle...

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