A Breed Like No Other: Fainting Goats

LEWISTON, Minn. (WCCO) — There’s a breed of goats that give true meaning to the phrase “paralyzed in fear.” They’re called fainting goats and the breed is growing in popularity.

On the farms of rural Minnesota, the animals offer few surprises. Even the goat herd on the Schindler farm is somewhat predictable.

“They’re just a sweet pet,” said Cindy Schindler, who owns 40 fainting goats.

It’s a lifestyle that suits this breed, because whenever the unexpected happens, these guys have a tendency to freeze up.

“It doesn’t last any longer than our adrenaline rushes do,” Cindy said.

Their name says it all.

“This is a Tennessee fainter goat. They got several different names: fainters, stiff-legged goat,” Cindy said.

The cause of their condition is a little more complex.

“Some call them myotonic,” Cindy said.

The myotonic condition causes their muscles to lock up if scared, startled or excited.

“It’s only species that they’ve ever found in the world that does this … as a breed,” said Garry Schindler, Cindy’s husband.

In fact, fainting doesn’t begin to describe it. Give the goats a scare and you’ll see flips, flails, even face plants.

“Doesn’t last long, doesn’t hurt them,” Garry said.

Luckily Cindy is there to catch them. She has one of the few fainting goat herds in the state and through the years she’s come to realize their more than just a novelty.

“They’re just a sweet goat,” Cindy said.

Sure, this breed has plenty of shortfalls, but it certainly doesn’t “fall” short of its reputation.

“They’re rare,” Garry said.

It’s believed these goats were once used to protect an expensive herd of sheep. If a predator came around, the goat would freeze up and the other animals could get away.

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