The origin of the Fainting goat has been traced back to the 1880's in Marshall County, Tennessee. A man by the name of Tinsley came to town bringing along a few goats and a "sacred" cow. He stayed long enough to marry a local woman, and to help a farmer with the harvest. He sold his goats to a man by the name of R. Goode and then departed the community. He took the cow with him, but alas for the poor wife, left her behind.
Today's Fainting goats descended from those few goats. The goats were used primarily for meat, although they were also used to protect sheep. With a Fainting goat in the herd if coyotes or dogs threatened the sheep, the sheep could run away while the Fainting goat fell over, providing the predator with an easy meal while the sheep escaped. These goats were close to extinction by the 1980's, but have now been bred back to where they are no
The name "Fainting" goat is a bit misleading because they do not actually faint. They have a genetic problem with relaxing muscles. When they are startled or surprised their muscles lock up and the goat then sometimes falls over. Hence the name "Fainting" Goat. Older goats are more adept at leaning against a fence or barn and so they don't exhibit this trait as much as younger goats. It's kind of like doing isometric exercises and so these goats have about 40% more meat than a comparably sized goat. They are also known in some parts of the U.S. as "Nervous" goats, and in Texas as "Stiff-legged" goats.
A Fainting goat averages between 17-25 inches in height, and weighs between 50 and 165 pounds. They are NOT miniature goats. They can be horned, disbudded (dehorned), or polled (naturally hornless). Their coats can be long or short, but never curly like Angoras. They come in a variety of colors including black, tan, red, brown, and white. Some people prefer them in black and white only, others breed for as much color as possible.
Fainting goats have bulgy eyes which are very unusual and which distinguish them from other breeds. They also have very long ears that stand out to the side of their head. They are a very calm animal and make excellent pets. They are a herding animal, and should therefore be kept with at least two or three of their own kind.
Females are polyestrous, which means they come into heat year round. They come into heat every 3 weeks (17-23 days) and can remain in heat anywhere from 1-3 days. Gestation period is 145-151 days. They are excellent mother's, and kids are seldom weaned earlier than 3 months of age. Twins are the norm, but they frequently have triplets. Quadruplets and quintuplets are also possible.
Goats have been treated unkindly in the movies and cartoons. They do not eat tin cans but rather require good feed. They do however prefer many weeds to grass and will do an excellent job of cleaning up an enclosure that has gone to sunflowers, pig weeds or fire weeds. Oats, barley, corn, vitamins, minerals, and selenium can be fed at a rate of 1/2 cup twice daily for kids and 2 cups per day for adults. Almost everyone who keeps fainting goats feeds them alfalfa. When given a choice between alfalfa and dried tree leaves the goats will sometimes eat the leaves first and then return to the alfalfa. You can collect dried leaves in the fall and feed them throughout the winter as long as you provide added protein in with the feed you give them each day. They should not be given fruit tree leaves or leaves from walnut trees. Fainter's also need mineral and salt. Hoofs should be trimmed every 4-6 weeks.
While they tolerate cold climates quite well, they really must have a draft free barn if they are kept in a cold region. A shed with one end open may suffice, but I wouldn't keep my goats in anything less than a good barn which can be completely closed up during snowstorms. They are easy prey for dogs and coyotes so the fencing must be capable of keeping these predators out.