The Day Thread Has the Vapors (11/23/21)

While goats are typically known for eating tin cans and skirt hems, bleating Christmas carols off key, and cosplaying as Satan, the aptly named Tennessee Fainting Goat has the unique habit of passing out when startled.

Jesus Christ, Peggy, don’t sneak up on me like that!

This odd behavior is caused by a hereditary condition called myotonia congenita, which can delay the relaxation of skeletal muscles after they are voluntarily contracted (as when spooked and running away) — so the goats aren’t actually losing consciousness; their legs just freeze up, and they can’t move for a brief period. Thus, these goats are also known as myotonic, stiff-legged, nervous, wooden-leg, and scare goats.

The condition is painless, and, assuming they aren’t reshingling a roof at the time, the goats don’t suffer any lasting harm from an episode, which typically only lasts a few seconds. They are, however, completely helpless while in lockdown, akin to “a single piece of wood.”

The gene that causes myotonia congenita is recessive, so cross-bred goats don’t exhibit this trait. One might wonder why, then, Tennessee Fainting Goats continue to be cultivated, other than for their novelty value. After all, deliberately selecting for a trait that would be disadvantageous in the wild is a form of unnatural selection. Well, at one time they were used as decoys of a sort, to protect herds from predators (the idea being that the rest of the flock would get away while the predator went for the goat locked in an invisible full-body cast). However, these days, their primary use is for meat production, and with their small size, pleasant nature, intelligence, and understandable lack of adventurousness, they make good companion animals as well.

The breed appeared in Tennessee in the late 19th century but is considered endangered today. They are a heritage breed and a high conservation priority. Most importantly, they are adorable and hilarious, and I am happy they exist.

How I loathe you.

Have a great day, Avocados!