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What Triggers a Fainting Goat?

Goats are often appreciated for their strength, agility, and unique character. However, one particular breed stands out from the rest due to an unusual trait – the fainting goats. You’re undoubtedly wondering what triggers a fainting goat if you’ve come across some of these creatures. 

In this article, we’ll look at the different reasons and figure out what exactly causes these strange responses from these animals. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Sudden and surprising movements or noises might trigger a fainting goat to faint.
  • Contrary to popular belief, fainting goats don’t lose consciousness and only experience muscle stiffness.
  • Not all goats faint. Myotonic goats are the only ones who have this trait.

What triggers a fainting goat?

Myotonic, or fainting, goats can lose consciousness for a number of reasons, most of which have to do with sudden moves or shocks.

These triggers can include loud noises like a car horn or shouting, sudden movements in the vicinity, unexpected physical touch, and even high-stress situations or significant changes in their surroundings. 

What triggers a fainting goat?

Fainting goat
Fainting goat | image by slappytheseal via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Myotonic goats, often known as fainting goats, can have a variety of triggers, and the following are some of the most common ones:

1. Loud noises

These species are easily startled by sudden, loud noises such as clapping, a vehicle horn, or even yelling, which can cause them to pass out.

2. Sudden movements

Rapid, unexpected movements in their environment, such as someone sprinting by or the rapid flying of a bird, might set off their response of collapsing.

3. High-stress situations

Periods of high stress or extreme excitement may lead to collapsing episodes. Keep in mind that even though these are common triggers, individual goats may have their very own unique triggers that are based on their own experiences and behaviors.

Are fainting goats in pain?

Myotonic goat
Myotonic goat | image by Jean via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Despite their peculiar condition, fainting goats don’t experience pain during their collapsing spells. Muscle stiffness, called myotonia, is a normal and automatic reaction for them.

This stiffness isn’t caused by pain, and these creatures are still awake during the whole thing. Once the muscle stiffness subsides, the goats can get up and move around as normal.

But it’s important to remember that even though the actual act of “fainting” doesn’t hurt, the experience can still cause them psychological distress. As prey animals, their natural reaction is to run away from danger, and the inability to run due to muscle stiffness can therefore be stressful for them.

This is why it’s not a good idea to startle or scare these goats on purpose to make them pass out. To ensure these unique animals stay healthy, it’s important to give them the care and respect they deserve. 

Misconceptions about fainting goats

All Goats Faint

Fainting, or muscle stiffness followed by falling over, isn’t a trait seen in all goats. It’s only found in the Myotonic goat, which is also called the “fainting goat.”

This is caused by a genetic trait called myotonia congenita, which isn’t found in other kinds of goats. So, it would be wrong to think that all of them have this trait.

Fainting goats are in pain

Many people mistakenly believe that fainting goats experience pain or distress when they collapse. In reality, myotonia congenita doesn’t cause pain.

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The species remains conscious throughout the event and recovers without any harm. The “fainting” is just a muscle response to being startled or moving quickly.

Fainting is harmful to the goat’s health

Fainting goat
Fainting goat | image by Jean via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Some may believe these episodes harm the animal’s overall health or lifespan. This isn’t true. Fainting goats live as long as other types of goats, and their health isn’t harmed by having myotonia congenita. In fact, due to their condition, their muscles can be more developed than other breeds, making them desirable in certain agricultural settings.

How do you keep goats from fainting?

You can’t prevent a myotonic goat from experiencing fainting spells because its genetic condition causes it. However, you can manage their environment to reduce instances of startling, which trigger these episodes by:

  • Providing these creatures with a calm, silent, and predictable living environment to reduce the likelihood of surprises or stress. 
  • Regularly and gently handle them from a young age to help them get used to human interaction and reduce their chances of getting startled. 
  • Ensure they’re safe by removing sharp objects, heights, or other hazards in their enclosure that could harm them if they fall over. 

How long do goats faint for?

When a myotonic, or “fainting,” goat experiences a startle-induced episode of muscle stiffness, it typically lasts for about 10 to 20 seconds. During this time, the animal’s muscles freeze, which makes it fall over and look like it has passed out.

Once the stiffness passes, the creature can get up and move around normally again. The length of these episodes can differ from goat to goat, depending on how startled the species was.

Final Thoughts

Myotonic, or “fainting,” goats are an interesting example of how different animal traits can be caused by different genes. This trait shows that these animals are more easily startled by things they think are dangerous. Knowing what causes these periods, like sudden movements, loud noises, and surprises, can help create a calm, safe environment for these unique animals to lower their stress levels.

Louise Robles

About Louise Robles

Louise writes about a wide variety of topics including wildlife, animals, and nature. She's developed a growing interest in animal biology and categorization due to her fascination with how they interact with one another and with their surroundings.