What is a fainting goat? A fainting goat is a breed of goat (also know as Myotonic, Tennessee Fainting, Stiff-Legged goat or Nervous goat) that has a gene that causes the goat to lock up when startled. The goat does not pass out, even if it falls over. After a few seconds or a minute, the goat will unlock and walk normally. Myotonics are a meat breed that is also very gentle breed to have for pets, show, or breeding. The myotonic goat is on the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy Conservation list as a rare breed and is on the watched list. At this time there is thought to be roughly 10,000 myotonics in the world but dedicated breeders are persevering this breed. Myotonics do have a breed standard/description set by the first registries, the International Fainting Goat Association, and the Myotonic Goat Registry. These standards/descriptions are also upheld by the American Fainting Goat Organization and the Myotonic Herd book. The goal of the IFGA, the AFGO, and the MHB is to register goats meeting the breed standards to preserve the original myotonic "type". The MGR also registers goats meeting the standard but allows registration of crossbred myotonics if they are at least 50% and the breeder can breed up the goat to 97% pure using other myotonics.

The reason registries register goats according to their breed standard/description is so that the breed remains pure as possible. Because the myotonic goat is a "landrace" breed, crossbreeding has occurred over the years. This has caused some confusion in people new to the breed. Unfortunately over the years people have registered crossbred goats as 100% myotonics because they had most of the "look" of a myotonic, along with the fainting associated with myotonics. Keep in mind that not every goat that faints is a true myotonic, and not all true myotonics faint. Because of the gene that causes the myotonia, crossbred goats can faint as well as a true myotonic. And some myotonics don't faint hardly at all. Each registry has it's own way of determining the level of myotonia in a goat. So what is the "look" of a true myotonic goat?

First off, a true myotonic should not have a roman nose. A roman nose is found in Nubian, Boer, and crosses of those breeds. True myotonics have a concave (meaning dipped face, think Arabian but not quite dished) face. True myotonics also have predominant eyes that appear to bulge slightly from their sockets. Also, true myotonics should also never have the droopy ears associated with Nubians, Boers, and their crosses. Nor should they ever have LaMancha ears (no cartilage or gofer ears). Myotonics have three ear styles. Myotonics are a meat goat, and it is not normal for them to have a dairy goat type body. They should have good muscling (since there is different lines, Texas, Tennessee, and mini, they may not all be super muscled but should not look like a dairy breed). Also, coats like angoras (curly and long locks) are not a true myotonic trait. Nether is short cobby goats that resemble pygmies. Also, the most common pattern of the myotonic goat is a black & white pattern (due mainly to the fact that black genes and white genes are dominant), but all colors are accepted as long as the goat fits the breed standard.

Here is the IFGA breed standard for the nose/head of a true myotonic goat:

Nose: medium in length, wide and flat. Muzzle broad and slightly rounded not snippy. Jaws should be full and well formed with an even bite. Forehead is broad and the eye orbits are prominent, especially from above. They protrude outward further than in other breeds, giving the head a distinctive appearance with the eyes prominent and obvious. This eye feature is often referred to as bug-eyed or pop-eyed. Normally an evident dip is present at the level of the eyes,separating the head from the facial region. Ears are usually medium in width and length, most often held horizontally from side of head, with possibly a slight twist at the base making them somewhat forward facing. The ears may have a noticeable ripple halfway down the length of the ear, at which point they may bend slightly downward. Both horned and polled animals are typical.

Here is the MGR breed description of the nose/head of a true myotonic goat:

HEAD – The head is medium length with a broad muzzle rather than a fine, snipe-like muzzle. Jaws are full and well formed, and have an even bite (neither overshot nor undershot). The head is broad, and the eye orbits are prominent, especially from above. The eye orbits protrude outward further than in other breeds, giving the head a distinctive appearance with the eyes prominent and obvious. This is more pronounced on most Tennessee goats than it is in many Texas goats, but is present in both. An obvious stop is present at the level of the eyes, separating the head from the facial region. The profile of the facial region is usually straight, or rarely slightly convex. The ears are moderately sized, and most are held horizontally or somewhat forward toward the face. The ears typically have a wave or ripple halfway down the length along the front edge of the ear. Horned and polled animals are both typical. Horns are usually well developed and large, and should have at least and inch or two of separation between them.

Comment: The head, while not usually considered of commercial interest, is of great importance in reflecting true breed type, and through that, pure breeding. The Myotonic goat head is distinctive and sets this breed apart from other breeds. The unique Myotonic goat head can usually be characterized by a combination of the prominent eye sockets (some refer to these as “bug eyed”), the stop (or break in contour) between the head and face, and the relatively straight facial profile. The horizontal, slightly forward ear carriage is also distinctive, as is the “ripple” in the ear. All of these head characteristics help define the breed type, and are also where crossbreeding first betrays itself. These “fine points” are important for breed character, although the head also is a utility organ – the bite is critical, the broad conformation provides for adequate mouth capacity. The horn set on horned animals is important if animals are not to injure others by catching legs between close-set horns. Close-set horns do occur in the breed, but should be avoided whenever possible. Atypical ears show up from crossbreeding. Swiss influence is likely to decrease ear size and make them more erect, as well as removing the distinctive ripple in the ear. Nubian or Boer influences are likely to change the size and carriage of the ears, tend to remove the ripple, as well as providing for a more convex facial profile. Spanish influence generally changes the ear carriage and that distinctive ripple, as well as diminishing overall stockiness. Short, LaMancha type ears are not typical.  Crossbreeding also betrays itself in reduced prominence of eye-sockets, as well as in general shape and character of the head. Swiss breed influence tends to refine and narrow the head, Nubian or Boer tend to make them convex or Roman. Spanish influence changes the profile, and ear carriage, but is the influence least likely to betray itself. Nubian and Boer breeding also betray themselves in short, curled horns, which are somewhat rounder in shape near the base, along with being carried somewhat close to the head. Pygmy influence results in a broad, stocky goat but one with shorter, narrower ears than typical, and with a tighter attachment to the head. Pygmy influence also results in a shorter head. Nigerian Dwarf influence, in contrast, leads to leaner, more thinly built goats with finer heads and more erect, smaller ears. Poor bites need to be severely penalized or disqualified, since these relate profoundly to the function of the goat. Blindness, of course, should be severely penalized.

The AFGO breed standard for a true myotonic goat:

THE HEAD: Should be short to medium in length. Eyes should be prominent and obvious. Sometimes they are referred to as bug-eyed or pop-eyed. Eyes are generally brown, blue, marbled or amber in color. The facial profile should be slightly concave or straight. No roman noses allowed. Muzzles should be broad and slightly rounded. Jaws should be well formed with an even bite. Ears should be medium size and carried erect to give an alert expression. Some may carry them slightly horizontally but they should never be pendulous. Pendulous ears will not be allowed. Most will have a distinct wave or ripple about half way down the length of the ear. Goat’s horns should be nicely developed with 1-2 inches between them. Polled and disbudded goats are also common. Wattles are accepted. Roman noses and pendulous ears will not be registered.

The MHB breed standard for a true myotonic goat:


Head should have a broad muzzle, full jaws and correctly aligned bite. Eyes should be set wide apart with prominent eye sockets giving them a "buy eyed" look.

There should be a "stop" between head and face, and a relatively straight facial profile.

Ears should have a wave or ripple halfway down the length along the front edge of the ear, with ears being set forward toward the face. Droopy ears are a disqualification.

Goats can be polled, horned or disbudded. Disbudded goats should not have unsightly scurs. Horns should be set wide apart so not to catch legs.

So as you can see, all registeries, while the wording may be slightly different, agree on what true myotonic goats should look like for their facial characteristics. However the AFGO is stricter on registering goats, which is a good thing. Keep in mind that frost-bit ears can happen, so if you have a kid born in cold weather and are worried about frost-bit ears when registering, take a picture of the kid after birth and dried off to show it did indeed have normal, myotonic ears when it was born. Also, some kids will have one floppy ear and one more upright ear when they are born, the majority of them straighten out on their on. And heavy ear tags can cause the ear to bend.

Okay, so now we have established what the breed standard/description is for the true myotonic goat's head. There is a lot to each standard regarding body so if you'd like to read it, please go to links below that lead to each registry's breed standard/description.

So what does this all mean? Well, because the myotonic goat has been crossed with other breeds over the ears and traits have been lost when crossbreeding, a dedicated breeder should always strive to breed their goats to the breed standard of the registry they register their goats with, this is true with any breed of goat. A black and white saanan would not be registered with the ADGA, nor would a Lamancha goat with droopy ears. It's not their breed standard. But because of crossbreeding, some of non-true myotonic traits are found in myotonics. 

Basically there is three lines of the myotonic goat. First is the TN line, which originated in TN. Here is a picture of them below:


I took this photo when I was at the Well's farm in 2010. As you can see, all colors are here. Most ears are slightly drooped, with some more upright. But you can see they are a stocky, smaller to medium sized goat. Another of more of the Well's herd below:


As you can see, despite being a myotonic, they can get around very well. The Wells herd has some of the oldest known lines. Several neighboring farm's bloodlines are in here as well and they all came from the same location. These are known as the TN line. The TN lines have been cross bred over the years but dedicated breeders are preserving these lines. 

Next we have the TX line. TX lines tend to be bigger, with more obvious muscling, along with a slightly more flattened ear. They still conform to the breed standards.
This picture below is of a coming yearling TX doe.

Doe is owned by Playful Acres in TX and photo is used with permission.

You can see while they conform to the standard of a true myotonic goat, there is some differences in the ears and body type.

Here is a group of TX does from Wolf River Ranch in TX. These does are heavier built but they still have the same breed characteristics. Photo is used with permission.