Fainting Goats Don’t Actually Faint

Fainted Last week, while watching a documentary with my friend, the man with the obvious toupee began to describe a strange animal that I’ve always been curious about. This creature is one of those things that constantly tugs at my curiosity.  This animal is the myotonic goat, or more commonly known as the fainting goat.

After some research, evoked by Mr. Toupee, I discovered that the goats actually have a muscular disorder known as myotonia congenital.  When they are frightened, the younger goats tense up and fall over. Older goats learn to spread their legs or lean against things to keep from falling. Many of the goats expierencing the muscle tensing will continue to run around with straight, stiff legs. As goats are going through these episodes, they do not go through any pain. In fact, many goats will continue to chew their food as they fall to the ground.

As I continued to read more on the myotonic goats, I discovered that the muscular disorder is not actually limited to just the goats. This disorder can be found in many mammals, including humans. The disease commonly affects the legs, but can also cause stiffness in the tongue and facial tissue. Though it does not cause any sorts of pain to the goats, it can cause mild, permanent muscle weakness  in humans. This weakness is found commonly in the Becker form of this disease.  Thomsen and Becker disease are types of myotonia congenital that are rated on their severity.

These forms of the disorder are often inherited by one affected parent through the CLCN1 gene. This is the gene that provides the information needed to make proteins that correlate with the normal function of skeletal muscles. Mutations in this gene alter the coordination of the muscle contraction and relaxation that allows for the normal functioning of the muscles.

So thanks to my friend and her obsession of documentaries, I was able to discover why and how the fainting goat functions as it does. It actually has a muscular disorder that displays its panic with the stiffness and falling over.


What is the origin of this disease?

Can all living things be affected by this disorder?

Is there any forms of treatment?

2 thoughts on “Fainting Goats Don’t Actually Faint

  1. I found an interesting video that’s information is very similar to what you posted. It also talks about myotonia congenital. Goats don’t faint and lose consciousness, but their muscles just freeze and stiffen so they are immobile. It mainly affects their hind legs. This is found in all goats and is shown to be genetic. I would think that this would be a disadvantage to wild goats because if they sense a predator, they would freeze and not be able to escape. Most goats are kept in captivity so they shouldn’t need to worry too much about that, though. http://www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/weird-true-and-freaky/videos/fainting-goats.htm I didn’t know that this was a disease that can affect other mammals, especially humans. It makes sense that it could cause permanent muscle damage.

  2. The origin for Myotonia Congenita in humans is found in the DNA. The Becker type is inherited where both parents have defective genes. The Thomsen type is inherited with only one parent having defective genes.
    All living things can acquire this disease by inheritance, as long as the parents have the disease already. Since Myotonia Congenita is just the tightening of muscles it is not life threatening. It is onset in early stages and does not progress. Typically, you don’t take any medication for this disease and can still lead a productive life. Often people just use exercise as a form of treatment to loosen up the muscles. http://mda.org/disease/inherited-and-endocrine-myopathies/myotonia-congenita

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