There’s a good chance, in the past few years, that you’ve been online and ended up watching a video compilation of goats fainting. It looks pretty funny, right? (Though, it’s probably less fun for the poor goats.)

Ever wondered why these fainting goats faint? Many people think it’s because they get scared, but, it turns out, that’s not the case at all. Fainting goats actually appear to faint due to a skeletal condition called myotonia congenita.

new goat divider

Why Do Fainting Goats Faint?

Not all goats faint, but the breed that does is known as Tennessee fainting goats (as well as wooden-legged goats, and nervous goats). They first showed up in the U.S. in the 1800s in Tennessee, but no one is really sure how or why they got there. And though they’re called fainting goats, they aren’t fainting at all.

Fainting goats have a hereditary condition that affects the muscles used for moving called myotonia congenita (or Thomsen’s disease). When this goat breed’s muscles contract, as they would when they’re about to run, they seize up instead of relaxing after contraction. That makes the goat’s muscles stiff and rigid, leaving them unable to move.

This muscle rigidity tends to occur after a goat has been spooked and tried to run away, which ends up with them falling over. Hence, you have the “fainting” goat that looks like it got so scared it passed out. But these goats are actually awake the whole time and, thus, haven’t fainted at all!

Tennessee fainting goats
Image Credit by L F File, Shutterstock

How Old Do Fainting Goats Have To Be To Faint?

The age fainting goats start fainting will vary by individual goat, but younger goats will experience this more often than older ones. As goats age, they learn to adapt by getting startled less easily and figuring out how to stand on stiff muscles. And did you know? There’s a scale when it comes to fainting goats with a “1” indicating the goat has never experienced a spell and “6,” meaning the goat is prone to them.

How Long Do Fainting Goats Faint For?

Myotonic goats don’t typically “faint” for very long. In fact, muscle stiffness typically only lasts between 10-15 seconds. After that, the goat is good to get back on their feet and continue on with their day.

piemonte goat
Image Credit: Nikoloz Jorjikashvili, Shutterstock

Is It Bad For Fainting Goats To Faint?

While it probably isn’t fun for a goat to get startled and fall over from locked muscles, there’s nothing to be concerned about, really. The biggest potential issue in this situation is if the goat falls over from somewhere high up. In that case, they certainly could be hurt. Other than that, though, these “fainting” spells don’t harm the goat in any way. At most, it’s an uncomfortable moment that quickly passes.

Related Read: Do Goats Make Good Pets? What You Need to Know!

new goat divider


Despite this breed’s name, fainting goats aren’t fainting at all. Instead, they’re experiencing the result of a hereditary condition that locks up their muscles when they’re startled, with the result being them falling over. But they don’t lose consciousness, and the “fainting” spell doesn’t last very long before they’re up and at ‘em again!

Featured Image Credit: MabelAmber, Pixabay