July is (still) for the goats

Did you know? You won't find fainting goats in petting zoos
By Paul Viau | Jul 04, 2012
Courtesy of: Myotonian Goat Registry ROLL OVER, NOW PLAY DEAD — No wonder there are so few fainting goats.

Last month I talked in my sleep for the first time (that I know of), speaking clearly and succinctly the one word, "goats." As a result I wrote a not-so-succinct column that examined this apparent goat fetish.

Well, here I am again this week, trying very hard not to be one of the “Men who stare at goats.”

I am referring, of course, to the 2009 movie starring George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges, and Kevin (way-too) Spacey, that comically examined the unorthodox efforts of the CIA to develop "psychic warriors."

One of the mental exercises demonstrated in the movie was Clooney using mind over matter to topple a goat. Now that I live in North Carolina, I know exactly how Clooney performed this incredible feat — he (and the directors) used fainting goats.

Yes, I said fainting goats — the most timid and neurotic of goat species — banned from petting zoos throughout our nation, because, instead of making children happy, fainting goats cause them to cry out, “Mommy, I killed a goat!”

Perhaps you read the newspaper account of one such incident, titled “Billy kills a kid.” And the follow-up story, “Kid revives kid.” Both stories are made up, but chronicle the fainting goat phenomenon.

Did you know? — Fainting goats are myotonic goats — goats carrying the gene for myotonia congenita, which affects their nervous system, causing muscular spasms and stiffness whenever the goats are startled by a loud noise or sudden action.

Fainting goats are also called stiff-legged goats, nervous goats, meat goats or Tennessee goats. The breed is recognized by the American Goat Breeders Association.

Fainting goats are hard to tell apart from normal goats, until they faint, seemingly dead away. Identifying fainting goats can make for a fun drive through the countryside. Spot some goats, then lean on the horn. If the goats are normal they will graze away. If they dive while you drive, you've spotted genuine fainters. Or have you?

It turns out fainting goats are getting so much press, that ordinary (but insecure) goats are occasionally taking a fall … just to get some attention. Sound familiar, parents and grandparents?

Well, I made that up, too. But there really are fainting goats, and the photo I am using to get a "stiff leg up" on other columns in The Guide is courtesy of the Myotonian Goat Registry.

One last, interesting fact about fainting goats — they were used by shepherds to warn the sheep when predators were attacking the flock. Fainting goats would spot the wolves, and do their thing (faint) while the sheep rushed to safety.

As for the fainted goats ... well, let's just say, they became ... meat goats.