Fainting goats are popular among goat owners due to their unique “fainting” quirk and friendly personalities, and they are often kept as pets, although they are prolific meat goats.
Pygmy goats are also a popular breed for their smaller size and adorable body shape.
Some experienced goat breeders may wish to mate the two goat breeds to produce a dwarf fainting goat.
But is it possible to breed a pygmy goat with a fainting goat?
It is possible to breed a pygmy goat with a fainting goat, even if the fainting goat is larger than the pygmy. If the female goat is a pygmy, she will have no trouble birthing the offspring from a larger fainting goat as long as she is healthy and is not overfed during pregnancy.
If the pygmy doe is overfed while pregnant with the offspring from a larger breed, the baby may grow too large for her to naturally give birth and require a cesarean section.
Read on for more information on myotonic goats and whether or not cross-breeding them produces the myotonia congenita condition.
About The Pygmy Goat And The Fainting Goat
The fainting goat, also known as the myotonic goat or Tennessee Meat Goat, is a breed with a hereditary condition known as myotonia congenita.
This condition causes the goat to stiffen its legs and fall over whenever it is startled, and it lasts only 5-15 seconds until the goat is back to normal.
Myotonic goats have a broader size range and may grow anywhere between 50 to 165 pounds with a height of 17 to 25″ inches.
Related Reading: Fainting goat cost
Pygmy goats are a miniature goat breed with a barrel-shaped body and short legs.
Pygmy goats are also popular because of their excellent milk production, and their smaller size means they take up much less space than larger dairy goat breeds.
Pygmy goats have an average weight ranging from 40 to 70 pounds and grow to a height between 16 and 23″ inches.
Despite their size differences, it is generally safe to cross-breed these two goat breeds.
Related Reading: Pygmy goat expenses and pricing
Does Cross-Breeding Produce Myotonic Goats?
Myotonia is a dominant trait; a goat must only possess 50% of the genetic mutation to be considered myotonic.
However, cross-breeding a myotonic goat with another breed, such as a Pygmy, does not guarantee the offspring will exhibit the fainting trait.
The fainting trait is usually not visible unless the goat possesses at least 75% of the myotonic gene.
Several fainting goat breeding associations will accept and register goats even if they have less than 100% of the myotonic gene.
Myotonic goats are often cross-bred with smaller goat breeds like the Nigerian dwarf and pygmy.
The International Fainting Goat Association was established in 1989 to preserve and protect the myotonic goat breed.
The IFGA has stricter breed characteristics and body conformation guidelines than other fainting goat associations, requiring proof of fainting in registered goats.
Some breeders have had success when breeding pygmy and myotonic goats, with the offspring having the characteristic fainting trait.
However, others have cross-bred pygmy and myotonic goats, and the resulting kids did not possess the fainting trait.
There is no definitive way to ensure the fainting trait will appear in the offspring of myotonic goats, which are bred with other goat breeds.
Since myotonic goats are excellent meat animals, breeding a myotonic goat buck with a doe from a larger meat breed or a full-sized dairy goat, such as a Boer, will always produce offspring with a higher meat yield and muscle mass.
This practice has become popular among meat goat breeders who want to increase the meat production of their herd.
What is Myotonia Congenita?
Myotonia congenita is an inherited condition, and it is likely the result of a genetic mutation.
Myotonia occurs in the muscle fibers and does not create any pain or long-term health effects for a goat.
A myotonic goat with very muscular legs usually indicates the animal has a higher instance of fainting since the constant contraction and relaxation builds muscles.
Myotonic episodes do not affect the heart, respiratory system, or other vital organ functions.
Myotonia also naturally occurs in other species such as pigeons, dogs, horses, mice, sheep, and even humans.
Line-bred myotonic goats are considered a medium-sized breed, and they will reach their adult frame size by the time they are two years old.
Where Did Fainting Goats Originate?
A farm worker named John Tinsley is thought to have brought several myotonic goats from his home in Nova Scotia to the United States.
John Tinsley sold his goats to a man named Dr. H. H. Mayberry in Marshall County, Tennessee, sometime in the early 1880s.
After selling the goats to Dr. Mayberry, John Tinsley is said to have disappeared.
The fainting was not recorded in medical literature until 1904, and the term “congenital myotonia” was introduced in 1939.
The specific mutation in goat genes was discovered in 1996, several years after the mutation was identified in mice and humans.
The experiments on myotonic goats performed by Lindor Brown and McGhee Harvey in 1939 are considered a significant contribution to understanding the physiological effects of the genetic condition.
Brown and Harvey’s experiments also influenced several theories about myotonia and its causes.
Their research and many others afterward have been connected to other disorders, including myasthenia gravis, migraines, and heart arrhythmia.
In 2019, the conservation status of myotonic goats was listed as “at-risk” according to the DAD-IS database created by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Myotonic goats are bred in over 15 states throughout the United States, but there are thought to be fewer than 5,000 of them in existence.
The number of true myotonic goats is low due to cross-breeding for other traits.
Even true myotonic goats differ slightly in appearance compared to the original fainting goats.
The myotonic goats we know today have a more muscular body structure with broad shoulders, broad muzzles, and large eyes, which slightly protrude to give the animals their characteristic “bug-eyed” appearance.
Myotonic goats are quieter than other goat breeds, and their intelligence makes them easy to train.
The coat of a myotonic goat may be short or long and come in any color or pattern.