The uniqueness of Myotonic goats has given rise to many different colorful names. Throughout the years they have been called the Tennessee Goats, Fainting Goats, Stiff-leg, Nervous, Wooden-Leg, and Tennessee Meat Goats. All these names are used to describe goats that are Myotonic and express the gene for Myotonia Congenita. Myotonia Congenita is a hereditary neuromuscular condition which causes the muscles of these goats to stiffen, or lock up when excited or startled. If the goat is running or becomes off-balance while in the process of ‘locking up’ they may fall over with legs in the air! After a few seconds their muscles relax, they jump up and go on their way as if nothing happened. The goats do not pass out or lose consciousness as in fainting, but instead remain awake and alert through the stiffening of their muscles. The Tennessee goats are a rare breed animal.
The Tennessee goats have many great qualities. They have excellent mothering instincts and are fiercely maternal. They are easy kidders and it is rare to have any birthing problems. Twins and triplets are common. They are considered one of the most parasites resistant breeds. They are a hardy breed, not requiring extra care or pampering. Testing has also revealed a better meat-to-bone ratio than other breeds of goats.
Myotonic goats are easy to catch and work with. They do not jump and do not require any special type of fencing to keep them in. These goats are people oriented and are very sweet natured.
Early American Beginnings
In 1880, an old man named Tinsley appeared in Marshall County, Tennessee. He brought with him a sacred cow and four goats that stiffened and sometimes fell over, or fainted if startled. He wore strange clothing and where he was from remains a mystery to this day. He worked in Marshall County for a year, then sold his goats to Dr. Mayberry. Shortly thereafter, Tinsley left one night and was never heard from again. The heavily muscled goats were later classified as a meat breed and highly prized for their meat. From these four goats, the breed began.
The HALR Line
In the early 1960’s in Lexington, Tennessee David Autry and his family raised meat goats. Most all the goats back in those days were of the Spanish breed. Once in a while, there would be one or two goats in these herds that stiffened when startled. These animals were regarded as culls and were taken to the auction where they were sold. This all changed the day Autry took one of his “cull” does and her kid to the auction. The doe and kid sold for the outstanding price of $1,500.00!! From that moment on, Autry decided to specialize in raising the Tennessee Myotonic goats.
Figuring he needed the best stock he could find, he went back to Marshall County, Tennessee to the Walker Estate. He purchased his starter herd and so began his line. He never crossed them with any other breed of goat and kept his line pure. He bred for the best conformation and culled heavily. His herd name was called the HALR line.