The original scapegoat: Fainting goats swoon in East Bethany

Aug 10, 2016

EAST BETHANY — One part of the herd filters in through the small opening of the pen fence at Duffy Fainting Goat Farm.

But two kid goats run back and forth, unsure on how to get in before suddenly collapsing — living up to their name as “fainting goats.”

The original scapegoat, “Fainting goats,” or Myotonic goats as they are properly called, are a type of goat breed that “faints” when startled or surprised.

“They have a genetic disorder called myotonia congenita,” said farm owner Jason Duffy. “Their muscles lock up on them, and they just can’t move basically. If they are on the run, and their muscles lock up, they fall down. But they keep their consciousness the whole time, so it’s not actually a true faint.”

The fainting doesn’t hurt the goat and only lasts 10 to 15 seconds.

Duffy said Myotonic goats are bred both as meat goats and pets. They were on an endangered livestock list years ago, but have now moved to recovering.

He said the goats in the past used to be put in with sheep, which were considered much more valuable. When predators attacked, the goats would faint, allowing the sheep to get away. This is where the term “scapegoat” came from.

“(Myotonic goats) are easier to take care of because they don’t jump,” Duffy said. “A lot of other goats will jump fences; they’re always jumping up on stuff and things like that. The fainters really don’t jump.”

He added Myotonic goats are the only goats native to North America — originally coming Nova Scotia — before being “rediscovered” in Tennessee by Dr. H.H. Mayberry.

Duffy Fainting Goat Farm started originally as a hobby farm in 2010 with about six goats. Today he has anywhere between 50 to 80 goats at one time.

“I had seen (Myotonic goats) on TV years ago, and they kind of piqued my interest,” Duffy said. “I always thought goats were kind of cool, and when (my wife and I) were finally out on our own and bought our own house, it was just something I wanted to get into.”

Duffy Fainting Goat Farm takes the goats to Myotonic goat shows, with one coming up on Oct. 2 at the Genesee Country Village and Museum.

“We show them quite a bit. We actually have several permanent grand champions here,” he said.

Duffy Fainting Goat Farm is located at 5657 Ellicott Street Rd. in East Bethany. For more information, call (585) 343-1971 or visit www.duffyfaintinggoatfarm.com.