Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, Texas
Suzanne W. Gasparotto 300 Happy Ridge
Lohn, Texas
Onion Creek Ranch "Chevon, cabrito, goat... No matter what you call it, it is the HEALTHY red meat™
Onion Creek Ranch

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 Myotonic Goats

A distinctly American breed, the Myotonic goat originated in Tennessee. The defining genetic trait is a neuromuscular condition which developed naturally that causes them to stiffen and sometimes fall over when startled. These goats are called by various lay terms.... Tennessee fainting goats (a misnomer, because they do not lose consciousness, hence they don't faint), wood leg, stiff-leg, nervous, or scare goats. The most accurate common name is the STIFF-LEG. Myotonia is seen in other species . . . human beings and tumbler pigeons are but two examples.

Myotonic goats have an obscure origin. Sometime during the 1870's a transient farm worker named John Tinsley showed up in Marshall County, Tennessee at the farm of Dr. H. H. Mayberry. No one knows where he came from; he had an undetermined accent and wore a cap similar to either a fez or beret. He was thought to have come from Nova Scotia, and along with him came three or four does and a buck of a unique strain. Tinsley suddenly left one day after selling the animals to Dr. Mayberry. This is the best documentation of the origin of the breed.

Myotonic goats are a distinctly landrace breed, which means that they have adapted to fit the local conditions in which they live. They are definitely meat goats, being very muscular and self-sufficient.

Sometime during the 1940's, a group of the larger Myotonic goats was imported from Tennessee to Texas. Boone Heep, of Austin, Texas, imported Myotonic goats to his property. Coincidentally, this property went through a series of owners after his death during which time the goats were moved off the place. I bought that property in 1988, having no knowledge of the history of Myotonic goats. By sheer coincidence and quirk of fate, I began acquiring Myotonic goats, raising them, and improving the breed... only much later to learn that the original Texas herd of Myotonic goats resided at my very own ranch.

Though quite sure-footed and adaptable to all terrains, these animals are not fence climbers and are therefore easy to keep fenced. Predator problems are no more prevalent with this breed than any other; all goats are subject to predators, as they are fleet but short distance runners. Guard animals and good fencing are essential with every goat breed.

The degree of stiffness varies within the breed, with the meatier, more muscular animals displaying more stiffness. Not unlike humans who exercise and lift weights, the constant contraction and relaxation of the muscles build the meat characteristics.

Myotonia congenita is the medical term to describe stiffening; this simply means that the condition is inherited from prior generations. Myotonia was probably originally the result of a genetic mutation as the evolutionary process took place. However, myotonia is no longer considered a defect. Myotonia occurs in the muscle fiber... not as a function of the central nervous system.... and causes no problem for the goats.














Stiffening and sometimes falling over results when the rear legs and the back of the neck are affected by myotonia. Respiration, heart function, and other body functions are NOT affected. It is common to view goats shoving each other at the feed trough, stiffening, falling over, and continuing to eat as the body recovers from the myotonic episode! It does not hurt them in any way whatsoever.

Myotonic goats have been "improved" by breeding larger, more heavily muscled fullblood myotonics to unrelated, larger, and heavily muscled myotonics at Onion Creek Ranch in Buda, Texas. In order to distinguish these improved myotonic goats from the common stiff-leg, we have named these large, heavily muscled "improved" myotonic goats TENNESSEE MEAT GOATS™.

Maturity is three to four years of age in all myotonic goats, whether they are the common stiff-leg or the improved TENNESSEE MEAT GOAT™

Myotonia is carried on an autosomal dominant gene; autosomal means that it is not carried on the sex gene. Myotonia has been observed in dogs (Chow Chows), quarter horses, "tumbler" pigeons, mice, sheep, and humans. Interestingly, myotonia can be induced in humans occasionally by the use of cholesterol lowering drugs. Myotonia has also been observed in utero in goats.

In no way should myotonia be considered a defect in goats.

Tennessee Meat Goats™ and TexMasters™ are the cream of the meat goat industry.
Contact us for availability, ages and pricing by calling 325-344-5775 or emailing onioncreek@tennesseemeatgoats.com

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