Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, Texas Suzanne W. Gasparotto 300 Happy Ridge
Lohn, Texas
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A distinctly American breed, the Myotonic goat was originally discovered  in Tennessee. The defining genetic trait is a neuromuscular condition (*not*  a defect) which developed naturally that causes them to stiffen.    This process develops meat through the contraction and relaxation of muscles.    These goats are called by various lay terms:  Tennessee fainting goats (incorrect, because they don't 'faint,' i.e. they don't lose consciousness),   wooden  leg, stiff-leg, nervous, or scare goats. The most accurate common name is stiff-leg, but the correct breed name is Myotonic.   Goat raisers should always use correct terminology.

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.  His accent was never identified and he wore a cap that looked like a   fez or a beret.  Along with him came several female goats and  and a buck of a unique strain. Tinsley left  after selling the animals to Dr. Mayberry.  To my knowledge, this is the best documentation of the origin of the Myotonic breed in the USA.

Myotonic goats are a  landrace breed, which means that they have adapted to fit the local conditions in which they live. They are MEAT  goats because they are muscular and have no dairy influence in their genetics.   Unfortunately for the breed,  some folks have crossed them with dairy genetics, so you have to be aware of  what you are buying.

Sometime during the 1940's,  rancher Boone Heep  imported a group of  larger Myotonic goats from Tennessee to Texas to his property on Onion Creek south of Austin, Texas. After Heep's death, this property went through a series of owners,  during which time the goats were moved off the land.   I bought that property in 1988, having no knowledge of goats in general or Myotonic goats in particular.   By sheer coincidence,  I began acquiring Myotonic goats in January 1990, raising them and improving the breed, only later  to learn that the original Texas herd of Myotonic goats resided on my property many years ago.

Though  sure-footed and adaptable to all terrains, Myotonic goats are not fence climbers and are therefore easier  to keep fenced. Predator problems exist with all goat breeds, since   goats as a species are sprinters and not long-distance runners.   Livestock guardian dogs   and good fencing are essential for predator protection of all breeds of goats.

The degree of stiffness varies within the breed, with the more muscular (meatier) animals displaying more myotonia.    Like humans who exercise and lift weights, the repeated  contraction and relaxation of muscles builds MEAT.

Myotonia congenita is the technical  term that describes stiffening.  It means that the myotonia is inherited from previous generations.    Myotonia was probably originally the result of a genetic mutation during the evolutionary process.     It occurs in the muscle fiber and does not affect heart, respiration, or other essential bodily functions.  Myotonia is carried on an autosomal dominant gene, which means that it is not carried on the sex gene.   Myotonia has been documented in dogs (Chows), tumbler pigeons, quarter horses, mice, sheep, and humans.   Myotonia has also been observed in utero in goats.   Myotonic is a major asset   in a MEAT goat.


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Which breed is right for you?Health & Management ArticlesChevonTalk Discussion GroupLinksRegistrationMeat Goat Mania

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