swooping down from the hills and collapsing to the ground

Bavarian goats only distantly related to Tennessee Fainting Goats

After the ‘man who sawed off his own foot’ post, I could probably take the rest of the week off. Until now, I haven’t been one of those ‘blog everyday’ sorts.

Yet sometimes the goings on in the world just keep serving up things that need to be mentioned. What could possibly follow up the excellence that was shy of working?

Well, if there is anything worthy, it’s this. You know I have a soft spot for goats. You do remember that, right? If you do an internet search with ‘you can’t always expect goats‘, the very first search term takes you to this here blog. It’s one of my many claims to fame.

What goat-related goodness do I have for your knowledge seeking pleasure? Well, this has has had my laughing all day, so I hope you find as much pleasure in it as I have. First of all, I have to tell you where I found it.

My local paper is the Süddeutsche Zeitung, and it’s regularly filled with not only excellent news, but curious things going on around Germany and the world. It’s an excellent paper, and the day I look forward to every week is Friday. It’s the day the Magazin comes out in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. They’ve come up with a very inventive name for this weekly magazine. They call it the Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin.

I wish linking to it would help, but it’s behind a paywall. If you want to read the Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin, you either need the print edition or you need to pony up some cold, hard Geld (money). It’s not an exaggeration for me to say that nearly every week I want to talk about something I’ve found in this periodical.

It’s normally such a hassle to recreate whatever it is that I found there that I just give up at the mere thought of it. But this week, try as I might’ve, I just couldn’t keep all this mirth to myself.

The way our unique and curious goats are introduced in the Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin is entertaining, so I’ll do my best to translate the better parts. The title of the article?

Doofe Ziege! (Stupid Goats!)

And it gets better (how could it not?). The subheading?

Würden Sie am liebsten manchmal umfallen, weil Ihnen alles zu viel ist? Es gibt ein Tier, das tut es einfach – nicht nur zu seinem Vorteil (‘Would you rather sometimes fall down because it’s all too much for you? There’s an animal that simply does so, and not always to his advantage‘)

Are you nearly as excited as I was when I read the above early this morning? What animal could they possibly be talking about? Well, it’s the Fainting Goat, of course. Sometimes called the Tennessee Fainting Goat. Here’s a YouTube video of a National Geographic story (that’s a reputable source…you can trust that Mike Daisey didn’t make this one up):

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_3Utmj4RPU&w=420&h=315]

Here’s how Wikipedia describes this little marvel of creation:

‘A fainting goat is a breed of domestic goat whose muscles freeze for roughly 10 seconds when the goat is startled. Though painless, this generally results in the animal collapsing on its side. The characteristic is caused by a hereditary genetic disorder called myotonia congenita. When startled, younger goats will stiffen and fall over. Older goats learn to spread their legs or lean against something when startled, and often they continue to run about in an awkward, stiff-legged shuffle.

‘…Fainting goats have many other names, including Myotonic Goats, Tennessee (Meat) Goats, Nervous Goats, Stiff-leg Goats, Wooden-leg Goats, and Tennessee Fainting Goats’

As the original article states, the goat (any goat, not only the Fainting Goat) is one of the finest animals you can possibly have. Without exception. Goats are above-average animals by almost any standards. They eat a hell of a lot of grass or hay or whatever…actually, goats eats everything.

They eat all the grass then they move on and eat whatever else is in there path. It’s a good thing they’re such wonderful animals, because otherwise goat herders would simply loathe these little guys. The opposite is true. There’s no loathing…goat herders love their goats.

Goats can climb, there are less fires when goats are around (they love eating dry, flammable grass) and best of all? One goat provides even more milk than your average cow (once again: my source is the Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin…I’m not making any of this stuff up).

But the best part about the goat? His character. Despite the fact that You Can’t Always Expect Goats, when you do have goats, you have personable and sturdy companions. An animal you can rely on.

With one glaring exception. Yes, you guessed it. The infamous Fainting Goat. These guys just don’t handle stress all that well. To be candid, they don’t handle stress at all. At the first sign of it, their little legs freeze up and they fall to the ground. Not the most advantageous response when being hunted by prey, is it?

The very best part of the original article I read was the way they described where this breed of goat came from. As is often the case, it probably wasn’t meant to be quite as comical in the original German, but it had me in stitches. Here’s how it was in the original:

‘Wo die verrückten Ziegen herkommen, das weiß man bis heute nicht so genau. Angeblich tauchten sie im 19. Jahrhundert in Tennessee auf, seitdem werden sie in den USA gezüchtet…’ (Where the mad goats come from is anyone’s guess. Allegedly, they appeared in Tennessee sometime in the Nineteenth Century and have been bred there ever since…)

The way it’s written evokes this scene of a herd of Fainting Goats coming over the horizon, swooping down into the as-yet-not-entirely-settled lowlands of Tennessee.

They cut a striking pose, don’t they?

Until something startles them, and the whole herd collapses to the ground. For a few tense moments, the swooping will have to wait.


  1. My daughter’s teacher has a flock of them. She was at the farm during a thunderstorm. She said she was torn between laughter and abject horror at these sad little helpless goats. Every time the thunder cracked, they collapsed.

    1. Cackling with laughter. I rarely laugh out loud, and I’m certainly not going to spell it with those loathsome three initials, but I’m not quietly amused.

      Not quietly laughing at all.

  2. I have reliably traced my ancestry to Tennessee in the early 19th Century, so I am confident that this is not the first time the Smith clan has heard of these fainting goats. Thank you for restoring this obviously important part of my family history to my attention. This… means something.

  3. Seriously, the next time I talk to you about your posts before commenting, tell me to shut it. Then I don’t have anything good to say here.

    I love doof. I keep saying it to Dumbcat. He’s sleeping. It’s not bothering him.

    I would often rather sometimes fall down because it’s all too much for me. Wasn’t aware that was an option. Cool. Thanks, Ken’s newspaper.

    “often they continue to run about in an awkward, stiff-legged shuffle” – um. Shut up, some of us just run that way.

    My favorite part of the goat origin story is the “allegedly.” It makes it sound like they heard that from a conspiracy theorist, or that they read it in a supermarket tabloid.

    Your paper is entertaining. My paper is seldom that fun. It has a lot of sports and political crap. I can’t even get half a good blog post out of that.

    1. I can’t deny that I thought of you when I saw ‘…often rather sometimes fall down because it’s all too much for me…’

      Tailor-made, as it were.

  4. I wish my newspaper was this awesome, but I don’t even have a local paper! I must content myself with getting my news third hand from yours and Amy’s blogs. [nod]

    I’m sure that will keep me up-to-date, yes?

  5. I have long been a fan of all things goat ( goat cheese. . . Mmmmmm) and look forward to finally owning some of my very own. I have a lot of greenery that needs eaten.

    1. Love the taste of goat cheese and goat’s milk. Very much so.

      Several years ago, when our dog had died and we were considering new pets, I tried very hard to petition for goats that we could keep on the terrace. Then Ella and Louis came along and I was less eager to deal with terrace goats.

      In the meantime, I found out that the goats will only produce milk if they’re regularly pregnant. Many little goats…oy. I’m not sure how well I’d deal with all of that.

      But I still gaze longingly at the terrace sometimes and can almost hear goats rustling around eating everything in sight.

      One day, right? One day.

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